“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. Cooking done with care is an act of love.” Craig Claiborne.
“Chef” is an ambrosial feast, not solely for the palate, but the mind, heart and imagination; I never wanted this film to end. Jon Favreau (writer/director/star) gifts audiences a delectable homage to the passion, obsession, sheer unmitigated happiness that the cooking process bestows upon the “chef”, and those reveling in his creations; this film will reside worthily in the ranks of food-flick classics, along with: “Big Night”, “Babette’s Feast”, “Mostly Martha”, “Like Water for Chocolate”, “Julie, Julia”.
Favreau is haute cuisine food maven, “Carl Casper”, desperately striving to crack the mold and predictably of menus favoring elite “caviar” clients; his boss “Riva” (played to perfection by Dustin Hoffman) insists on Carl’s “tried and expected” stand- bys; this fails miserably when food critic “Ramsey Michel” (wonderful Oliver Platt) blasts him cheekily on “Twitter”. Carl enlists his son, ten-year-old “Percy” (outstanding, realistic depiction by Emjay Anthony) to open a Twitter account and the deluge of “tweets” between the two, poll -vault the film to another level.
Flawless casting: Sofia Vergara as Carl’s, wealthy ex-wife is charming and supporting as, “Inez”; John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale as his co-workers “Martin” and “Tony” believe in Carl’s uniqueness in and out of the kitchen; dark-haired Scarlett Johansson as a hostess, and part-time lover of Carl, plays “Molly” with sublime, subtle sensitivity; a masterful scene of seduction is Carl’s divine preparation of a midnight, aromatic meal for Molly; bereft of conversation but redolent with intimacy. Robert Downey Jr. as “Marvin” ex-husband of Inez and Carl’s benefactor is quirkily quixotic in minimal screen time.
Cuisine informs all cultures and those who delve into “mastering the art” should read “Food: a Culinary History” by Albert Sonenfeld; a bible, recognizing zestful origins, from the plebian to the aristocratic; reverencing taste, and lionizing indigenous ingredients, delicacies blossoming from all corners of the globe, from antiquity to the contemporary.
Those of you who glow with satisfaction at the rising of the properly fondled dough, oozing center of a chocolate soufflé, herbaceous scent of a luscious marinara sauce; savoring the al dente magic of a pasta well-timed, a flan well-caramelized, a turkey well-basted; “Chef” will leave you salivating, yearning for a grilled cheese sandwich, beignets, Texas barbecue.
Smiling, long after the gastronomical feats have waned, you’ll crave, lust for the wizardly, scrumptious results of deeds performed by the Merlin of the food truck, accompanied by the reverberating beat of Latin music; rarely is satisfaction so dazzlingly delivered.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!