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**** 1/2

After finding success as a director-for-hire with Elf and the Iron Man movies, Jon Favreau has made a welcome return to the indie fold with a film so funny and likeable it makes you wish he could do this sort of thing full-time and still earn a living. The writer/director plays Carl Casper, a celebrity chef who’s been cranking out the same menu at a tony L.A. restaurant for 10 years. Following a dispute with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) and an embarrassingly bad review from a popular online food critic (Oliver Platt), Casper faces a mid-life crisis: Suddenly his good name isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, and he’s out of a job with no prospects. Add to this a strained relationship with his precocious 12-year-old son (Emjay Anthony), and this is a chef at a crossroads.

He doesn't completely understand the power of social media, which only adds to his difficulties.

With moral support from his best friend (Scarlett Johansson), and ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), and financial help from her first husband (an eccentric millionaire played with the usual eccentric gusto by Robert Downey Jr.) Casper embarks on a new career, as the proprietor of a food truck that serves authentic Cuban sandwiches, arroz con pollo and other Latin specialties cooked to gourmet perfection. Accompanied by his son – who takes instantly to the family business – and line chef John Leguizamo, Kessler takes El Jefe (the business-on-wheels) from Miami to Los Angeles, with stops in New Orleans, Austin and other American food capitals. So it’s a road trip story, a male-bonding movie, and a food comedy with no unpleasant aftertaste.

Celebrity chef Roy Choi, who appears briefly as himself, was Favreau’s advisor on the film – so the many mouth-watering “food porn” shots of Casper at work (slicing, dicing and preparing) were actually performed by the writer/director himself. Indeed, there are precious little false flavors in Chef. It’s sweet but not cloying, a tremendously satisfying cinematic meal.

Don’t expect a sequel anytime soon, however. Favreau’s next project, for Disney, is a big-budget remake of The Jungle Book, combining live Action and CGI.

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About The Author

Bill DeYoung

Bill DeYoung

Bio:
Bill DeYoung was Connect's Arts & Entertainment Editor from May 2009 to August 2014.

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