retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Chef is the most fun I've had at the movies in quite some time. Written and directed by, as well as starring Jon Favreau, who had moved on from low-budget movies like Swingers to high-concept comic book movies like the Iron Man movies and Cowboys and Aliens, Chef is a return to exuberant, low-budget form. Favreau plays high profile Los Angeles chef Carl Casper, who finds himself the unexpected subject of critical ridicule on a foodie website; when he tries to turn the tables on the critic, he finds that social media is not his friend, and he ends up out of work, with few prospects except, perhaps, a reality TV show.

But that's not what he wants. It takes a while, but eventually his ex-wife, played by Sofia Vergara (who gets the award for best ex-wife in a movie, ever), convinces him to rehabilitate a broken down food truck and do the cooking he used to love doing. She's aware that Casper's career ambitions have marginalized their son, and she sees this as an opportunity to get them back together. Which it does, as they set off on a road trip of culinary excellence that starts in Miami and takes them to New Orleans, Austin, and, finally, a return to Los Angeles.

Chef is filled with terrific performances - the aforementioned Favreau and Vergara, plus John Leguizamo as a sous chef along for the ride, Emjay Anthony as the son who yearns to connect with his dad, and Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johannson and Oliver Platt in extended cameos. It also is filled with sharply etched business lessons - the importance of not playing it safe, of doing what you love, and being open to constant learning and illumination. (Pay close attention to the scene when, just after the truck has opened,one of the sandwiches gets slightly burned. The scene takes less than a minute, but has an entire business course's worth of wisdom.)

Best of all, Chef is likely to make you very hungry. I can't remember food being shot so lovingly in a movie, and there's a wonderful sequence during the credits that shows Chef Roy Choi teaching Favreau how to make perhaps the best grilled cheese sandwich ever made. Plus, Chef almost certainly is going to make you crave a cubano sandwich, since that is the food truck's specialty.

Chef is a fun, exuberant and wise little movie. I'd take second and third helpings of a movie like this any day.

My wine of the week … the 2011 Pazo Torrado Albarino from Spain, a bright and lively white wine that is wonderful with spicy seafood and pasta, but also lovely just to sip on a warm spring or summer evening.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.


KC's View: