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CHEF Left A Bad Taste In My Mouth November 5, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Fiction, Happiness, Humor.

Snoopy5Some movies leave a bad taste in your mouth.

It’s not just that you feel you wasted your time by watching it, but you feel they wasted their time by filming it, marketing it, distributing it.

CHEF is just such a movie:

* Chef Carl Casper loses his job at a prominent L.A. restaurant when he refuses to compromise his creative integrity in the kitchen.

* He teams up with his pre-pubescent son to launch a food truck in Miami.

* He reignites his passion in the kitchen by pressing paninis and frying yucca.

A plausible premise poorly prepared and implausibly served . . . with plot holes large enough to swallow a Food Truck.

The biggest problem is the time line.

In a single day, a short 24-hours, Chef and his 8-year-old son manage to clean out a dilapidated, worn out 1988 food truck (delivered with food rotting in the fridge), shop for ALL the supplies they need to trick it out, install new kitchen equipment (flat top, stove, fryers, etc.), buy food, test out the menu, and get the messed up exterior of the food truck  professionally painted ~> effectively turning a rotting pumpkin into a gilded chariot overnight.

Cinderella couldn’t have accomplished that level of transformation with the help of her fairy godmother’s magic wand.

By Day #2, Chef, his son, and a faithful sous chef (who dropped everything to fly across country and get the show on the road) start serving Hot Cubanos on South Beach.  To immediate acclaim.

A police officer parts the crowd to ask Chef and his Merry Men if they have a permit to serve food.

They do!

How’d that happen?  When’d that happen?

But wait!

Satisfied that they have perfected the panini, the trio commence a road trip across country, stopping for beignets in New Orleans ~ a promised treat for the son.  In the time it takes to eat a bag of beignets and brush the sugar dust from their lips, a line forms around the block with people anxious to eat Chef’s Cuban sandwiches.  They’re just that good!

Who knew that a food truck license from Miami would transfer to the Big Easy?

But wait!  They continue on to California, with a pit stop for Pit Bar-B-Q in Austin Texas.  Chef believes he has reclaimed his Culinary Integrity by serving cubans, sliders, beignets, and fried yucca ~> not exactly the inspired menu we envisioned him creating when he quit his job because he couldn’t exercise complete Creative Control in the kitchen.

Now, instead of crafting Molten Lava Cakes around frozen ganache, he and his merry band are sliding ham & cheese sandwiches out of a panini press, frying up yucca, and serving barbecue sliders . . . on store-bought rolls.


I could think up a more creative menu than that and I don’t even own a Chef’s knife.

Or a magic wand.

But wait!

The food critic who panned the Chef’s mundane menu falls in love with Chef’s glorified grilled cheese sandwiches and offers to partner with him by opening up a new restaurant.

Of course he does.

So Chef abandons the food truck (and his longed for autonomy and creative freedom) to work for someone else.  Again.

Why do I have the feeling of déjà vu?

Oh, right . . . because he’s right back where he started.

Of course, by following his heart, Chef reunites with his son, re-kindles the flame with his ex-wife, and they remarry.

In his new restaurant.

How’s that for a happily-ever-after ending?

Aah . . . that’s better!


1. Silver in the Barn - November 5, 2014

The trailer is the best part of the movie, Nancy? That seems to be happening more and more often in movies lately. You know, I am perfectly willing to suspend disbelief in the cinema but ,as you say, when it’s just sloppy story-telling, the game is off.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Exactly! I don’t mind well told fairy tales. I don’t ask, “Could that happen in the real world?”

I ask:

If the characters were in that setting, is that how they would act, behave, and interact? Are their actions in line with their stated goals? Could they have accomplished what they accomplished in the time allotted? Etc.

That’s where this movie goes *SPLAT* ~> Egads! A fallen souffle!

If Chef wanted to CREATE in the kitchen, building Cubanos from store bought ingredients would NOT have satisfied his culinary lust. If he wanted complete freedom and autonomy, he would have continued in the food truck raking in the dough until he could buy his own restaurant.

And even if those inconsistencies had been erased, there is no way this spoiled, vain, selfish, ego-driven man could have tidied up that food van overnight, even with the help of his pre-pubescent, wide-eyed son.

2. Val Boyko - November 5, 2014

I love this critique Nancy!! SO many people have told me “You’ll love it!!” … and now I want to find out for myself 😉
Val x

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

On a superficial level, the movie sends a positive message: Follow Your Dreams! Be true to yourself.

