Foodies who feasted on “Big Night,” “Babette’s Feast” and “Eat Drink Man Woman” may flock to “Chef,” a lightweight but high-calorie confection in which the actors often run the risk of being upstaged by all manner of scrumptious-looking cuisine.
Written and directed by Jon Favreau, who also stars as a professionally frustrated chef who earns a second helping of happiness while operating a food truck, this amiably rambling dramedy will play best with audiences primed to go with the flow of its leisurely pacing while enjoying the cross-country ride. And, of course, savoring the views of that tempting grub.
The slightly longish setup establishes Carl Casper (Favreau) as a stressed-for-success master chef in a trendy Los Angeles restaurant where he is absolute master of his kitchen — as long as he pleases the establishment’s demanding owner (Dustin Hoffman). When an even more demanding restaurant blogger (Oliver Platt) pans Casper’s menu as too safe and predictable — and snidely suggests Casper may be overweight because he’s eaten too many dinners returned by unsatisfied customers — Casper furiously tweets an invitation to the critic to return for a taste of the chef’s new bill of fare.
Unfortunately, the owner overrules Casper and insists that his chef prepare the same old same old. Even more unfortunately, a video of Casper’s angry confrontation with the critic goes viral — and the chef quickly finds himself not just unemployed, but virtually unemployable. Fortuitously, Inez (Sofia Vergara), Casper’s well-to-do ex-wife, picks just this time for a trip back home to Miami, where Casper got his start as a culinary artist. She buys him a plane ticket to join her on the trip, ostensibly so he can play “nanny” to Percy (Emjay Anthony), their 11-year-old son — but really so he can get back in touch with his roots.