Netflix and Chill: ‘Chef’ Review

Maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick with this whole ‘Netflix and Chill’ craze that seems to be taking over the world, but that’s exactly what my girlfriend and I did on Friday night as we treated ourselves and tucked into Chef.

How many times have you been slightly disappointed with both the film and the selection when sitting down to watch a title on Netflix? I’ll be the first to admit that it happens almost a little too often for my liking. And so when it came to my turn to choose a film to watch on a Friday night, I was understandably nervous. Especially as a new bar has just opened down the road from where we’re currently living and we’ve been itching to try it out. Luckily for both me and my bank balance however, Chef did not disappoint.

Written, directed, produced and starring the multi-talented and ridiculously likeable John Favreau, this film is one of those films you can watch and re-watch, over and over again. It follows Chef Carl Casper, (Favreau) the recently divorced, less than part-time father, passionate head chef of a well respected restaurant, whose want and desire to try innovative new dishes continually strains his relationship with his boss and owner of the restaurant, Riva (Dustin Hoffman).  After receiving a fiercely negative review by a well thought of food critic, Carl decides to reinvent a new menu specifically for the critic after accidentally starting a Twitter beef with him.

Once again, his efforts to try something new are put down by Riva, causing Carl to quit his job on the spot with Tony, one of his sous chefs, taking charge for the evening. After preparing the stunning spread he’d already planned at home, he receives another Tweet from the same critic who had previously outed his efforts and makes his way down to the restaurant. What follows next is a completely heartfelt and an overwhelmingly sincere rant towards the critic, which unfortunately creates a huge scene and ends up, as is so often the case, as a viral video sensation which gets the whole world talking.

With his credibility and professionalism out the window, Casper agrees to spend some quality time with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) after his ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara) suggests he can be Percy’s nanny on their latest trip back to Miami. Once in Miami, Carl comes round to the idea of owning his own food truck after having a previous discussion with Inez and luckily, she knows just the right person to help; her exceptionally good looking ex husband in the shape of Robert Downey Jr.! After kitting out the food truck with the help of Percy, Carl is joined by his best friend and former sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) and the three of them head off on a culinary adventure through the States.

Three things in particular about this movie are fantastic; the script, the cast and the soundtrack. Even though there are some of the old clichéd set ups, the divorced couple, the strained father and son relationship etc, both the script and the performances are so heartfelt that you are able to overlook the familiarities listed above.

The cast are excellent, as you’d expect with the likes of Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson making up the numbers in those awkward roles somewhere between ‘supporting’ and ‘the others’ but truthfully, the two performances I enjoyed the most were Favreau and Emjay Anthony who produces such a natural portrayal of Percy, which is quite frankly astonishing when you consider he was only 10 years old when the film was made.  The ever reliable Dustin Hoffman brings a real heat (kitchen pun there, done well to avoid making one this far in I think) to the scenes where Chef Casper and Riva clash, where you get a real sense of what the two parties involved are trying to achieve.

Rounding up the trio with the soundtrack, it’s one of those where you listen and are just whisked away with the film. It was beautiful to hear ‘I Like It Like That’ kick in and have a weird present-but-nostalgic experience both taking you back to your childhood, when you’d be sitting in the Odeon waiting for the cinematic world to take you away with it and at the same time, hearing your stomach rumbling as you watch Chef Carl Casper preparing a mouthwatering feast. In my opinion, a soundtrack is just as vital as a good script and Chef possesses both.

I think the thing that I enjoyed most about Chef however is the message that I took away from it. If you are a perfectionist and if you are passionate about what you do; then celebrate it and treat yourself with the respect that you and your work deserves.

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