The impressive thing about Jon Favreau movies is that he takes a relatively common subject like singledom in “Swingers” and Christmas in “Elf” and turns them into wholly relatable matters that prove both entertaining and full of emotion. He uses this same movie magic with “Chef,” a seemingly benign plot concept of a recently divorced, high-caliber chef Carl Casper (Favreau), who has been fired and not knowing what to do, starts his own food truck. Add in his pre-teen son (Emjay Anthony) who he has joint custody of with his gorgeous ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara) who he gets along better with than most married men do with their wives and you have a recipe for fun.
Carl is a man that loves food and loves his son and doesn’t know quite how to balance the two. He has made his name as a chef, but has lost the inventive spirit that made him truly love what he’s putting on the plate. After an angry, YouTube-captured outburst towards a food critic who admonished him for his boring meal including the ever popular molten lava cake, he’s not sure where his next turn might be.
He joins his ex-wife and son in Miami where he first fell in love with his wife and really learned the love of food and flavors. After a “donation” from one of Inez’s exes (Robert Downey, Jr.), Carl takes a rundown food truck and makes it his own, teaching his son how to cook. His former sous chef (John Leguizamo) makes a surprise visit, and the three of them hit the road back to L.A. with the truck. Through the power of Twitter, which is used enough to be billed as a co-star, run none other by his son, the following and success of his simple Cubano food truck is a hit.
If you were to strip down the plot of the story, it’s: Man loses job. Man buys food truck. Man makes a comeback, but it’s all the extras that Favreau throws in that makes the movie funny without being cheesy; heartwarming without being sappy. Favreau wrote, directed and stars in this simple story about hitting a rough patch and making the most of it. He sneaks in a lesson to his films when we’re not looking, but fortunately with those life lessons come laughs.
Final words: A culinary road trip worth taking.