“Chef” – a film review by Gary Chew
I only had a bowl of cereal before I went to the screening of “Chef,” the new Jon Favreau movie. I don’t advise you do that. Maybe a full meal of meat, potatoes, salad and dessert would be best. That way you won’t salivate on your sneakers as you enjoy this well done movie about a very serious chef-kind-of-guy who loves to prepare delicious food that surely melts in anyone’s mouth.
Favreau plays the chef in question. Carl’s divorced and heads up the kitchen of a swank Southern California restaurant owned by a guy who looks like Dustin Hoffman. Yes, it is Hoffman … as Riva. It’s a cameo like the one Scarlett Johansson does in the picture.
Her name is Molly. She works for Riva too. And it’s quietly suggested that Carl and Molly might have a little something going on other than what just happens in Riva’s place of business. The film doesn’t dwell on this.
John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale play two of Carl’s top assistants, Martin and Tony. The three of them spin out much mirth with their guys-in-the-kitchen banter. The film is rated “R.”
Carl’s ex is Inez, played by Colombian actor Sofía Vergara. She and Carl have a delightful 11-year-old son named Percy. The part is done by Emjay Anthony. Percy lives with his mom, but wants to spend more time with dad, and get to know what it’s like being a big time, professional chef.
Oliver Platt, well-cast as a local food critic called Ramsey, has gravitas with his knowledge about fine food, and says so with his comments in a long running online and newspaper column.
Carl is stoked for Ramsey’s visit to Riva’s restaurant. The chef wants some good press for his culinary
prowess. He conjures up a special menu for the evening of Ramsey’s visit. Carl knows just what to cook — as they say — to overwhelm the critic’s palate.
Oh, oh. Riva is not having any of it. Carl must go with the menu Riva has prescribed … period. Carl becomes unemployed.
Carl drifts to Florida with Percy in tow. Carl meets with a well-off, old friend, businessman there by the name of Marvin. This is another cameo done by the intensely hip Robert Downey, Jr. I could’ve used more Downey.
Marvin turns Carl on to a bedraggled, old food truck. For sure, it’s a fixer-upper. Then out of the blue, Martin (Leguizamo) shows up in Florida, joining Carl and Percy.
That’s when “Chef” becomes a truncated road movie. Leaving out of Miami, the food truck, now selling a very special Cuban sandwich that everyone wants a least a bite of, is motoring all the way back to LA with a well-depicted stopover to sell Texans Carl’s Cuban delight in the city of Austin.
Carl and Percy begin to bond. Percy loves what his dad does, and wants to be a chef when he grows up. Within the father/son bonding, there lie important lessons the boy learns from his dad — who isn’t just a short order cook. Favreau’s warm film is fun to watch. And the music makes it even tastier.
The only things I missed in it were Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub. “The Big Night” and “Chef” have much more in common than merely eating great food. Both have heart!