Jon Favreau’s “Chef” a spectacular movable feast


Recently released on Netflix, the indie film “Chef” is delicious!

“Chef” is a highly pleasurable movie about the relationship between father and son, husband and ex-wife, creative integrity, independence and being true to one’s passion. For those desperate for enjoyable family movies, without violence and gratuitous sexuality, “Chef” is an excellent choice. offers manages to be a crowd pleaser with an unusual twist.

Starring Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed the film, “Chef” is often funny and touching, well acted by a surprising array of superb actors (pals of Favereau) and exquisitely photographed with delectable food cinematography.

Appearing in this film, miraculously one might think for a low-budget effort, are a who’s who of American talent: John Leguiziano, Scarlet Johanson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris and Robert Downey Jr. among others.

The film has an excellent sound track of Texas country blues, soul, and salsa. The Salsero Jose C. Hernandez aka Perico plays the father of ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara.) Hernandez’s music was featured at several points in the film.

In “Chef” Favereau succeeds in returning to his film roots – smaller budget, character –driven, independent movies that reflect actual humanity (as opposed to comic book characters.)

Nineteen years ago Jon Favereau was the writer / star of “Swingers.”  Reviews and profits were excellent, and expectations for his future success in the industry were justifiably high.

The reality of his success far exceeded initial expectations with many other successful film projects to follow. He also directed and had a small part in the profitable Will Ferrell comedy “Elf” in 2003; he was hilarious in “The Replacements,” and over the last few years Favereau has gained additional stature for his highly successful direction of the first two “Iron Man” movies with Robert Downey Jr., and is slated to direct the next installment.

Favereau loves food but does not consider himself a “foodie.” For this film, however, he studied culinary skills extensively with Los Angeles-based Chef Roi Choi, who is famous for his Korean BBQ Tacos, served initially off Roi’s food truck.

Favereau stated in several interviews that “The food we prepared in the movie we ate at the end of each take.” The food looks absolutely delicious.  He and his co-stars really were doing the cooking in the shots. This gives an extra sense of authenticity to the movie.

Favreau plays Carl Caspar, a Los Angeles award-winning chef in a well-established, tony Los Angeles restaurant, which is increasingly managed with an iron hand by Riva, the owner, played in two brief scenes by Dustin Hoffman.

Chef Carl has had a long-term implicit agreement with Riva granting Carl complete creative control over the menu. Words, unfortunately for Riva, are not deeds.

Tipped off to an upcoming visit by prominent food critic, Ramsey Michael, (convincingly played by Olive Platt,) Carl prepares a special, off-the-standard-menu meal for the critic, a decision that at the last minute is overruled by Riva.

Carl refuses to submit to the boss who requires a proven menu prepared for the critic, who several years before had written a glowing review of Carl’s culinary skill. When Ramsey writes a scathing review of Carl’s boring and unimaginative years-old menu, the chef goes berserk in front of the reviewer in a packed restaurant. The ugly moment is captured via cell phones, video and immediately goes viral. Aside from being the all-important precipitating incident, this is the start of a running product placement via Twitter, which is integrated well into the plot.

When approached by his ex-wife Inez, played by Sofia Vergara, Carl suspects some sort of well-intended manipulation. He nevertheless agrees to accompany her and their son Percy, a 10-year-old social media wiz who longs for deeper connection with his workaholic father, to Miami to visit his father-in-law, eat Cuban food, dance salsa and revel in the pure joy of music, food and familial love.

While in Miami father and son re-connect deeply.  Inez has arranged an offer, via her first husband Marvin, (Robert Downey Jr.), who offers a free-of-charge yet shabby old taco truck.

Now unemployed, somewhat depressed and uncertain about his future, Carl accepts the offer.

Martin, Carl’s close friend and devoted former sous chef, brilliantly played by John Leguizamo, re-enters the scene in Miami. Martin, who is Cuban-American, acts as a translator, catalyst and food muse to help stunningly transform the taco truck into a highly sought after mobile Cuban food restaurant that then tours the U.S. with Carl, Martin and son Percy (during summer-school vacation.)

This was an enjoyable road-trip movie, full of humor and affirmation.  There is no heavy drama here, but that was never the intent. While there was some foreshadowing, I never quite knew where the movie was going, but given the scenic route, I didn’t mind a bit. Just don’t expect a “Game of Thrones” experience. Ridiculously, this was rated R, which is absurd compared to other R rated movies.