Jon Favreau directs and stars in this delectable summer entrée about a talented chef attempting to follow his creative cooking instincts while balancing life’s demands outside the kitchen.  Favreau’s character, Carl Casper, is a rising culinary star that must overcome setbacks on his journey towards the American dream. “Chef” showcases what it takes to make it as an entrepreneur; a belief in oneself, talent, risk and customer service.  It marinates each of these into a solid story with added pinches of humor.

The movie’s timeless message is that hard work, creativity, skills and passion might result in opportunities for those willing to take risks and follow their heart.  Chef Carl, or “El Jefe” as he’s more commonly known, once had a conviction for transforming ordinary dishes into mouth-watering crowd-pleasing dishes.  In the movie, he finds his artistic side stifled by his boss and a renowned food critic.  His emphatic response to personal criticism escalates into a social media Twitter war, leaving Carl searching for answers and a job.

Audiences will enjoy the role social media plays in “Chef”.  Carl’s young son becomes the family’s de facto IT tech, masterfully schooling his father on the marketing advantages of the social network.  At the same time, coworkers counsel Carl on the irreversible nature of “tweets” and how those brevity messages are now “out there” in the information abyss for all to see.  

The dynamic mix of YouTube videos and Twitter messages in “Chef” provides a satiating experience.  Without the social media aspect and playful banter between Carl and those closest to him, the “Chef” would be a less interesting, cookie-cutter story.  But the movie’s main dish, Favreau, is what keeps the audience’s attention. He’s believable and entertaining both in the kitchen and while trying to step up as a father.  Less plausible, and one of the film’s downgrades, is the casting of TV’s “Modern Family” hottie Sophia Vergara in ex-wife.  The pairing of these two as husband and wife is as mismatched as champagne teamed with Chef Boyardee.  You can’t fault Favreau though, who also produced and wrote the script, for wanting to add eye candy to this film’s menu.

“Chef” will probably do for culinary schools what “Top Gun” did for military recruiting in the late 1980s - appeal to those with a passion to succeed and have fun doing it.  Audiences get a taste of the one man’s journey toward fulfilling the American dream; unwilling to accept no for an answer while constantly striving to improve his craft.  The film’s navigation of the social media network provides “Chef” with easy laughs, an entrepreneurship storyline, and a richly rewarding trip for a father and son.  Together, these ingredients combine to make the film an entertaining, palate pleasing experience…just don’t go to the theater on an empty stomach.

Grade: B

(Editor’s Note: Patrick King is a resident of Oro Valley and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at www.reelbrief.com.  You may email him at reelbriefmoviereviews@mail.com)

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