He’s directed big-budget favourites including Iron Man and Elf, but Jon Favreau returns to his indie movie roots with the drool-worthy foodie flick Chef.
Favreau not only helmed the passion project, but wrote, produced and also stars in it. He plays Carl Casper, a talented chef but preoccupied dad who loses his fancy restaurant job and looks into starting up a food truck.
Favreau says he wasn’t looking to make a small movie, but the idea popped into his head and he just couldn’t ignore it.
“I haven’t really written a script like this since Swingers, where it all came out in a matter of weeks and I was just so excited that I had something I wanted to say,” he says, referring to the 1996 film he wrote and starred in alongside Vince Vaughn.
“So I wanted to honour that. The movie was about somebody who wanted to do something small and personal and it sort of mirrored how I felt about wanting to do something small and personal as well.”
Thanks to the success and friendships he made on studio films such as Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens and Elf, Favreau had creative freedom and could gather together the budget, cast and crew he needed for the month-long shoot.
It meant that despite the lower budget, he was able to wrangle together names that could have easily headlined a major blockbuster, including Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman and his Iron Man 2 stars Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson.
“It was a matter of having good friendships, good relationships and people who liked the script,” he says.
Although Favreau is a self-professed fan, who watches shows such as Top Chef and devours Anthony Bordain’s books, he knew he couldn’t convincingly play Carl Casper and authentically capture the culinary culture without some help.
So Favreau turned to noted Korean American chef Roy Choi, whose own real-life experience surprisingly parallels some of Carl’s.
Choi became Favreau’s mentor and on-set foodie guru, putting the actor/director through his paces, first training him up in a traditional French kitchen, then putting him to work as a prep cook and a line cook in his restaurants.
The result is that onscreen, it’s hard to imagine Favreau not having some kind of background in the industry, as he chops up ingredients and plates dishes like a pro.
And what dishes they are.
The cast and crew on Chef must have been some of the best fed in all of Hollywood.
Favreau says one of the best examples would be when they stopped at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas – a place where people line up from 8am to buy briskets they smoke for 15 hours overnight.
Yet they saved a couple just for Chef.
“He flipped that smoker open and out came the brisket,” he says, adding what you see in the film is exactly what the actors saw.
“We ate about a half pound of meat off of that thing, and then we yelled cut.
“The crew was like a flock of seagulls, flying onto that thing.
“It was gone, like it fell into a piranha tank.”
What with the stops and having Choi on the set everyday preparing the food (seriously, don’t see this film on an empty stomach), it wouldn’t be surprising if everyone finished the shoot a few kilos heavier.
“Everybody ate good on this movie,” Favreau says.
“On this, ever single thing that was on set was delicious and we tried not to waste any of it.”
* Chef releases in Australian cinemas on May 8