CHEF – Review by Susan Granger

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With the popularity of “Babette’s Feast,” “Eat Drink Man Woman,” “Big Night” and “Ratatouille,” foodie films are becoming a savory genre unto themselves. Add this to the list. Read on…

When celebrated Los Angeles chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) infuriates his banal, conservative restaurateur boss (Dustin Hoffman) by confronting a crotchety food critic, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), and their snide Twitter and YouTube rant goes viral, it becomes obvious that Carl needs a culinary change. Unexpectedly, that comes in the form of an invitation from his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) to join her and their social-media-savvy 10 year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) on a trip to Miami, his hometown. That’s where he acquires a battered, second-hand food truck from Inez’s eccentric entrepreneurial first husband, Marvin (scene-stealing Robert Downey Jr.). Teaming up with his Hispanic line cook Martin (John Leguizamo) and son Percy, Carl dubs his renovated truck “El Jefe” and takes scrumptious Cubano cuisine on the road, heading on a poignant, redemptive trip back to the West Coast, including extended stops in New Orleans and Austin, Texas.

Writer/director/producer/actor Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Swingers”) says he was inspired by guest-starring on TV’s “Top Chef,” where he discovered how the professional chefs analyze food, recalling a scene in “Ratatouille” where one sees the flavors. He then spent six weeks training with L.A.-based chef Roy Choi, including a stint on one of Choi’s Kogi BBQ trucks. Indeed, you can glimpse Choi teaching Favreau during the final credits. As a result, Favreau aces the atmosphere of a working kitchen, although few real-life chefs have love interests played by Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara and a persistent publicist like Amy Sedaris. FYI: if Oliver Platt’s characterization rings true, it may be because his real-life brother, Adam Platt, is New York magazine’s food critic. Adding more spice, the swinging sound track, assembled by music supervisor Mathieu Schreyer, encompasses soul, salsa and country – with a Latin-infused beat.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Chef” is a succulent, sweetly simmering 7. It’s appetizing amusement.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.