Chef (2014 film)
Chef is a 2014 American comedy-drama film written, co-produced, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau. Favreau plays a chef who, after a public altercation with a food critic, quits his job at a popular Los Angeles restaurant to operate a food truck with his young son. It co-stars Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale and Dustin Hoffman, along with Robert Downey Jr. in a cameo role.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jon Favreau|
|Written by||Jon Favreau|
|Edited by||Robert Leighton|
|Distributed by||Open Road Films|
|Box office||$46 million|
Favreau wrote the script after directing several big-budget films, wanting to go "back to basics" and to create a film about cooking. Food truck owner and chef Roy Choi served as a co-producer and oversaw the menus and food prepared for the film. Principal photography took place in July 2013 in Los Angeles, Miami, Austin and New Orleans.
Chef premiered at South by Southwest on March 7, 2014 and was released theatrically on May 9, 2014 by Open Road Films. It was well received by critics, who praised the direction, music, writing, story, and performances grossing $45 million against production budget of $11 million.
Miami-born Carl Casper is the head chef of Gauloise in Brentwood, Los Angeles. While popular with his kitchen staff and hostess Molly, Carl clashes with the restaurant’s owner, Riva, who wants him to stick to "classics" rather than innovative dishes. Carl has a strained relationship with his tech-savvy preteen son, Percy, and rich ex-wife, Inez.
When Carl has the chance to serve prestigious food critic and blogger Ramsey Michel, Riva demands he prepare old favorites at the last minute; Carl concedes, leading to a scathing review. On Twitter, Carl insults Ramsey, not realizing that his reply is public, and gains a large online following. Carl comes up with a new menu that his staff loves and invites Ramsey to a "rematch", but leaves after confronting Riva, who wants the old menu again.
At home, Carl prepares the menu he wanted, while his sous-chef Tony serves Ramsey the same dishes from his prior visit. Ramsey tweets negatively about Carl, causing Carl to confront him at the restaurant and publicly berate him. Videos of Carl's meltdown go viral, leaving him humiliated and unemployable.
Carl reluctantly accepts Inez's invitation to accompany her and Percy to Miami, where he rediscovers his love for Cuban cuisine. At Inez’s encouragement, her ex-husband Marvin offers Carl a dilapidated food truck. Carl and Percy bond while restoring the truck and buying groceries, and Carl gives him a chef's knife. Martin, Carl's friend and former line cook, turns down his promotion at Gauloise to join Carl, who has reignited his passion as a chef.
Carl, Martin, and Percy drive the truck across the country to Los Angeles, serving Cuban sandwiches and yuca fries. Percy promotes them on social media, and they find success in New Orleans and Austin, where their daily specials include po' boys and barbecued brisket, made with local ingredients.
Back in Los Angeles, having strengthened his relationship with Percy, Carl accepts his son’s offer to help with the food truck. Ramsey visits the truck to explain his bad review: though an early fan of Carl, he was disappointed by a meal he felt was beneath Carl’s skills. Impressed with the chef’s return to form, Ramsey offers to bankroll a new restaurant where Carl will have full creative control.
Six months later, the successful new restaurant is closed for a private event: Carl and Inez's remarriage ceremony.
- Jon Favreau as Carl Casper
- Emjay Anthony as Percy
- John Leguizamo as Martin
- Sofía Vergara as Inez
- Bobby Cannavale as Tony
- Scarlett Johansson as Molly
- Oliver Platt as Ramsey Michel
- Dustin Hoffman as Riva
- Amy Sedaris as Jen
- Robert Downey Jr. as Marvin
- Russell Peters as Miami cop
Franklin Barbecue owner Aaron Franklin and general manager Benji Jacob cameo as themselves.
Jon Favreau, the writer, director and star of Chef, wrote the film's script in about two weeks. He had long wanted to make a film about food and chefs, and felt that the subject was suited to a small-scale independent film rather than a big-budget production. He cited Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Eat Drink Man Woman and Big Night as inspirations for creating a food-centric film.
The script was semi-autobiographical, incorporating parts of Favreau's life into the main character, such as being a father while having a busy career and coming from a "broken home". Favreau also drew a comparison between his career as a director and Carl's career as a chef; he stepped down from directing major studio films to go "back to basics" and create Chef on a smaller budget, much like Carl's resignation from a popular restaurant to work in a food truck.
Favreau contacted Roy Choi, a restaurateur who created the Kogi Korean BBQ food truck, to serve as a consultant on the film; Choi was eventually promoted to co-producer. While the film was in pre-production, Favreau shadowed Choi in his restaurants and worked as part of Choi's kitchen crew after training at a culinary school. Choi oversaw the menus prepared for the film and created the Cuban sandwiches that form a central part of the storyline.
In addition to Favreau, the first actors cast in main roles were Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. To prepare for his role as Martin the line cook, Leguizamo spent time working as an actual line cook at The Lion in the West Village. It was announced that Robert Downey, Jr.—whom Favreau had previously directed in two Iron Man films—had joined the cast in May 2013. Scarlett Johansson and Dustin Hoffman were cast later that month. Favreau felt the casting was one of the film's biggest successes, which provided him with "a tremendous amount of confidence"; in particular, he was impressed by Emjay Anthony, who was ten years old at the time of filming.
Principal photography of the film began in July 2013 in Los Angeles. Subsequent filming took place in Miami, Austin and New Orleans—cities that Favreau chose to work into the story because they all "possess a rich food and music culture". Filming locations in Miami included the Versailles restaurant, the Fontainebleau Hotel, and the Cuban restaurant Hoy Como Ayer in Little Havana. In New Orleans, some scenes were filmed at Café du Monde in the city's French Quarter. In Austin, filming locations included Franklin Barbecue and Guero's on South Congress. Food prepared for the shoot was eaten by the cast and crew after filming. Much of the dialogue in the food truck scenes between John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, and Emjay Anthony was improvised in order to capture the banter of a kitchen environment.
