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Film / Chef!

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"You will never be happy, cooking for someone else."

Chef is a 2014 comedy film written by, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau. It tells the story of the chef of a successful Los Angeles restaurant who is unhappy at where he is in his life. After a devastating review and misunderstandings on how Twitter works, wackiness and job loss ensues, so he follows his ex-wife and son to Miami and begins a new venture running a food truck. Has appearances by a bunch of people from his other films, including Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr..

A related series, The Chef Show, premiered on Netflix in 2019. It is less an adaptation and more a Spiritual Successor, with Jon Favreau and friend chef Roy Choi (whose own life serves as inspiration for the film), indulging their love of food and demonstrating simple-yet-fascinating recipes. Cameos from many people Jon Favreau worked with (but especially those from the Marvel Cinematic Universe) abound.


Chef provides examples of:

  • Amicable Exes: Despite getting divorced, it is clear that Carl and Inez care for each other greatly. Inez is also friendly with her other ex-husband, Marvin. After a six-month Time Skip at the end of the film, Carl and Inez remarry.
  • Batman Gambit: Ramsay Michel's bad review was intended to get Carl offended and angry enough to ditch his current safe culinary style.
  • Caustic Critic: The food blogger whose mediocre review of Carl leads to the events of the film. In his case, he was a former fan of his work, but finds his current work devoid of passion. However, at the end, they end up patching things up as they start a new restaurant together.
  • Conflict Ball: Save for food critic Ramsay Michel during the first act, there is no real antagonist in the film. Instead, much of the conflict comes from Carl being an aloof father to his son.
  • Advertisement:
  • Cool Car: It may start out as a heap, but after a thorough cleaning, new equipment, a colorful paint job, and a gratuitously good sound system, the food truck is a thing of beauty.
  • Doing It for the Art: In-universe.
    • The film's plot revolves around whether or not someone should be true to their artistic vision despite the risks, or stick with what they know will work in exchange for financial security.
    • Carl's conflict with Riva revolves around Carl wanting to be experimental and follow his passions, while Riva wants him to stick to the standard menu that is time-tested and well-loved by the restaurant clientele.
  • Food Porn: Just try not to make a quick bite your next stop after watching it.
  • Gilligan Cut: Chef Carl takes his son produce shopping for his restaurant. While surrounded by the most amazing fruits you have ever seen, Percy asks for some kettle corn. Carl dismisses kettle corn as nothing but processed sugar over starch, and wouldn't this delicious looking fruit be way better? Cut to them pigging out over a huge bag of kettle corn.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Ramsey Michel thought Carl was tweet-warring with him for fun and publicity — he had no idea that Carl had meant to reply privately and was genuinely upset, or that he'd caused a major conflict between Carl and his boss.
  • Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: Carl's career as a professional chef is ruined in the beginning when the videos of him blowing up go viral.
  • Job Title
  • Language Barrier: Carl can't speak Spanish, despite a) running the kitchen of a restaurant in Los Angeles and b)his ex-wife being Cuban. This causes issues throughout the film, including him being unable to speak to some of his employees, and even his father-in-law, without an interpreter. Carl tries to get some workers to help him lift a heavy range into his food truck, but none of the workers speak English. It's only through Martin's timely arrival (since he speaks Spanish) that work can continue.
  • Mean Boss: Riva squashes all of Chef Carl's creativity and spontaneity.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The same Food Porn step-by-step meal preparation shots used for the various restaurant meals are used to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • New Media Are Evil: Subverted. While Carl's lack of knowledge about how to send a private message on Twitter ends up ruining his career in LA, his son's steady posting on the food truck's Facebook and Twitter feeds creates a massive surge in its popularity since people know ahead of time where they will be, while his online infamy at least makes him known.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Depending on how you define "villain" within the context of this film. Ramsay Michel's bad review of Carl's cooking sends Carl on a soul-searching trip that culminates in him rediscovering his passion and a bolder style of cooking. Played with, because that's what Ramsey wanted to see, and he's thrilled about it.
  • No Antagonist:
    • While the food blogger initially seems like he'll be the movie's main villain, the film ends with him praising Carl's food truck, emphasizing that this was precisely what he wanted to push Carl into doing, and the two open a Cuban restaurant together. So, if anything, he's sort of the movie's hero instead.
    • Riva is probably the closest the film has to an antagonist; his constant overruling of Carl's decisions and stifling of his creativity is largely what kicks off the plot. But he becomes irrelevant by the time the film is halfway over, after which the plot is driven by Carl trying to build his new business.
  • Reality Ensues: It might seem off that Martin left his newfound Sous Chef position to follow Carl and help run his food truck, but in real kitchens cooks tend to follow chefs. If anything, the least realistic thing is Tony staying at the restaurant when Carl leaves.
  • Romantic False Lead: Molly and Carl clearly have some sort of romantic connection (whether or not they've actually acted upon it is left unclear), but she's completely forgotten about once Carl sets off for Miami. She herself tells him to leave, since she knows he's never been happy working for Riva.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Martin promised Carl that he'd join him as soon as he found a new kitchen to work in. Carl clearly doesn't expect him to leave his sous chef position in a high-end restaurant to work in a food truck, but Martin does, without hesitation.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Riva originally promised Chef Carl complete control of the kitchen. That is, until Chef Carl tries to do something Riva doesn't like. Then Riva reminds him who paid for everything and says he will find another chef to do what Carl refuses to. This sequence of events is phenomenally common in the restaurant trade, where the owners will talk "artistic integrity" and "culinary vision" in order to hire a chef, but will fall back on money when the crunch comes.note 
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Favreau not only apprenticed under an actual chef before filming, he had a chef on hand for every single cooking scene, who would walk him, John Leguizamo, and Bobby Cannavale through the motions of whatever it was they were supposed to be cooking in the scene. And every time you see someone cooking? It's actual food, not 'set-dressing food' that isn't actually edible but looks good for the camera.
  • Streisand Effect: In-universe: Carl's trouble stems from his temperament and lack of understanding of how social media works, which leads to him dealing with the food blogger in the worst way possible.
  • Supreme Chef: Carl has reached the pinnacle of a chef's career, running the kitchen of a highly successful restaurant. Even when he's chafing under Riva's control and producing uninspired food, no one can say that it isn't delicious or made without care.
  • Truth in Television: Yes, real life chefs do put cornstarch on their balls. It prevents chafing in the hot environment of the kitchen.
  • What Could Have Been: In universe. While still working at Gauloise, Carl puts together colorful dishes packed with flavor that get his crew excited. Carl's certain that these dishes will be guaranteed to put Gauloise on a whole new level, but Riva puts a kibosh on those plans before any customers can even look at what was in the making in favor of going with what's known to work. Now no one will ever know if the restaurant could have successfully made the transition to Carl's new vision.
  • When You Coming Home, Dad?: Carl's relationship with his son is strained due to him prioritizing his career over spending time with him, thus causing a lack of bonding between them. Their relationship dramatically improves as they travel across the country in the food truck.
  • You Are in Command Now: Carl walks out of Gauloise, leaving Tony to run the kitchen on a night when the restaurant is overbooked. Tony must have done a decent job of it because he's formally promoted to Chef de Cuisine.


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