Film & Food: Jon Favreau’s “Chef”

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“CHEF” serves up warm delights

At the movies with Covo & Covo

Every issue, we screen and review a film related to food. For our reviews on current feature films, check www.EdibleSA.com and sign up for the free Edible SA newsletter, which premieres in August.

By Angela Covo and Frederic Covo

Jon Favreau, writer, director and lead in the new film “Chef,” gets back to his cinematic roots and serves up a delicious indie based on an idea “that hit me all at once.”

“And then I wrote this thing (I have a lot of really, really good 8-page scripts, by the way). I didn’t want to lose the scent, I was tracking it like a creature in the woods — and in less than a couple of weeks it was written,” he shared.

After a couple of huge films (think Ironman), the friendly, easygoing filmmaker said the landscape is ripe for doing smaller films.

“You can do smaller movies now again. I think that’s really good for all of us, because the big films have to appeal to everybody … to make its money back. But little ones like this, you can create for you and for an audience that will connect with it more personally, even if not everybody feels it,” he said.

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Emjay Anthony and John Leguizamo enjoy the Cubanos they learned to cook for the movie during Chef Roy Choi’s demo at Qui Restaurant during SXSW. (Photo by Angela Covo)

And he assembled a stellar cast to get the job done: John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey, Jr. and Bobby Cannavale. (A little trivia: NY Times food critic Andrew Platt is the brother of Oliver Platt, who plays the food critic).

The plot is easy to swallow too – a chef is already a little estranged from his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) because he’s always so busy. But when he lets the pressures of work and a well-meaning food critic (Oliver Platt) completely dominate his vista, he loses sight of what’s important and hits rock bottom. His evolution is the feel good part of the film, but there’s so much more.

Part road trip, part drama, part comedy and commentary on the techno aspects of today’s society, Mr. Favreau succeeds in his endeavor. He created a terrific, light-hearted film that tells a story and shares the passion of the culinary world, from the inside out.

You won’t find shoot-‘em-ups or explosions here. You will get to see a father-son relationship develop (kudos to the wonderful young Emjay Anthony for a great job), the inner workings of a professional kitchen and the mind of a chef, some pretty amazing dishes and how wonderful life can be when you just let it happen.

Oh yeah, and remember to not to go see this film hungry, because you will suffer. We could almost smell the delicious meals and those Cubanos on the screen, thanks in no small part to Chef Roy Choi.

Culinary prep for the film

Mr. Favreau wanted to depict the nitty-gritty side of being a well-known chef. So he roped in Chef Roy Choi, affectionately known as the king of food trucks in LA, to teach the cast everything they needed to know to make the film as real as possible.

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Chef Roy Choi and Jon Favreau cook up a storm at SXSW and serve those delicious Cubanos at Qui Restaurant in Austin. (Photo by Frederic Covo)

Chef Roy jumped right in as the culinary and technical advisor and put Mr. Favreau through an intense training period.

“It was more like a boot camp,” the actor said. “Roy said I ate like a 9-year-old boy, because I had this whole list of things that I wouldn’t eat. I wanted to show I was serious about this thing because a chef will taste anything and eat anything especially if it’s being served to them by somebody. That’s because it’s a medium, it’s an exchange.”

Together, the duo created kitchen scenes that ring true, and will certainly resonate with many of our professional cooking friends. Chef Roy shared everything, from the proper choreography and etiquette in a professional kitchen to the proper knives to use and when. The degree of authenticity they achieved alone makes this film worth your time and trouble.

And most important, the passion and dedication required to be successful in today’s culinary scene shines through.

Note: There is a free online cookbook available with Chef Roy Choi’s recipes for the movie at www.bakespace.com, no need to sign up for free access to the book. Bonus tip: Make sure you stay for the credits, it will be worth your while.

We rate this a must-see film for all foodies and anyone who enjoys a good film.

And for those of you inspired to start your own truck … Ms. Lakendra Lewis will have all the information you need in the August/September issue!  Also see page 53 in the June/July issue for the recipe to make the perfect Cubano sandwich.

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