Chef: a professional cook. The simple definition only scratches the surface of what Chef is really about because Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is more than just a cook. Carl Casper has all the imagination of an artist and palate of an epicurean, but feels reduced to being an ingredients preparer by his controlling boss (Dustin Hoffman). Stuck in the same restaurant,
cooking the same food, he knows that his heart is no longer in his creations. His home life is also suffering, and it seems everyone around him realizes it is time for a change. He is forced out of his unhappy life when a bad review from a top critic goes “viral.” In an attempt to call out the critic, Casper joins twitter and begins to engage in social media. If only he understood how twitter actually worked, he might not have thrown the gauntlet that leads to his firing. With his humiliating online presence, the offers are not rolling in, and Casper is forced strike out on his own. Along with his new sous chef (John Leguizamo), son (Emjay Anthony) and ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), Casper re-discovers the joy of food, family and friendship on a cross-country return from Miami to begin the next chapter of his business.
Chef was an unexpectedly wonderful opening to the SXSW film festival. Janet Pierson, head of SXSW Film, commented that people judge the fest by its first film and this choice set the tone beautifully for the nine
days to follow. The entire cast thrills in this Favreau directed heart warming piece, even young Anthony, who exceeds expectations as a child actor. The message is subtle and poignant, easily entertaining for a wide variety of ages. Of course, the local crowd cheered for the Austin scenes, but the rest of the country does not feel ignored or left out of the journey. Chef might catapult Jon Favreau into lead roles as he proves that he can carry the storyline of a film from start to end. Certainly a somewhat predictable movie, Favreau keeps it interesting by focusing on the things that matter, like the beautiful country and the people in it. And, of course, the Chefs who create culinary masterpieces for us to enjoy.