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CHEF (review)

Written and Directed by Jon Favreau
Starring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo and Sofia Vergara

Percy (reading a tweet from food blogger, Ramsay Michel): Dear @ChefCarlCasper, I would rather have you sit on my face after a brisk walk on a hot day than eat your fucking lava cake again.

In CHEF, writer/director, Jon Favreau, stars as an aging Los Angeles chef who once dazzled his diners and who now simply caters to the masses without pushing himself or his food forward. In real life, Favreau is an aging Hollywood director, who once impressed with indie hits like SWINGERS and MADE, but who now makes massive blockbusters, like the first two IRON MAN movies and mediocre summer fare like 2011’s COWBOYS AND ALIENS. It would be ridiculous to not draw a parallel between these two similar lives, and I would be happy to see Favreau return to his more impulsive, less predictable roots but sadly, CHEF is no SWINGERS.

It all starts to go wrong for Chef Carl Casper (Favreau) when a critic (Oliver Platt) comes to review his restaurant. Carl wants to make something new and exciting but decides, at the insistence of the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman), that tried and true is the only way to go. Of course, Carl was wrong and should have trusted his gut. He then loses it publicly on the critic and subsequently loses his job. Now what? Whatever should Chef Carl do? While it is glaringly obvious to us what he should do, Chef Carl is at a total loss. Favreau is charming in the role, and the same can be said for the extensive cast, which also includes Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale and a cameo appearance by Robert Downey Jr., so the film is not without its moments, both touching and funny. It is just difficult to get invested or excited for what’s happening when everything that happens is entirely expected. It is also tricky to get fully on board with a film that features a rant that is directly aimed at how critics are cold, careless human beings who don’t care who they ruin along their path to fame and fortune (which is a path only a handful of critics actually find themselves on.)


Essentially, Chef Carl Casper is a total idiot who presents like a man of some worth. Sure he runs his own kitchen in a trendy L.A. restaurant but past that, he cannot see that he is dried up creatively; he cannot see that he is still in love with his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara); he cannot see that he has been neglecting his only son, Percy (Emjay Anthony); he has no idea how to handle social networking; and, perhaps most importantly, he cannot see what he needs to do to find his joy for cooking and life again. These are all very real issues, and I might add, all very conventional problems found in many a mainstream film, but the real trouble with CHEF is that we can see all of this from the very beginning. As a result, all we are left to do is stare at the countless montages of food porn while we wait for Carl to inevitably fulfill his destiny. In the end, I wasn’t hungry for more; I was just hungry.

Also, one last thing; it is not an indie film when the overweight leading man has Sofia Vergara for an ex-wife and Scarlett Johansson for a new flame.

3 sheep

Your turn!

How many sheep would you give Chef?



  1. I just hate that they took a potentially heartwarming movie about someone who wanted to make a difference with their life, & put 45 f-words in it, so that I won’t take my 14 year old to see it. So many good movies are ruined for young people by profanity & sex… do we really have to have this to make it seem edgier? 🙁

    • I had much bigger issues with this film than its language. That said, I do think Jon Favreau was confused about who exactly the audience of this film would be. The language at times suggests he expected a return of his “Swingers” crowd. The plot and the cliches suggest a much more middle of the road, family crowd. He missed on both marks, in my opinion.

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