Chef-2014-Movie-Poster1-650x955Jon Favreau first drilled his way into our consciousness with the great indie movie, “Swingers”. He followed that up with the fantastic “Made” and along the way got big studio breaks with “Elf” and “Iron Man”. Despite the big budgets and big box office his heart always seemed to be “indie”. That is obvious in the smallness and greatness exhibited in CHEF. Favreau is in complete control here. He wrote it, directed it and produced it. Any failings are on him. But, don’t worry Jon, it’s all good. Matter of fact it’s great! Favreau also stars as the Chef, Carl Casper. He aspires to fulfill the promise bestowed on him by a restaurant critic(Oliver Platt) when he was just starting out. Unfortunately, that was a while ago. A marriage and divorce (Sofia Vergara) and a child(the adorable Emjay Anthony) have forced him to become executive chef at a restaurant owned by Dustin Hoffman. Favreau wants to experiment and explore creativity, but he’s being tied down by Hoffman, who’s desire to keep his restaurant full, forces the Chef to cook the same good, yet uninspiring food. Platt’s reviewer shows up and Favreau wants to impress, but bows to Hoffman’s will and cooks boring. Platt writes a less than kind review which sends the Chef over the edge. His epic meltdown in the restaurant in front of the reviewer finds its way onto YouTube and the Chef is forced to quit. (The meltdown includes a rant against the culture of criticism that cannot be entirely coincidental). Favreau is also navigating his personal life with no greater success. He has an amicable, even friendly relationship with his ex-wife. But his relationship to his son is strained. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the kid other than disappoint him. Since he is suddenly jobless, Favreau flies to Miami to be “nanny” to his son while Vergara works. While there, he acquires a food truck, kind of as a last desperate measure to save himself and his career. All that happens and what is kind of unexpected is that he saves his relationship with his son at the same time during a cross country odyssey with the food truck (and the hilarious John Leguizamo as his line cook). CHEF is sweet and funny and perfectly paced. Favreau really knows how to wring every emotion our of a script and it doesn’t hurt that his Iron Man buddies Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson have small, but important roles. It’s probably no accident the restaurant reviewer calls the Chef’s food “cloying”. The movie could have been the same, but Favreau is good enough to not let that happen. CHEF is wonderfully prepared and a treat for the movie going palate. Satisfying without feeling like you are gorging on emotion. It’s a treat for everyone. — Alan Yudman


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