If you are what you eat, then the characters in Jon Favreau’s “Chef” are truly the luckiest people in the world. Nominally, a workplace drama about a frustrated restauranter-turned-successful-food-truck operator, it is also a story of fathers and sons, devoted friends and the importance of holding fast to your creative vision even when less, um, pure interests seek to undermine it. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever been there!)
It starts in Venice, CA, where Chef Carl Casper is called out by a famous food critic for having lost his soul (but gained a lot of weight eating the food the diners allegedly send back.) After an epic retort that goes viral on Twitter (social media play a huge role in the film), he flees to Miami with his ex-wife and son and obtains, through an improbable series of events and encounters, a food truck. Before you can say “vamanos,” el jefe has cleaned up his act, drawn thousands of fans (real and virtual) and taken it and his award-winning Cuban sandwiches on the road through New Orleans, Austin and points west.
“Chef” is a sweet film (without being saccharine), borne along by a propulsive score, energetic pacing and vanity-free acting. The food shots (and making-of outtakes at the end) are fabulous. But what’s truly satisfying here is the realization that the pursuit of creativity—what we should all do every day—is every bit as nourishing as an artfully prepared meal. It is the very thing that gives life its savor.