The first half of the movie deals mainly with Carl Casper (played by Favreau himself) trying to break free of his comfortable but soulless head chef position, and despite support from his family and friends, it is not until his hilarious turn in trying to learn how to deal with social media that forces him to involuntarily quit his job and finally find his true self in plying his trade in a food truck.
The movie picks up its pace in the second half where it is mostly a joyride that recalls moments of some of the best road trip movies out there. John Laguizamo, who has been out of the radar recently, puts in a good turn as Casper's former cook turned sous chef in Casper's new food truck business.
Favreau's knack for fashioning likeable characters is evident throughout the movie. And despite being made on a small budget, there are various star cameos in a number of different roles that suggests that Favreau's clout in Hollywood is quite significant indeed.
Sofia Vergara tones down her flamboyant Modern Family persona to play the more subdued, incredibly understanding ex-wife of Casper. Vergara turns in a soulful and captivating performance here.
Their son, Percy is ably helmed by an impressive Emjay Anthony, gives a sweet and charming performance, coupled with a blossoming maturity in the latter half of the film.
Dustin Hoffman and Scarlet Johansson are more peripheral in their roles, but are nonetheless capable supporting parts for Favreau's lead character. Hoffman, in particular, plays a feisty, almost nasty boss to Favreau's idealistic chef.
And there is, of course, Robert Downey Jr in a singular scene. As you would have expected, he almost steals the entire show with the few minutes he is given. He plays Sofia's ex-husband, and in a scene written with both wit and comedic tension, Downey is at his usual smirky best that recalls flashes of Tony Stark. Favreau and Downey's chemistry during the making of the Iron Man series certainly shows.
If you were severely tempted by the food that was on show in Julie and Julia, you will be likely be salivating at the cuisine on display in Chef. Favreau certainly did his research and training well, for he moves with a certain vigor throughout his kitchen scenes, and his knife skills look pretty impressive for an actor.
Despite the premise, this is ultimately a father and son bonding film, and on that account it largely succeeds. And that is down to both Favreau and Anthony's great chemistry throughout the film.
Their relationship is also a metaphor for the current generation gap, and some of the most enjoyable scenes deal with how father and son getting to grips with Twitter. It also shows how social media can be both a powerful marketing device, and a very damaging platform at the same time.
There are also some genuinely funny scenes that will leave you grinning from cheek to cheek. There is this one scene involving potato starch and private parts during the road trip that will surely leave you roaring with laughter. And charmed too.
The only disappointment is that there is no genuine dramatic tension in the movie. No villains or bad guys that provide a counter to the events that are ongoing in the movie. And the ending is perhaps a bit too predictable.
Yet, there is something that is wonderfully entertaining and heartwarming about Chef that will leave you craving for more once the end credits begin to roll. You would like to come back for a second tasting, and if a sequel is not forthcoming, one can only hope it can make it to cable as a series.
As a dish, Chef works better as a delicious appetizer rather than a substantial main course. And despite borrowing some elements from Ratatouille (the showdown between the chef and the critic), it is still different and refreshing enough from most Hollywood comedies that warrants this movie a thumbs up from this food blogger.
4 out of 5 stars
Opens in Singapore cinemas 5th June 2014