Jon Favreau wrote, directed, and stared in his new film Chef, which premiered at the South by Southwest Festival this past Friday. The director of the first 2 Iron Man films has taken a step back in directing big budget films and is now celebrating the beauty of making a passion project. Chef is rags to riches story about a down on his luck chef who decides to open a Cuban food truck and drive it cross country while piecing his life together.
Chef is an independent film that managed to attach big names given Favreau’s reputation as a talented triple threat. Sofia Vergara portrays his ex-wife, while Scarlett Johansson his love interest. Other A list celebrities that joined in the passion project are Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr., and John Leguizamo, who plays Favreau’s sous chef. The actors where paid minimum wages in order to participate in this low budget film. The film centers around a chef who, following a famous food critique’s negative review, has a meltdown for all to see and film, making him a viral sensation, and unemployed. His ex-wife, Vergara, convinces him to purchase a food truck, a place where he can be his own boss. While in Miami with his ex-wife and son his passion for cooking reignites, he purchases a truck and names it “El Jefe,” meaning the boss in Spanish, Favreau then heads on a cross country trip with his son while developing the father son relationship they lost because of his previous career as a restaurant chef.
While speaking at the SXSW kickoff Q & A for Chef, Favreau states that this film is semiautobiographical given the character in the film is having the same dilemmas he is, the prioritization of family over career. He is extremely proud to be able to do passion project, which he views as going back to his roots of independent film making, struggling with time and money, but with the advantage of not having to pitch or explain his creative vision to others. While preparing to portray a chef, Favreau trained with Roy Choi, a chef who created his notoriety by selling the famous Korean taco out of a food truck named Kogi. He now has a fleet of trucks that are promoted through the help of social networking sites in order to inform customers about their daily offerings and locations. Choi and Favreau may have different careers but they share the same vision. As Choi says, a food truck may lead to less money, but at least your vision is not compromised. Favreau says that with large budget movies the importance is creating for the audience in every market, it is created to satisfy all. Versus when making a film like Chef he is in fact creating for himself and for the audience that can connect to it.
Favreau decided to premier Chef at SXSW due to his love for Austin, and the vibe of the festival which he feels fits the film. Favreau will next be directing another large budget film, The Jungle Book, which he says is different because its unbroken ground. Most of the films he has been asked to do are continuations of franchises. The Jungle Book to him is unchartered territory and a challenge he welcomes.
Opinion By Dony Lugo