Take in the sight of luscious food while enjoying Jon Favreau’s easy going chef flick

Cooking food is stress relief. It’s sex. It’s everything for celebrity chef Carl Casper as he busily instructs a collaborative kitchen run by a systematic restaurant owner.

When the food quality runs flat and a major critic lambastes Casper’s work, Chef begins to shape itself into something workable. Despite the saggy first act, Casper’s (Jon Favreau) enthusiasm and screen magnetism is fluidly used to push this story forward. This is a man doing what he adores, and Favreau is wholly convincing doing so.

Sultry food cinematography turns the piece into a Food Network travelogue, spotlighting what appears to be impossibly delicious meats and finely cut veggies. Pushed from the security of a restaurant gig, Casper spices up a crumbling food truck which serves not only as financial grounding, but a means to reconnect with a lost family.

Yes, Chef is about food and an obsession with making it better. However, Chef winds itself on a collective family drama which is sharply alluring. Casper’s son Percy (Emjay Anthony) has the on-screen connection and when paired with John Leguizamo – part of this staggering cast – still manages to keep a flow of natural chemistry. Everyone fits.

There is a sense of self-reflectiveness in this script too. Favreau is all over Chef, from directing to script duties; it’s all solo work at the top. Elements of social media blow outs and a particularly bitter meltdown over a stingy critic seem poignant enough to be personal (and a reminder to never despise another of Favreau’s works).

This is all building to a satisfying closure where this friendly and bright film can conclude on a high note without feeling artificial. Character growth follows a pleasant curve, and almost all of Chef shares a sense of positivity. It’s bright, cheery, and dare the word “wholesome” be used for an R-rated feature – but it is. Chef rubs the right way, and maybe the richness of the food is working to induce a sense of false calm. Saying so cheapens this often cleverly written work though. Chef is all character.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

That'll need some work @ 1:00:53

Drenched with warmth, Chef offers digital clarity and plentiful range – at least in terms of orange-ish shades. There is a lot of it to go around. Flesh tones feel baked while the contrast feels hindered by the color correction. Whites never reach their full peak.

Despite this, Chef does little self-inflicted visual harm. Clarity is pure from the digital innards of the Arri Alexa and black levels sit richly on opposite end of the contrast. While hardly a beacon for fidelity, Chef feels naturally pure. Sunlight drifting in through windows cradles a bit of haze to soften many shots and lighting design purposefully plays it low. Chances for things like facial definition are often low by design.

Transfer problems on the part of Universal are few. A glimmer of aliasing on the food truck during a montage barely counts. Compression work is spacey and provides enough fuel to work through this two hour movie. Bitrates are impressive.

Highlights are consistently localized. Some shots of the dazzling food are ridiculous and the spectacular views of multiple high profile US cities are made to sell their individuality during montages. Fidelity as the food truck makes national rounds proves showy.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Despite being grossly out of balance during its opening credits as the DTS-HD mix works through music and dialog, the track otherwise finds itself comfortable. Live music performances are the central highlight, striking in their clarity. Bass presence is strong with the surrounds serving a strong wrap-around effect. Crowds packing in front of the food truck have a similar effect, albeit with less impact.

Otherwise, Chef is on point. Dialog is clean and punched into the center. Since the film relies heavily on Twitter, there is an abundance of digital birds flying out from each social media share, and they will take their leave in the stereos or rears. The effect is sharp, and the eclectic selection of Cuban tunes proves to be a boon.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Writer/director/star Jon Favreau pairs up with producer and chef trainer Roy Choi for commentating work, followed by 10-minutes of deleted scenes which also bunches up a slew of additional takes from Amy Sedaris in a small role.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.