Blu-ray Review Chef

El Jefe's Blu-ray Review: Chef

October 5, 2014Ben MK

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Trading Iron Man for an iron chef...

You don't have to strain to spot the parallels between writer/director Jon Favreau and the character he plays in Chef, Carl Casper. Both men have reputations at stake: Favreau being the director behind the first two installments of Marvel's lucrative Iron Man franchise and Carl being a world-class chef. Yet, the movie has them going back to basics, with Favreau revisiting his indie film roots and Carl attempting to jump-start his career with his own food truck. Indeed, in many ways, Chef can be regarded as a case of art imitating life; but at its core, it's also just a movie about a man, his family and his passion for food.


The Film Divorced and in a creative rut, Carl's personal and professional lives are in a sad state. As the head chef at trendy Brentwood eatery Gauloises, he's stifled by the demands of his boss, Riva (Dustin Hoffman). Meanwhile, between shifts, he struggles to maintain a relationship with his young son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), of whom he shares custody with ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara).

But even though he's far from being father of the year, he's too preoccupied with work to devote any real attention to improving matters. And the only relationships he seems to be able to cultivate with any hint of success are those with his sous-chef, Tony (Bobby Canavale), station chef, Martin (John Leguizamo), and head waitress, Molly (Scarlett Johansson).

Carl's situation goes from bad to worse when the most respected food critic in LA, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), writes a scathing review, lamenting Carl's descent into culinary mediocrity. And when Carl learns the review has gone viral, he turns to Twitter to vent his frustration, inadvertently igniting a bitter (and very public) feud. The vitriolic online spat earns him legions of fans overnight, but it comes to a head with a heated, real-life confrontation, ultimately costing him his job.

Feeling dejected, Carl turns his focus to his family, accompanying Inez and Percy on a trip to Miami, in the hopes that he'll at least be able to salvage his relationship with his son. And it's there, where he first discovered his passion for cooking, that he also finds the unexpected inspiration to rebuild himself from the ground up, by way of his very own "El Jefe" food truck.

From there, the film morphs into a coast-to-coast road movie, as Favreau takes Carl and El Jefe from the sun-drenched boardwalks of Miami all the way back to L.A.'s Sunset Boulevard (with a few stopovers in-between).

Along the way, Favreau also stirs in a heaping spoonful of father-son bonding, flavoring it with a dash of machismo and seasoning the results with an infectiously soulful and spicy soundtrack (inspired by everything from Miami's Little Havana to New Orleans' Bourbon Street). And for the finishing touches, he brings in renowned L.A.-based chef and restauranteur Roy Choi — who himself rose to fame with his Kogi food truck — on board as a co-producer, to add that extra layer of culinary authenticity.

The end result isn't just a pleasure to watch and a foodie's film fantasy come true — with performances to savor (including appearances by Robert Downey Jr. and Amy Sedaris) and plenty of mouth-watering cuisine on display, it's a satisfying cinematic meal that will have you coming back for seconds.

Audio/Visual Fidelity As with food, it's all about the presentation. And Chef's A/V presentation is thoroughly appetizing, with a hi-def image that's crisp and bursting with colors, bringing to life cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau's vibrant palette, such as the lush green and purple foliage in front of Inez's house and the bright yellow and green paint job on Carl's food truck. But it's especially enticing when it comes to the food: from the raw ingredients (orange carrots, green chives and red raspberries) to the finished product (golden-toasted cubano sandwiches, honey-glazed pork and deep-fried beignets). Contrast and black levels are also above average, making the picturesque shots of the film's various locales (whether it's a sunny day on the boardwalks of Miami or a sweltering night in Austin) appear equally delectable.

With music being such a major component of the film, it's also important that the disc's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack deliver the goods. Luckily, the vocals and instrumentation on classic songs like "Tired of Being Alone" and "Rudy, A Message to You" come through loud, clear and distortion-free, as does everything else in-between: from the dialogue and comedic banter to the ambience of a busy restaurant dinner service and the sound of food sizzling on the grill.

Special Features VVS' Blu-ray release includes a DVD copy of the film, as well as a collection of seven Deleted Scenes (most notably a cameo by chef Roy Choi and more improvising from Amy Sedaris), totalling 10 minutes. There's also a feature-length Commentary by Jon Favreau, in which he and Choi provide tidbits of insight into the film's production, such as how they kept the film authentic with respect to the cooking techniques and its representation of restaurant culture.

The Bottom Line It's the mark of a fine chef — or in this case, a fine writer/director/actor — to be able to create something that's more than simply the sum of its parts. Chef's ingredients are nothing out of the ordinary, but it's how Jon Favreau combines them that makes all the difference. The movie isn't just empty calories, and neither is VVS' Blu-ray release. With a mouth-watering A/V presentation and a couple of worthwhile extras, Chef on Blu-ray will satisfy your appetite for a feel-good film about family, food and finding your path in life.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  

* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on June 6th, 2014.

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