Jon Favreau (who also directs) is Carl Casper, a chef at a fancy L.A. restaurant. He works hard, he likes his food – fat jokes abound, at least early on – and he likes his son. Maybe Carl’s single, it’s hard to tell – the film literally cares so little about his private life it takes maybe half an hour to tell us that the reason he keeps dropping his son off at his mother’s place isn’t because he works late, but because they’re divorced. It’s a low-budget film, so Favreau clearly pulled some strings and his buddies from the Iron Man films – Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey, Jr. – each have cameo roles.
Downey plays Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband, who seems to be some kind of construction guy who just happens to own an old taco truck; Johansson plays the hostess at the fancy restaurant Casper works at. Casper literally seduces her with food: she’ll only go home with him if he offers to cook.
Meanwhile, Casper is so clueless about the internet he has to get his son to explain Twitter to him when he finds out a snarky critic’s bitchy review of his bland food has “gone viral”. Once on Twitter, Casper finds the critic who gave him a poor review, sends him a snarky message, assumes it was a private message like it would be if they were texting, and goes to bed. Uh-oh: he wakes up the next morning to find half the internet calling him a jerk. Again, showing all the calm and restraint you’d expect from a heavily entitled creative type, he calls the critic an asshole on Twitter and tells him to come back to the restaurant for Round 2. It doesn’t go well: Casper ends up throwing a fit that is promptly filmed and put on the internet, thus ending his career. Internet 1, Chef 0.
The rest of the story is pretty straightforward – chef loses job, chef gets taco truck, chef rediscovers love of cooking via insanely greasy sandwiches – because every scene where someone is talking is a scene where the camera is not filming something sizzling on a grill.
It can’t be overstated how much of this film is just watching food cook: there’s a toasted cheese sandwich here that could have been billed above the title it’s on screen for so long. If you like food and don’t mind the bare minimum of drama around it, this is worth taking a bite.
Written by Anthony Morris