Going to the theater to see a movie has become a rare occurrence for me. A film has to scream my name to get me to spend the money and effort to go. Usually, it’s when I’ve read a great book and hope for at least a good movie out of the deal. However, with Chef, I was lured in by the promise I would leave the theater hungry.
Say no more. I love food. I love growing it, shopping for it, cooking it, and especially eating it. When those aren’t enough, there is always reading about it and watching others prepare it. Throw in a story line about a food truck (an idea I’ve toyed with a time or two), and I’m sold.
During the opening scenes of slicing, dicing, and butchering, we discover the plot motivator, in the shape of an impending review by a major food critic. When Chef Carl Carlson (Jon Favreau) decides to stick to the restaurant’s tired menu rather than the one he has prepared and prepped for, what follows is an illustration in how clearly social media can break or make a person. Chef Carl isn’t too savvy when it comes to Twitter and the like, so he relies on his son Percy (the charming Emjay Anthony) to show him the ropes. Percy’s pictures and videos not only lead to Carl’s eventual redemption, but they also result in some of the more touching scenes in the film.
But really, people, this movie is about the food. So without further ado, the tastiest parts:
- Carl creates the menu he should have made for the food critic in his dark apartment kitchen. Sauces jump out of the blender and off the screen with their vibrant oranges, greens, and purples. The pork belly glistens as a knife slices through. (I was hoping he would load up the goods and wow the food critic with them, but that would have meant a very short movie.)
- The grilled cheese sandwich. Butter, layers of assorted cheese, the crunch as he cuts it in half… Comfort on a plate.
- The food truck being christened with the first Cuban sandwich. Melt-in-your-mouth pork, the swipe of mustard, pickle slices, and the obligatory cheese stretching from bread to mouth. Oh, and don’t forget the butter.
- Carl and company take their favorite foods fromtheir travels and incorporate aspects into their own production. Aside from salivating at the brisket fresh off the grill, I was also reminded it’s been way too long since my last beignet.
This movie is not some deep examination of the world, and you aren’t going to walk away pondering the meaning of life. At times, the relationships seem a bit forced, and Robert Downey Jr. as the ex-husband of Carl’s ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) doesn’t quite gel in his scenes. But you will probably laugh out loud at Carl’s mishaps and cheer for his triumphs. And if you’re like me, you will walk away entertained and hungry, so have a plan in mind for what you’ll eat when you leave the theater.