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ARTS & CULTUREFILM REVIEW
Chef, Food Trucks, and Lifelong Lessons
Park Min Ha  |  parkminha@korea.ac.kr
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“His dramatic weight gain can only be explained by the fact that he must be eating all the food sent back to the kitchen,” comments restaurant critic Ramsey Michel near the start of the movie Chef (2014). No chef would want such a horrendous review to define the hard work and spirit put into their recipes. Alas, chef Carl Casper faces exactly this, as his wish to please the critic goes downhill. Facing a shaky relationship with both his career and family, Casper ventures out to Miami to regain his dignity. The extravagant dishes and heartwarming journey of bonding and sharing hold viewers tight in their seats until the end.

 

   
▲ Chef Movie Poster. Provided by Amazon.
 
Jon Favreau starred, directed, and co-produced Chef , deals with the challenges and joyous moments in the life of the American chef Carl Casper. With roles featuring famous television and movie stars such as Sofía Vergara of Modern Family and Scarlett Johansson of The Avengers , the movie grossed over 45 million dollars in ticket sales and gained great support from viewers and critics of both food and film.

Chef attracts viewers with a tasteful plot about family, love, and passion. Captivating the audience with delicious dishes with pinches of beautiful music, scenery, and culture of Miami in between, Favreau succeeds in “going back to basics” with his movie to explore the beauty of food. In addition, the heart-warming moments in which Casper bonds with his son, and when he finds his true passion to serve the food he wants, are what makes the movie linger in the viewers’ minds.
 
Happy to Cook for Someone Else

At the beginning of the movie, Casper has a rather lonesome life as he tries to look after his fragmented family after his divorce. His ex-wife Inez, played by Sofía Vergara, warns Casper that he is “never going to be happy cooking for someone else,” after hearing his conflict with the food critic. Casper may indeed be unhappy cooking for a stubborn boss, as Inez implies. However, this shallow observation is proved wrong by Casper’s evolving tenderness towards others. He handles food with delicacy and treats each customer with the utmost respect, even accepting bizarre photo requests by customers to imitate the famous spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp with a Cuban sandwich.

Moreover, Casper spends valuable time with his son and tries hard to fulfill the duties of being a father. After working at the food truck together for some time, Casper tells his son Percy, “I get to touch people’s lives with what I do. And I want to share this with you.” This confession equates Casper’s passionate love for cooking with the love for his son and helps viewers to understand that the main character’s challenge in balancing work and family is solved through his special experience with a food truck.
 
Passion or Reality

In the modern world, following one’s dream is not an easy path to take. Trends and environments change to facilitate these paths, but capitalist society tends to drag people down regularly through problems and insecurities regarding money. Casper, however, does not surrender his career for fame and fortune but follows his dream of creating his own menu and delivering value to others. Casper’s choice to do what he loves most is definitely not an easy decision. After spending his whole career at a fancy restaurant in Los Angeles(LA), he moves out of his comfort zone to the other side of the country in a food truck. This was actually the path that Inez had in mind for Casper, but one that he was sure to never pursue. Through this change of mind, viewers can learn that this action may reflect their own search for their true ambitions.

In a different sense, Casper fights another battle against society in the movie, this time through the Internet. Conflict arises from his viral argument with a food critic via social media, and his reputation is torn to shreds as word spreads online. Unfamiliar with technology, Casper asks his son for help and the two ultimately turn the horrid situation into a powerful weapon to market their food truck’s location and menu. This incredible turn of events also lets viewers know the power that strong passion can have against even unfortunate social attacks.

Perfecting the Food Truck, with a Korean Chef for Assistance

Besides Jon Favreau, the other co-producer of Chef is a real chef. This is particularly meaningful for Korean viewers as chef Ray Choi, a Korean-American pioneer of the Korean-Mexican food truck Kogi, was chosen to give advice about cooking in the movie. Although Korean cuisine did not actually make it onto the screen, having a Korean chef as the main supervisor comes as a great improvement in the diversity of the American film industry and also elevates Chef itself.

Favreau gives credit to Choi’s attention to detail in helping to create the most important ingredients of the movie. In an interview with Eater LA , a dining network website, Favreau mentioned that Choi put him through tough training to perfect the art of cooking inside a food truck. Choi’s every move was copied by Favreau, and constant adjustments were made to present the cuisine perfectly. Thanks to Choi’s insight, the movie realistically portrays the challenges and pleasures that the main character experiences while running a food truck. The teamwork and practice behind the seamless acting is what makes Chef so easy to swallow.

The mouthwatering scenes in the movie may cause viewers to pause the screen and run straight into the kitchen, but the lessons on compassion and love are hard to escape so easily. The movie’s sweet fragrance of American life and juicy episodes inducing laughter and comfort are ones that cannot easily be found in an average movie. Chef would be the perfect choice for anyone wanting to learn lifelong lessons of love and family, with some recipes to keep the stomach full.

Film Information

Title: Chef

Running Time: 114 minutes

Release Date: March 7, 2014 / January 8, 2015 (South Korea)

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofía Vergara, John Leguizamo

Genre: Adventure, Drama

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