On the eve of its release, anticipation filled the air as people lined up to see a sneak peek of Jon Favreau's latest directorial effort, Chef. The aroma coming from the Aero’s popcorn machine was especially tantalizing, a sign of what was to come this night at the theatre. Favreau wrote, directed, and starred in the film and was also on hand for a Q&A. Interviewed by journalist Jeff Boucher, Favreau talked about how excited he was for the movie to come out in theatres.
"Kitchens are R-rated places,” he said. Before production, Favreau spent a lot of time training in the kitchen with renowned professionals in the field, and - as you might imagine - goofing off. When Chef Casper is in charge, be it a gourmet restaurant or food truck, workers are constantly joking around, using colorful language. “Any chef will tell you that a kitchen without those words is BS,” he said.
The term “food porn” was repeatedly thrown around about regarding Chef, because the food being prepared really looks that good on the screen.
He chatted with the audience about the film and discussed some of the decisions made for this production. It’s an independent film, made outside of the studio system, and rated R - a deliberate choice for someone who knows his way around the Hollywood blockbuster cycle.
An audience member asked if he really did the lightning-fast chopping and dicing himself, or if it was somehow enhanced with visual effects.
"I am the dude who did Iron Man,” Favreau laughed, and said he couldn’t refrain from using some “low tech tricks.” But he also said he was a guest on a talk show, was put on the spot to chop, and was able to hold his own. Boucher commented that it was a good thing Favreau dedicated so much time sharpening his own culinary skills, because in real life "you can’t CGI your fingers back on."
Creating a feeling of reality in relationships was also very important. The story includes Chef Carl Casper, a divorced dad, bonding with his young son, and he wanted to allow for “uncomfortable and raw moments.” He said that these sentiments and pace are best expressed in a smaller-budget film.
Both Favreau and audience members fondly referenced Swingers, a hugely popular indie buddy film that he wrote and starred in back in 1996, alongside Vince Vaughn. The two films have some overlap in themes, with Swingers and Chef including bonding and friendships. And “bingers,” added Boucher.
Favreau demonstrates his devotion to the art of cooking and the importance of having fun, and Chef does get raunchy. Spice is added to the stellar cast with Scarlett Johansson playing a hot hostess and Sofia Vergara as Casper's ex-wife.
Today’s influence of food critics and social media on the success of a restaurant is another important theme in Chef. As the film did not have a studio’s advertising budget for billboards and the like, Favreau said he hoped good reviews of the movie would travel via social media which in itself is “a cool experiment” for him as a filmmaker.
Favreau said his parents were divorced and as a kid, his dad would take him to see movies in his New York neighborhood. Commenting on taking his own children to the Aero many times to see Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz, Daffy Duck cartoons and The Seventh Seal, he said, “you have to show them what’s good and what’s worthwhile.”
Another question from the audience was about Dinner for Five. “A predecessor to podcasts” is what he called it, a program which featured Favreau and celebrities having dinner at a restaurant. He said he loved the theme of it and said, “The magic of food and how it changes conversations….some people are always thinking about food.”
As the evening wound down, the Kogi BBQ Truck (the brainchild of Roy Choi, whose career influenced the film) was waiting outside the theatre for people to enjoy - a delicious end to a great evening.