There’s not a lot by way of story in Iron Man director Jon Favreau’s Chef, but this is nonetheless a pleasant comedy that’ll have you drooling into your popcorn, then rushing to the nearest eatery as you leave the cinema.
Favreau casts himself as Carl Casper, a master chef at a fancy Los Angeles restaurant, whose bossy owner (Dustin Hoffman) won’t let him be creative with the food. When a major critic slams him in a review, Carl has an epic meltdown that costs him his job and goes viral on the Internet. Left with no choice, he invests in a beat-up food truck and hits the road with his ten-year-old son and a faithful friend (John Leguizamo), discovering subsequently that there’s no greater joy than rustling up delicious Cuban sandwiches for appreciative folks.
Filled with the kind of genuine heart that makes up for the film’s familiar narrative, Chef feels surprisingly fresh, possibly because it’s filmed with such affection. We get montage after glorious montage of food preparation, and Favreau himself is terrific as a man who must return to basics in order to rediscover his passion and reconnect with his kid. The film finds a nice way to stay contemporary by illustrating the impact of social media as a parallel subplot in the storyline, with Twitter playing a significant role in Carl’s takedown and then his reemergence.
Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara is nicely cast as Carl’s supportive ex-wife, and Favreau pulls in favors from his big-name star friends – Scarlett Johansson, who plays a sassy restaurant manager, and Robert Downey Jr, who cameos as Carl’s ex-wife’s flaky ex-husband. The real star of the film, however, is the food itself. One scene in which Carl lovingly prepares spaghetti left me with a craving for Italian food for the rest of the day.
I’m going with three out of five for Chef. It’s simple, but like good cooking, there’s love gone into it.

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