Saturday, March 30, 2013

Comme Un Chef

Have you ever been fired from 4 jobs in 4 weeks? Well, in the movie Le Chef, directed by Daniel Cohen, you’ll meet Jacky Bonnot (Michaël Youn) who cannot seem to hold down a job if his life was dependent on it.

He’s not incompetent or lazy, but his passion burns for being in the kitchen, creating masterful dishes that tantalize every taste bud, not doing menial tasks to just pay the bills. None of his employers can appreciate his enthusiasm for food. They don’t want to be dazzled with paprika, and I think it’s safe to say that nobody wants to be hit for putting mustard on sole.

Even his girlfriend, who is eating for two, is getting sick and tired of Jacky’s inability to keep employment. In order to prove to Rachel that he has changed, and to give her a well-deserved break from work, Jacky goes out and as luck would have it, gets hired as a handyman in a senior’s home.

Nothing can stop Jacky’s curiosity though when he sees people cooking. So peering into the window of where the other cooks are, Jacky is mortified that they are doing everything wrong. He could do better and transform these dishes. So taking matters into his own hands, he takes over in the kitchen and, not heeding anyone’s warning about how angry Chef Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno) will be, begins to work his magic one spice at a time, knowing that his changes will be a hit.

Sadly, chef Alexandre has problems of his own that he is trying to deal with regarding the slimy Stanislas Matter, who is the new CEO of the group that owns his restaurant, Cargo Lagarde. He is plotting to have Lagarde lose one star in the next edition of The Guide, and replace him with a young chef who advocates a modern style called molecular gastronomy cuisine, which is more profitable for the food industry.

As Lagarde’s team players are suddenly leaving, Lagarde is faced with yet another issue; his genius culinary ideas have come to a halt and he cannot think of future creations for his new menu, which The Guide’s critics will soon be coming to taste and judge.

Fuming at the fact that someone has entered his kitchen and changed his recipes, Lagarde samples one of the dishes secretly prepared by Jacky and is blown away. He finds out that Jacky is the culinary messiah that he has been looking for, and offers him an unpaid internship position as the second-in-command.

Hoping to impress the judges and keep his stars, it seems like a win-win situation for everyone. However, the angel and devil both appear figuratively on Jacky’s shoulders because he knows that this unpaid position will infuriate Rachel and cause even more stress, but how could he turn down a life-long dream to work with his idol Alexandre Lagarde?

Jacky cannot envision anything better and is optimistic that something wonderful will come out of this. He accepts while trying to cover his tracks to save his relationship, but fails, and Rachel finally decides that she has had enough of his immaturity and leaves. Distraught and ready to throw away his apron, Jacky cannot bare to lose Rachel, even though it is clear that his talents are far superior than even Lagarde could imagine. As personalities start clashing, the impeding doom of losing everything starts becoming a reality for both Jacky and Lagarde in every aspect of their lives.

Michaël Youn is a quirky actor and when you combine him with Jean Reno, they are both delightful to watch on-screen together. I liked the bantering, back-and-forth dialogue and the scenes when Jacky just gets into his element, acting like Gordon Ramsey, albeit a tamer version. His character really evolves in the movie, in a subtle way that audiences can appreciate.

Oh and those cheeky French film directors threw me for a bit of a loop with some laughs when they had a scene where Michaël was in full drag, playing a very convincing Asian geisha, complete in appearance and mannerisms.

Overall, the story was simple and predictable, but the passion revolving around food and how it greatly impacted both Jacky and Alexandre’s relationships was quite meaningful. In the end, we all have tough choices to make, whether they are right or wrong, usually we don’t know until we see the outcome. Our ability to withstand criticism and flourish in difficult circumstances is never an easy task, and our priorities when we’re younger may change as we gracefully age into what I like to call the ‘wisdom-stages’ of adulthood and beyond.

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, but if you intend to risk it all for whatever your passion is in life, then at some point, you want to prepare yourself to get a little burned.