For today's review, the author has provided this four-course tasting menu that best reflects the tone, themes and emotions on display in Jon Favreau's Chef. The author has also added an optional Favreau movie pairing with each course.
Butternut Star Salad with Organic Eye Candy
In this first course we meet a chef (Favreau) who's both brilliant and ballsy; a guy whose thirst for success supersedes everything. He's the leader of a hot restaurant in L.A.; a delicate surgeon who shouts orders like a drill sergeant, but cooks and creates with softness and grace. Surrounded by a bevy of your favorite international flavors in the kitchen (Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo), the dining room (Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman) and at home (Sofia Vergara), our chef commands with wicked tenacity as he prepares for a review from the world's most influential food critic (Oliver Platt).
Favreau Movie Pairing: Iron Man
Chorizo Stuffed Egos on a Bed of Mixed Failure
In this second course, our writer-director begins to deconstruct his own career and the pressures of having to re-create success without evolving in any way. After he's forced to execute a subpar "accessible" menu by the restaurant's owner (Hoffman), Chef is ripped to shreds by the critic and things go viral. The immense power of social media plays a big role in this movie, both in the way it can destroy someone and also catapult them to success. A spiced-up public meltdown and a war of words between creator and critic eventually forces our chef out of a job and into career limbo.
Favreau Movie Pairing: Cowboys & Aliens
Braised Relationships with Mashed Personalities and Downey Jr. Gravy
After searing both his career and his relationship with a son he barely sees, Chef is invited on a trip to his old stomping grounds in Miami with his ex-wife (Vergara) and son in an attempt to rediscover his love of cooking by revisiting the town that first inspired his success. It's in these moments, packed with heart and overflowing with the most flavorful soul, that Favreau's Chef really shines -- transforming into a story about finding your story and connecting (or reconnecting) with those who are there to help you create it. And in a sly, heady bit of art imitating life, Robert Downey Jr. cameos as an uber-successful Miami hotshot who helps Chef find his passion again by giving him the one thing that may help resurrect his career: a food truck.
Favreau Movie Pairing: Made
Molten Chocolate Love with Passion Fruit
Your culinary journey will conclude with a richness and sweetness that doesn't feel the need to complicate matters by giving in to the typical (and predictable) trappings of your average "movie" story, with its ups and downs and downs and ups. Favreau's Chef is a personal, feel-good palate cleanser from a writer-director who's pretty obviously searching for the fresh start his main character so desperately needs. It's intimate and refreshing, and pretty easy to overlook its few faults because its music is invigorating, its spirit is infectious and its many food montages will send your appetite into a mad frenzy.
Favreau Movie Pairing: Swingers
Following its premiere at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival, Chef will officially arrive in theaters on May 9. Check out more of our coverage of this year's SXSW Film Festival here.
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