Food porn hits the big screen | Jon Favreau’s Chef the movie review
This wasn’t our usual Sunday. My alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 7am, we then spent eight manic hours frantically prepping our bathroom for the imminent arrival of our plumber. The reason for this madness? We had been invited up to a preview screening of Chef, starring, directed and produced by Jon Favreau (of Iron Man Fame).
It was certainly worth getting up so early, missing Sunday Brunch on TV and the glorious sunshine. The film was brilliant and the icing on the cake was the fact that Jon Faveau was there to introduce the film and hold a Q&A session after. Being food bloggers, the title of the film obviously appealed to us – food porn on the big screen, but this was far more than a 114 minute long cookery show. The story is funny, heartwarming and jam-packed with Hollywood A-listers, it just so helps that it’s about a subject we have a great interest in.
Here’s the storyline in three short(ish) paragraphs. I’m not going into too much detail, I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the movie, although the way that the food is filmed is worth the price of the ticket alone. WARNING! Do not go to see this film hungry, your stomach will start to digest itself. We popped into the Ape & Bird for a pre-cinema snack beforehand and we were salivating after just 10 minutes of the movie starting.
The film kicks off with Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) complete with rock star-esque tattoos including a knife down one arm, demonstrating his blisteringly fast knife skills whilst prepping a mouth-watering meal. Chef Carl is desperate to break away from his crowd-pleasing ‘safe’ yet profitable menu. So when top food blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) books in to review the prominent Los Angeles restaurant, Carl seizes the opportunity to cook something more creative. This plan is scuppered by control freak restaurant owner (Dustin Hoffman) who insists that Carl ‘plays all his hits’.
After a negative review, naive Twitter battle and a very public outburst at critic Ramsey which was filmed and posted on YouTube, Chef Carl is forced to leave the comfort of this successful kitchen and embark on a soul-searching journey, both literally and emotionally. He is persuaded to go back to basics by Molly, the restaurant’s sommelier and Carl’s part-time ‘bedroom buddy’ Scarlett Johansson who provides some leggy eye candy to compliment the food-porn. There’s a key moment where Casper seduces her by cooking up a mouth-watering pasta dish – Pasta Aglio e Olio whilst she sits and watches transfixed, for those wanting to attempt to recreate this almost erotic food scene, here’s the recipe.
So Carl hops on a plane to Miami with Inez, his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara, of Modern Family fame), and his ten-year-old-son Percy (Emjay Anthony). This sounds like a complicated twist to the plot but the underlying chemistry between Carl and Inex and the strained bond between father and son makes it totally believable. After a hilarious meeting with Carl’s ex-wife’s ex-husband with a scene stealing cameo by Robert Downey Jr, a beat up old food truck is acquired. So begins the foodie road trip section of the movie, where father, son and Carl’s best friend, Martin (John Leguizamo), squeeze every last gram of passion and dedication into making ‘El Jefe’ a success. We guarantee by the time you leave the cinema you’ll be desperate for a sizzling Cubano sandwich, here’s the recipe right here for Percy’s Mojo Pork Cubanos.
There’s a happy ending but not in the usual cheesy American way and unlike most feel-good movies there are no clichés. Jon Favreau told us after the screening that as well as the stunning food visuals, the sound of the food being prepared and cooked were very important to him. So much so he used the sound recording facilities at Skywalker Ranch, although there is no score, the soundtrack is brilliant. I found it almost impossible not to sing along too Hot 8 Brass Band‘s version of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, it took Saff’s elbow in my ribs to stop me wailing along in my own tuneless manner.
Jon even sought advice from the renowned Korean taco truck Kogi Korean BBQ‘s Roy Choi who created the recipes for the dishes shown in the film. Roy sent him Jon off for intensive French culinary schooling where he worked on his knife skills and learned how to make sauces. Roy said: ‘I brought him into the kitchen, and he just kind of fit in, I threw him a couple tests, like a case of chives, or a case of onions, or peel two cases of avocados. Just to see where his mind and his situation and his abilities were and how interested he was in these things. He just attacked them. He really became a part of it.’
Jon Favreau‘s latest (relatively) low-budget movie has no superheroes and no CGI but what it does have is the ability to make you feel very, very hungry. Chef is a warm, witty and well observed film unlike nothing we’ve seen before, emotional and touching and in parts extremely funny with raw and natural humour. Plus it’s the first time we’ve seen Twitter and Facebook used so accurately on screen, it stresses the importance of social media for businesses, especially in the food scene.
With the thriving restaurant scene in London, this film has been a long time coming, whilst chatting to Jon after the film he mentioned people are coming from Paris for a taste of what London has to offer. As we walked out into Soho there was only one place we wanted to end the night, with a slider or two at Spuntino. Although we were hoping to discover Carl’s food truck parked outside the hotel of the screening. He should definitely get ‘El Jefe’ rolling around London, those Cuban sandwiches would sell out in seconds.
CHEF: UK Release Date: June 25th 2014