Directed By: Jon Favreau

Starring: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Scarlett Johansson, Oliver Platt, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert Downey, Jr.

Hollywood has really taken the all-or-nothing approach to heart in the last several years.  Studios will drop billions on a handful of tentpoles annually and hope to reap enormous profits.  Their strategy of going for special effects bonanzas that will admittedly appeal to the inner fanboy in all of us has left plenty of potential cinematic gems out in the cold.  For the most part, those films left out are feel-good movies.  Well, all I can say is thank the good Lord for independent cinema.  If we didn't have it, we'd be missing great movies like Jon Favreau's Chef.  When half the cast that ushered in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a Modern Family star, and a living screen legend are relegated to a handful of theaters because they're not blowing up stuff, there's something seriously wrong.

Having made a name for himself in Miami as one of the best new chefs on the culinary scene years ago, Carl Casper (Favreau) has a lot to prove.  Tonight, Carl will have a guest at his Los Angeles restaurant, prominent food blogger Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt).  With the help of his sous chef Tony (Bobby Canavale) and his line chef Martin (John Leguizamo), Carl, who's referred to by his staff as "Chef Big Dog" or "El Jefe", is going to change up the menu and cook something original.  There's just one problem according to restaurant hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson).  Owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) has a different opinion about the menu.  He wants Carl to play the hits, the same old food his chef has been cooking for years.  Following his boss's direction, Carl does indeed play the hits.  He just doesn't find a fan in Ramsey Michel, especially when it comes to the chocolate molten lava cake.

After that night, Ramsey writes a scathing review about Carl laced with personal and professional attacks.  While spending some time with his son Percy (EmJay Anthony), Carl discovers the world of Twitter and learns that the review has gone viral on the web.  Against the advice of his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) and her publicist Jen (Amy Sedaris), he gets into a Twitter war with Ramsey.  Words are exchanged, and Carl ends up promising Ramsey something special tonight at the restaurant.  Ready to cook the meal he intended, Carl gets to work immediately to find the same obstacle.  Riva wants the same old menu, and he will keep things the way they are with or without Carl.  The night goes terribly awry, and Carl finds himself out of a job.  At the advice of Inez, Carl goes to see her other ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey, Jr.) about a food truck.  From here, culinary magic ensues.

I've got nothing but love for Jon Favreau's Chef.  This feel-good movie is the perfect counter-programming to the likes of Godzilla, Neighbors, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  It really shouldn't be an independent film opening up in only a handful of cinemas around the country.  Something this good should be available to the masses.  Offering plenty of heart, loads of comedy, and some new uses for cornstarch and skeleton puppets (i.e. Mr. Bonetangles), Chef is an endlessly delightful movie.  It certainly helps that we get to watch Favreau make some tantalizing culinary masterpieces on camera and that we get plenty of dance-worthy jams from his soulful soundtrack (e.g. “I Like It Like That”, "Bustin' Loose", and "Sexual Healing").  Well directed and well written, Chef is one flavorful concoction from Favreau.

I honestly laughed until I cried as I watched Favreau’s magnificent cast work their magic.  They just gel so well together.  For his part as the down-on-his-luck chef Carl Casper, Favreau brings his laid back brand of humor to the film.  He'll do and say the damnedest things in absolutely hilarious fashion.  As his sous and line chefs Tony and Martin respectively, Bobby Canavale and John Leguizamo bring plenty of raw energy to the film.  Whether giving Carl a boost or dance-cooking, these two deliver plenty of laughs as well.  For her part as Carl's ex-wife Inez, Sofia Vergara brings her usual comedic charms to the big screen.  Vergara is having quite a bit of fun on screen, and it translates to the audience.  Last but not least, Robert Downey, Jr. does what he does best by playing a snarky rich guy to pitch perfect comedic effect.

It's nice to see Favreau step away from big budget blockbusters like Iron Man and Cowboys & Aliens and do something a little more from the heart.  Food is definitely the way to anybody's soul, especially moviegoers.  With the cast firing on all cylinders on camera and in the kitchen, Chef is pure movie magic and one of the best films so far this year.  Though I got a little hungry looking at all the exquisite cuisine on screen, I didn't want this film to end.  Chef gets a sober rating.