CHEF, 2014. Featuring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Emjay Anthony, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Oliver Platt, Amy Sedaris, Robert Downey Jr. and Russell Peters.
Chef is a feel-good movie about food, father-son relationships, creativity vs control, David vs Goliath and the growing power of social media. It is also a love story that breaks down class barriers, or at least the barriers erected by money.
The main protagonist is a chef whose creativity is being stifled by his long-term employer who is more interested in making money than in providing extraordinary culinary experiences. The kitchen is thrown into a tizzy: a famous food critic is expected that evening. (What respectable food critic announces his arrival beforehand?) The chef is about to produce some novelty masterpieces, but the restaurateur countermands this initiative. In comes the food critic and gives the chef an online thrashing for having committed the sin of repeating himself. The chef challenges the critic in what he believes to be a very private tweet by rudely promising a very special menu. But the tweet goes viral and offends the restaurateur. Once again he disallows this special menu and tells the chef to shape up or ship out. The chef walks out of his highly prestigious job and is ashamed to show his face to his son.
In comes the ex-wife and saves the day. Or rather the ex-husband of the ex-wife provides an old food truck to the chef and encourages him to return to his street-vending days.
If the plot sounds wacky to you, you are absolutely right. It is wacky. What is not wacky is the power of social media to make or break a man’s livelihood, his self-esteem and his dignity. What is exhilarating is the power of the same social media to erase all the harm done so that the poor man can start all over again. And this time he will get it right with the help of his son whose tweets have gone viral and brought in customers. The chef stops being a chef and becomes El Jefe, which in Spanish means boss. He becomes master of his own destiny.
But wait a minute, this reviewer has just learnt that new legislation is in the offing in the United States to curb the democratizing effects of Facebook and Twitter as well as other users of public bandwidths.
Stay tuned. In the meantime, head to your nearest food truck and have a bite. Or at least a good laugh.
Montreal City Hall, are you listening…?