But it does so in an unrealistic vehicle. Instead of “Do what you love and the money will follow,” which encourages patience. It’s more of a “Do what you love and the money will fall in your lap. Overnight. Just wave your magic wand.”

Val Boyko - November 5, 2014

Good point Nancy 🙂

3. Becky - November 5, 2014

I’ve heard some good reviews of this – especially from people who work in the industry. You’d be surprised at what those folks can pull off in a day!

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Which industry? The food industry or the movie industry?

The movie got lots of good reviews, but I agree with these less-than- stellar reviews:

* Slant Magazine critic Chris Cabin, gave Chef 1.5 out of 4 stars and described it as Favreau’s “most self-satisfied, safe, and compromised film to date”, chiefly criticizing the film’s lack of realism and credibility.[38]

* Writing for The Village Voice, Amy Nicholson agreed that the storyline was implausible and summarized the film as “so charmingly middlebrow that it’s exactly the cinematic comfort food it mocks”.[39]

* Indiewire’s Eric Kohn opined that with Chef, “Favreau has no sweeping thematic aims”, and that the end product was a “self-indulgent vanity project”.[40]


Becky - November 5, 2014

The food industry.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

I wonder if they liked it because they related to:

* the desire for creative freedom in the kitchen

* the feel good feeling when Chef stormed out of the kitchen of the restaurant to become master of his domain

* Chef when he engaged in a hissy-fit at the Food Critic who was “bored” by the sameness of the menu

* the idea of a self-indulgent ego-driven overweight chef bagging (and banging) not one but two Hot Chicks? 😛

4. ashokbhatia - November 5, 2014

I had a similar experience a few days back with Bollywood flick touted as the latest super-hit. Great caste. Great actors. Lavishly mounted. Lacking in its soul, though – script, lyrics and music. What a waste of immense talent we get to witness at times.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Yes! Thank you. I expected so much more from this movie based on its reviews and cast ~ it had all the right ingredients to be an uplifting and inspiring film but they ruined it.

Like a cake cooked at too high heat, it was burned on the outside and undone in the middle ~> so bad you have no choice but to spit it out.

5. Jill Weatherholt - November 5, 2014

Great review, Nancy! Thanks for saving us some time and money. I’ve never heard of this movie, but typically I do like Robert Downey, Jr.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Me too ~ but he and Dustin Hoffman are only in the movie for about 5 minutes total. Not enough to lift the movie off the runway.

6. valleygrail - November 5, 2014

The thing about a disappointing movie is, unlike other unsatisfactory products, you can’t get your money back, you definitely cannot get those wasted hours of your life back, and there is no recourse. I always feel as though someone robbed me of something, and got away with it. And I hate that feeling.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Thanks, VG. The money isn’t an issue for us since we subscribe to Netflix ~ 8 movies a month for $8. A bargain if the movies are good, and nothing to worry about if they aren’t.

The time doesn’t bother me that much either:

* The music was good
* I was at home, relaxed, happy.
* I wasn’t NOT doing something else I wanted to be doing.
* It was my “down time.”

What bothers me is that this movie (and others) could have been SO MUCH BETTER ~> it could have soared and inspired and encouraged people to follow their hearts and their dreams with realism and heart.

But, from where I stood, it was littered with potholes and plot holes that are apt to create unrealistic expectations about what it takes to transform dreams to reality.

I bet it was written with THE SECRET as the backdrop ~> “Just close your eyes and visualize the world as you want it to be. *POOF* Your wish is my command. Your dreams have come true. The glass slipper is a perfect fit!”

Silver in the Barn - November 5, 2014

Oh, Nancy, you are so preaching to the choir here. It’s the wasted potential of a good story that so irritates with these types of films and, dare I say, books? Anybody with a sliver of critical thinking remaining in the old gray matter is left with that bad taste in the mouth, as you say. Sorry, I could really go on a rant here…you’ve touched a hot button for moi!!

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Yes! I expect that most viewers who enjoyed CHEF are those who believe that all it takes to achieve dreams is a bit of fairy dust.

Or guys who want to believe in the fairy tale notion that Chef would have two hot/gorgeous/sexy women “eating out of his hand” while leaving “hungry for more.” 😛

7. katecrimmins - November 5, 2014

Sounds like so many poorly written lit light books that are intended to be uplifting. Real people don’t act the way they are portrayed so you can’t quite believe it and that diminishes the book.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Lots of critics loved it. They must have over-looked issues like:

* how long it would take someone like Chef to overhaul the disaster of a truck delivered by his ex-wife’s OTHER ex-husband

* how long it takes to apply for and get a food license and how food licenses aren’t like driver’s licenses . . . they don’t transfer from city to city all across the country

* how men like Chef don’t usually bring women to orgasm based on serving up a plate of pasta with a sprinkling of tomatoes.

