Jon Favreau’s Chef, or, The Culinary Ghost of Tom Joad

In the early 90s Bruce Springsteen left New Jersey for L.A., where he simultaneously released two albums, Human Touch and Lucky Town, that didn’t feature the E Street Band, had a tad too much pep and reveled in a general sense of contentment.

People hated it.

In 2002 Springsteen reunited with the E Street Band for their first proper album together since 1984, and all was right in the world. But before that, in 1995, Springsteen released a quiet, introspective and politically charged folk album called The Ghost of Tom Joad. The album didn’t produce any future presidential campaign anthems, but it did mark a welcomed return to Springsteen’s artistic roots.



Jon Favreau’s latest film, Chef, which he wrote, directed and starred in, is the story of one man’s culinary Ghost of Tom Joad.

Carl Casper, the titular chef, is legit. He knows his way around a kitchen, but beyond that he has an inherent artistic drive that has served him well and landed him a job at a popular L.A. restaurant owned by Tootsie.

He’s got a good staff and plenty of mouths to feed, but he’s kept on a tight leash by Tootsie, with no room to try new things and indulge his creativity. It makes him miserable and inspires a series of lifestyle changes and a general recalibration of the personal, professional and artistic elements in Carl’s life.

Chef isn’t a coming of age story. When we meet Carl he’s already come of age. The excitement and danger of his youth are in the past and now he’s stuck perpetually playing and replaying his greatest hits from a stagnant menu chiseled in stone.

Chef is a story about why your favorite band insists on loading their shows with songs from their new album when you would rather they just shut up and play the hits. It’s a story about appreciating your success without leaning on them like a nostalgic crutch.

Chef is a story about leaving aside fans and critics and money and fame and creating simply for the joy of creation.



If creativity isn’t a driving force in your life Chef still offers plenty to enjoy. Favreau surrounds himself with a fantastic cast and the writing is funny and smart, offering relevant insights into everything from parenthood to social media.

If you do fancy yourself a creative type, whether your medium is food or paint or the written word Chef examines the creative process from a new angle and opens up a dialogue about the struggles of creativity that you’ll want to be a part of.

Just don’t see it hungry.

Chuckle if you want. Maybe you’ve already heard as much on Twitter. Maybe you thought to yourself “yeah, whatever.” Maybe you figured you’d be fine getting lunch after the 11:30 showing.

But you were wrong, weren’t you?

Yes. Yes you was.

Don’t see it hungry.



1. If you’re favorite director was a food, what food would they be?

2. Did you watch Chef’s post credits sequence?

3. Is sous chef really a word? Yeah, yeah it’s a word and all, but is it really?


You might also be interested in my ever so vaguely related thoughts on Iron Man 2, my favorite motion picture of 2012.


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