Austin culinary arts school students lucky enough to attend the South by Southwest Film Festival this year may have already seen Jon Favreau’s film “Chef,” which debuted during the renowned event in March. After the rave reviews, those who weren’t able to catch it the first time around are now in luck, as the film is running in Austin.
On May 23, the film officially opened in Austin, signifying Favreau’s return to independent filmmaking – the actor and director entered the scene with the 1996 cult classic “Swingers.” But rather than a heartbreaking comedy-drama, this film is an in-depth look at the food industry. It’s about an out-of-work cook who finds his career going in exciting new directions when he travels across the country serving Cuban fare from a food truck to people all over the U.S.
Favreau plays Carl Casper, the chef who was fired from a renowned Los Angeles restaurant after asking his boss for permission to create a more culinary-rich food menu. He and long-time friend Martin (played by John Leguizamo) hit the road on a food truck they revamped themselves, winning the hearts of Americans with a signature Cuban sandwich, making their way to New Orleans, Austin and other food-centric cities. Those attending Texas culinary arts school classes in the Live Music Capital of the World may recognize local hot spots such as the former South Congress food court and Franklin Barbecue, where the food truck duo add their own flair to the house specialties. Blues legend Gary Clark Junior makes a guest appearance and performs for the film.
Be sure to stick around after the credits to see Favreau get some grilling lessons from renowned American-Korean chef and food truck movement founder Roy Choi. In fact, according to the Austin Chronicle, the actor, who wrote and directed “Chef,” spent a lot of time working with Choi as he did research for the movie. It opened Favreau’s mind up to new and exciting fare.
“I’ve always been kind of a finicky eater, long list of things I wouldn’t eat,” Favreau said. “I was used to going to restaurants with movie people who made a big deal of getting chefs to make something just to suit them, no this, only that, dressing on the side. … After I’d gone out to eat with Choi a couple of times, he looked at me and said ‘You eat like a nine year old boy,’ and started ordering for us and insisting that I try things.”
This film serves as an encouraging reminder of the opportunities for success in the food industry. Right out of school, Austin culinary arts program students may find themselves faced with strong competition and road bumps, but stories like “Chef” remind us that with dedication, perseverance and hard work (not to mention a little help from social media), a talented culinary artist can make it in this industry.