8. Don - November 5, 2014

I trust you Nancy – will put it in the memory bank and certainly give it a miss when it comes around. Enjoyed your review. 🙂

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Thanks, Don. CHEF got great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, etc. Perhaps the reviewers were VUI (“viewing under the influence”) or VWI (“viewing while intoxicated”)?

Or maybe they just have Bad Taste when it comes to movies that Taste Bad! 😛

9. Grannymar - November 5, 2014

I had forgotten that I saw this movie until I read your post. That shows what impression it made on me.. a great big thumbs down!

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Normally, if I don’t enjoy a movie, I don’t spend time writing a negative review. Why bother?

But in this case, because the critics reviews have been so positive, I thought I would point out a few of the very obvious deficiencies I noted and save others some time.

As you say, a great big thumbs down.

10. Three Well Beings - November 5, 2014

What strikes me as relevant here is that typically we can overlook a lot of the implausible situations in a movie if the escapist nature is strong enough. We can get into the fantasy–and in this movie, you really didn’t/couldn’t do that. That tells me how weak the storyline is. How disappointing. Based on Robert Downey, Jr. I probably would have seen this–I wanted it to be good. 😦

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Absolutely. When I watch Mary Poppins having tea parties on the ceiling, I enjoy the fantasy. Likewise with Alice in Wonderland, Nanny McPhee, Peter Pan, and the talking Donkey in Shrek.

But this movie is a fairy tale / fantasy of epic proportions wearing a “this could really happen” skin. No matter how hard I tried to suspend my disbelief, the characters would not / could not have done what they did given the timeline shared.

Robert Downey, Jr.’s character was fine . . . but his role is tiny. As is Dustin Hoffman’s.

11. Barb - November 5, 2014

Thanks for a great review and for saving me wasting my time going to see this movie. Definitely a miss!

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Sometimes I watch movies that I know are going to be “bad” because something about them appeals to me.

In this case, a stellar premise has been poorly prepared and it gave me indigestion. 😛

12. ericjbaker - November 5, 2014

Albert Brooks (at least Albert Brooks from 20 years ago) could have done a story like this justice. The problem here may be that you need a smart comedy actor to carry the story, because frankly who cares about the events?

I haven’t seen it so I’m saying that based on your review.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

Favreau wrote it, directed it, and starred in it. He chose two HOT babes to hang on his arms. Fantasy #1. He tried to sell the idea that he could set aside his chef’s knives long enough to tackle a messed up ANCIENT food truck and get it up to snuff. Fantasy #2. He forgot to consider how long things take in the real world. Fantasy #3.

But you’re right, if I was laughing harder, I would have overlooked the short-comings. But it wasn’t FUNNY or FUN.

ericjbaker - November 5, 2014

He’s really not the kind of actor who can carry a movie. Good director, but as an actor is a side character.

nrhatch - November 5, 2014

I concur ~> wanting to be a leading man is not enough unless you have viewers interested in following your lead.

Elements of his direction were great . . . but the movie lacks cohesiveness. Especially since he ended up right back where he started, working for someone else.

13. jannatwrites - November 6, 2014

Wow, that plot is as nauseating as many Disney movies! Sorry, my life is so full of stumbling blocks, it just irritates me to watch something where everything just falls right into place. I could suspend my disbelief on some things, but when it gets too farfetched, I get distracted.

nrhatch - November 6, 2014

Most times, if I don’t enjoy a movie, I just shrug it off, “oh, well.”

This movie annoyed and irritated me b/c of the message was such B.S. Life does NOT land in our laps. And if he REALLY wanted Creative Freedom (rather than a quick Ego Boost), he would have exercised that freedom by CREATING inspired dishes instead of selling doughnuts and grilled cheese sandwiches. In short, Chef was full of #$%^.

14. Yolanda M. - November 6, 2014

I enjoyed the music. Not all of it but most it. Also the whole Sofia Vergara is my super hot ex-wife (yeah sure) and I’m going to get a loan from her ex-lover (or first husband or whatever) because he is a super cool guy with lots of money really confused me..anyway I agree with your review. Also have you actually seen a rave worthy movie lately? I haven’t 😦 the best stuff seems to be on television.

nrhatch - November 6, 2014

Agreed! The music was the best part about the movie.

I’ve not seen many rave worthy movies lately. If you haven’t seen it, I would recommend The Odd Life of Timothy Green from a couple years back:


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