Thursday, 5 June 2014

Chef (2014)

America... on the road Again

A talented and passionate chef stuck in a boring restaurant cooking the same old menu for years calls it a day, buys a food truck, and goes on the road to rediscover the simple joys of cooking and American regional cuisines, together with a trusty sidekick and an estranged son.

I don't tend to watch many food travelogue programmes on television; most of the time you're just watching a second-string celebrity take a paid vacation while bumbling along a foreign country while sampling the tinniest sliver of its cuisine. That said, I'm a fan of the PBS series Spain... On the Road Again, where an Iron Chef (Mario Batali), a New York Times food critic (Mark Bittman), and 2 actresses (Gwyeth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols) traipse about Spain over 2 months. They tour places to soak in the local flavour, they eat the regional food, and then they cook the same meals (or variations thereof) for each other.

At its heart, Chef plays like a feature film version of Spain...On the Road Again but set in America. Yes, there is the prerequisite and very engaging story about a passionate chef who's good at cooking and poor at relationships, trying to do both on a road trip in a food truck. But we're really here to see Jon Favreau and gang have a good time travelling, pigging out, and preparing yummy regional cuisine on camera as they cut a path from Miami to Texas and then New York.

As with the PBS series, I'm not surprised that Chef has turned out to be wildly entertaining and watchable. The cast looks good (it almost seems everyone in Favreau's Iron Man and Avengers films get walk-on and extended cameo here aside from Gwyneth Paltrow) and more importantly has excellent chemistry with each other, and most importantly, have so much fun producing this that the fun is infectious in the cinema.

Chef doesn't intend to make some grand statement about the nature of human relations or the aesthetics and sacredness of food. But it's an amusing and heartfelt way to spend 110 minutes admiring food porn.

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