There’s a pretty good movie buried somewhere deep inside the ungainly pastry that is “Chef,” starring Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed. He plays Carl Casper, a once-prominent L.A. chef tired of turning out the same unadventurous menu for the trendy restaurant he’s worked in for 10 years. Because its autocratic owner, played by Dustin Hoffman, doesn’t want Carl to experiment with the fare, a blowup ensues. A bad review from a popular food blogger (Oliver Platt) leads to a confrontation that goes viral.
Divorced Carl heads to Miami and, with his best friend (John Leguizamo) and young son (Emjay Anthony), launches a food truck. A cross-country foodathon, including a memorable stopover in New Orleans, follows.
Although overly familiar, the behind-the-scenes food shenanigans are often lively and sharply written. This film will, if nothing else, make you very hungry. But Favreau relies too much on the growing bondathon between father and son. At times the film is like a cross between something on the Food Network and “The Champ.” Favreau apparently believes the way to an audience’s heart is through its collective stomach. Grade: B- (Rated R for language, including some suggestive references.)