Chefs are the Food Network’s stock in trade. From Bobby Flay to Giada De Laurentiis, and Iron Chef to Top Chef, the delicious channel has created a cult of celebrity around the people who make our food.
A new film, Chef, takes a celebrity, actor Jon Favreau, and casts him as a restaurateur who has lost his way and desperately wants to reclaim his cooking cred.
In the film, he plays Carl Casper, a Los Angeles chef who hightails it to his Miami hometown when his fancy restaurant gets a scathing review from an online food critic (Oliver Platt). There he buys El Jefe Cubanos, a food truck he plans on driving across the country with his son (Emjay Anthony).
High on food porn — there’s even a shrimp scampi seduction scene — and Cuban sandwich recipes, Chef is a movie that may whet audience appetites for other movies about the people that make our food.
In The Big Night, Stanley Tucci plays Secondo, owner of an Italian restaurant called Paradise. The place is slowly going broke but may get a boost from a visit by singer Louis Prima. If Prima shows up, the restaurant will have a big night and be saved from bankruptcy.
It’s not only one of the greatest food movies ever made (you’ll want to go for risotto afterward) but it also features what Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called “an unforgettable acting duet” between Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, who plays his temperamental chef brother, “that is as richly authentic as the food.”
Ratatouille takes a different approach. An unusual cross between America’s Next Top Chef and Willard, the Pixar movie does something no other film has been able to (not that a lot have tried): It makes rats cute. Lovable, even.
The story of a cooking rat is chef and TV presenter Anthony Bourdain’s favourite food film. “They got the food, the reactions to food, and tiny details to food really right,” said The Taste host, “down to the barely noticeable pink burns on one of the character’s forearms. I really thought it captured a passionate love of food in a way that very few other films have.”
Real chefs are featured in the documentary Spinning Plates. Weaving together three stories from a trio of very different restaurateurs, the film shows the personal and professional side of the food biz as well as the connection to the community that’s so important for success.
It cuts through the Food Network’s simplistic food-family-and-feelings approach with a tagline that sums up its philosophy: “It’s not what you cook. It’s why.”