Milan Records released a Chef soundtrack on May 6, 2014, three days before the film's release. The soundtrack is a combination of Latin jazz, New Orleans jazz and blues, which serve as background to the storyline as it moves through Miami, New Orleans and Austin, respectively. The film's music was chosen by music supervisor Mathieu Schreyer, while the incidental music was scored by Lyle Workman.
|1.||"I Like It Like That"||Pete Rodriguez||4:25|
|2.||"Lucky Man"||Courtney John||3:16|
|3.||"A Message to You, Rudy"||Grant Phabao, Carlton Livingston and Lone Ranger||5:50|
|5.||"C.R.E.A.M"||El Michels Affair||2:54|
|6.||"Hung Over"||The Martinis||2:07|
|7.||"Que Se Sepa"||Roberto Roena||3:14|
|8.||"Ali Baba"||Louie Ramirez||4:16|
|9.||"Homenaje al Benny (Castellano Que Bueno Balia Usted)"||Gente de Zona||4:00|
|10.||"Mi Swing Es Tropical"||Quantic & Nickodemus||3:56|
|11.||"Bustin' Loose"||Rebirth Brass Band||3:55|
|12.||"Sexual Healing"||Hot 8 Brass Band||4:59|
|13.||"When My Train Pulls In"||Gary Clark Jr.||7:13|
|14.||"West Coast Poplock"||Ronnie Hudson and the Street People||5:29|
|15.||"Oye Como Va"||Perico Hernandez||4:06|
|16.||"La Quimbumba"||Perico Hernandez||6:05|
|17.||"One Second Every Day"||Lyle Workman||2:22|
|Australian Albums (ARIA)||96|
|Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE)||94|
|US Billboard 200||160|
|US Independent Albums (Billboard)||22|
|US Top Soundtracks (Billboard)||5|
Chef premiered on March 7, 2014, at South by Southwest, where it was the opening film of the festival and was attended by Favreau, Leguizamo, Anthony, and Platt. It was subsequently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. On August 19, Open Road Films announced to re-release the film nationally on August 29 for a Labor Day weekend, which would grow 100 screens to 600-800.
The film was released theatrically on May 9, 2014, beginning in limited release in six theaters and expanding throughout May and June to a peak of 1,298 theaters. Its total gross in the United States as of November 2, 2014 is $31.4 million.
Outside of the U.S., Chef performed best in Australia (earning $2.8 million), the United Kingdom and Spain ($2.6 million in each country) and Mexico (earning a little over $1 million). In total, Chef has grossed almost $15 million outside the United States.
On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 184 reviews, with an average rating of 6.81/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Chef's charming cast and sharp, funny script add enough spice to make this feel-good comedy a flavorful—if familiar—treat." Metacritic gave the film a score of 68 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Rolling Stone's Peter Travers gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, describing it as "an artful surprise and an exuberant gift" and "deliciously entertaining, comic, touching and often bitingly true". Ty Burr of the Boston Globe also awarded the film 3.5 out of 4 stars; he thought it was "funny and heartfelt" and that, despite its weaknesses, the strengths "overpower the parts of the meal that are undercooked". Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper gave Chef 3 out of 4 stars, finding it "funny, quirky and insightful, with a bounty of interesting supporting characters" but also noting the lack of plot and character development in some parts. Gary Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times gave particular praise to the "terrific supporting cast" and the script's lack of cliché, such as in its presentation of family dynamics.
Joe Leydon from Variety found the film's plot predictable and slow-paced, but noted "the trip itself is never less than pleasant, and often extremely funny". The New York Times' Stephen Holden described Chef as "aggressively feel-good" and "shallow but enjoyable". Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and found it "deeply satisfying, down to the soul", praising the "incredible" food photography, the "colorful supporting cast" and the "wryly observant" humor, raving, "There's nothing terribly profound about "Chef". But its message—that relationships, like cooking, take a hands-on approach—is a sweet and sustaining one." San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle opined that Chef was Favreau's best film to date, highlighting the "natural and convincing" chemistry between Favreau and Anthony and the "vivid" scenes featuring big-name actors in small roles. USA Today's Scott Bowles gave Chef 3.5 out of 4 stars and called it "a nuanced side dish, a slow-cooked film that's one of the most heartwarming of the young year". Ken Choy of Wide Lantern noted the structural problems but admitted, "If you ever saw the Kristen Bell sloth video on Ellen, that was me during the entire 2nd half of the movie. Non-stop tears. It was happy-crying because Favreau's character was doing what he wanted."
Slant Magazine critic Chris Cabin, however, gave Chef a 1.5 out of 4 stars and described it as Favreau's "most self-satisfied, safe, and compromised film to date", chiefly criticizing the film's lack of realism and credibility. Writing for The Village Voice, Amy Nicholson agreed that the storyline was implausible and summarized the film as "so charmingly middlebrow that it's exactly the cinematic comfort food it mocks". Indiewire's Eric Kohn opined that with Chef, "Favreau has no sweeping thematic aims", and that the end product was a "self-indulgent vanity project".
In 2019, Favreau and Choi released on Netflix a documentary television spin-off, The Chef Show that sees two friends, Jon Favreau and Roy Choi, "experiment with their favorite recipes and techniques, baking, cooking, exploring and collaborating with some bold-face names in the entertainment and culinary world."
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