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I don't watch many reality shows, but when I did, Bravo's Top Chef was my favorite. I was riveted by people who were so passionate about their craft, and that is what kept me watching.
My sister-in-law is a real foodie and we were looking for a movie to see; lucky us, Jon Favreau's Chef was playing at her local theater. Favreau plays Carl, a chef working in an Los Angeles restaurant. He seems happy, enjoys his co-workers (John Leguizamo and one of my favorite actors, Bobby Cannavale) and dates the pretty front of the house manager, played by Scarlett Johannson.
Carl is told that a hugely important food blogger/reviewer is coming to the restaurant. This reviewer (played by the amazing Oliver Platt) gave Carl a rave review years ago, and Carl wants to blow his socks off. He creates an exciting new menu, and gets the staff pumped up for this big night.
Then the restaurant owner, played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman, instructs Carl to cook the same menu that has made them a city favorite. It is a menu filled with good, but safe items; nothing that people would say 'wow' over (scallops, molten cake, etc). Carl argues with his boss, but the bottom line if he doesn't cook the usual menu, he can leave.
Carl caves and the results are predictable; the reviewer savages him in a vicious way for not being creative. Carl is devastated, and because he doesn't exactly understand how Twitter works, accidentally starts a Twitter war with the critic.
After a crazed viral video, Carl is forced to leave the restaurant. His ex-wife, played wonderfully by Sofia Vergara from TV's Modern Family, convinces him to accompany her and their pre-teen son to Miami where she encourages him to take an old food truck and cook the food he wants to make.
Carl has a chance to reconnect with his son as they and John Leguizamo's character drive from Miami to LA, stopping along the way to sell their Cuban sandwiches and side dishes. The movie shows us not only the amazing dishes Carl makes, but we also get a look at some beautiful cities- Miami, New Orleans, Austin- as well.
I loved this movie! There is food porn for the foodies, (the pasta dish he made for Johannson had me drooling) a wonderful father-son story (Emjay Anthony, the actor who plays his son is fabulous), beautiful scenery, great performances, especially from Favreau, who shows how a man's passion for his life work affects him deeply. We also see how new social media is used to make or break a business and how hard it is to work in a restaurant.
One of my favorite performances out of the many is a hilarious cameo from Robert Downey Jr., who has been directed by Favreau in the Iron Man movies. This man is a comic genius, and the interplay between him and Favreau in their single scene was a highlight.
I can't recommend Chef more highly; if you like food, this is a must-see.
Watch the trailer here.
The Chef website is here.
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