The story is about Chef Carl Casper at a cross roads not only in his career but his life. Once a promising chef on the rise he’s been in a rut serving the same tired shit with no heart. Early on in the movie, chef Caper is reviewed rather harshly and it begins the change he knows he’s needed to make for some time. Favreau captures in his writing the passion and soul found in most kitchens very well. The relationships between a chef and his cooks is also lovingly shown within the dialog and character interactions, in and out of the kitchen. The ability to “chef whisper” during the bad times shows how personal this business can be.
Chef also reaches in to the personal life of Carl Casper and his relationship with his son, ex-wife and girlfriend. We see he has the fire and passion to cook the food he wants but has been “imprisoned” by a strong owner dictating the menu with no room for negotiation. These relationships encourage his potential in various ways. Guys should take note how a little cooking in the kitchen can get Scarlett Johansson to melt!
The film isn’t about food porn like “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” The one scene that really made me sit up and take notice regarding the food was seeing the pits of Franklin BBQ and the glorious brisket the characters can’t help but continue to eat.
The film is spot on about what it is to give and receive a bad review. I can easily recall waiting up late to see the reviews to post online at midnight feeling happy and validated for the work or ready to rage for the BS someone had lied about. As a writer now, I don’t make a review personal but I also can’t lose my own integrity by giving someone a pass for a mediocre performance. The interaction between writer and chef for me is one I find fascinating. The scene where chef Casper “loses it” is very real on an emotional level and I’m sure is one every chef given a bad review would love to act out with their reviewer in some form. But, the writers perspective is shown later in the movie in a very honest way as well.
This is a movie any fan of food and the restaurant life should take the time to see – none of the script or dialog seemed contrived for Hollywood. For those who are just plain old movie buffs, this is a well made movie and one of the funniest scenes of any movie for me in a long time is with Robert Downey Jr. The timing and pace with the dialog is brilliant.
If you get to one or two movies in the near future, definitely make sure you see Chef.
Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org