I’m starting this series to inspire real life travel, celebrate global culture found at home, and feed the soul. In the summer of 2014 just before I moved abroad from Nashville, I saw Chef at the theater and loved it. Although the soundtrack has been on my plane playlist since I rushed home and downloaded it, I hadn’t seen the movie again until last night. A great getaway, Netflix and Chef took me on a food tour that stopped in Miami, New Orleans, Austin and Los Angeles. (I’ve been considering a streamline retro trailer life in the US for awhile now.)
I had no idea after two years in Morocco I’d end up living in the Caribbean, but given my love of Latin culture in Nashville—the music, dance, food—it makes sense. Last fall the Santo Domingo Food Truck Festival felt like home. In fact, downtown workers in Music City say the best part of the workweek is Street Food Thursdays. But this movie, starring Jon Favreau as Everyman Chef Carl Caspar, serves up more than culinary masterpieces and comfort food– a grilled cheese sandwich turned art, a Cubana this carnivorous girl raised on Western Kentucky pork craved. It’s for those who fancy food…eaters and cooks…and those who love a good story. (Foodies can check out this space with recipes from the film (and other films) thanks to Judie Walker’s story here.)
Most will be able to relate… wanting to do what you felt you were put on this earth to do but feeling held back in (or from) the dream job…parents co-parenting across two households… dads and sons wanting to connect but not sure how …the bullying and blessing of social media… a career crisis that can rend or mend a family. Performances, funny, real, and warm, are given by an interesting cast— Emjay Anthony (Percy), compelling ten-year-old son of Carl and Inez (Sophia Vergara); Marvin (Robert Downey, Jr.) as the first husband, Riva (Dustin Hoffman) as the creativity-crushing boss, Molly (Scarlett Johansson) as faithful friend, and Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), the callous, caustic food critic who ignites a Twitter War and change. An added treat is live performances of “Oye Como Va” and “La Quimbumba” by legendary Cuban singer, Jose Caridad Hernandez, who plays Abuelito.
The film written and directed by Favreau with the help of consultant/food truck Chef Roy Choi of Kogi Korean BBQ won nods including Audience Award for Best Narrative at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and in 2015 Best Comedy given by the AARP Movies for Grownups Awards.
Be prepared to plan a southern road trip to NOLA for beignets from Café du Monde, Little Havana for Cubanas at Hoy Como Ayer, or some blues at Franklin Barbecue. Even better, the film will help anyone who feels he/she may have lost his/her way or is simply afraid to turn in the direction to which we’ve been called for a long time. E. E. Cummings said “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Growing pains are real no matter our age, and change for the better usually comes after we are pushed from our comfort zones and, thus, really scared. For years I’ve taught literature students the hero’s quest which is all of our journeys. When called to adventure–our bigger story and unique purpose God put us here to do–we often, at first, back away from the call. When we do accept it, there will be obstacles, but I believe it’s the way out of living the lives of quiet desperation Henry David Thoreau said sadly most people accept. Carl is faced with a choice though he feels he has none. Sometimes it takes a lot for us to heed our hearts.
Carl: “I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve always known what I was going to do and now I’m lost.”
Molly: “I think that’s a good place to start.”
Food Truck Fest in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic…