In “Chef,” a new comedy that opens in theaters on May 9, Jon Favreau plays Carl Casper, a big-name chef who was married to Sofia Vergara and now occasionally heats up pasta for Scarlett Johansson. You might think he has it pretty good. But something in his life is missing — he’s been coasting, playing it safe — and this becomes apparent when a single snarky review sends Casper over the edge. In short order, he loses his job, hits the road, devotes more time to his 11-year-old son (Emjay Anthony), opens a food truck and rediscovers the thing that brought him success in the first place — his passion for cooking.
The movie, which Favreau wrote and directed, offers a genial blend of laughs and food porn, but it also aims to be an emotionally engaging story about a man rebounding from a midlife slump though creative risk. There are obvious parallels to Favreau’s own career: After his 1996 indie hit “Swingers,” he veered mainstream and eventually turned to blockbuster efforts like “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Iron Man 3.” Now, at 47, he looks to be coming full circle. “Chef” is an independent film with a knockout ensemble cast. Dustin Hoffman plays Casper’s boss, and his kitchen crew includes Bobby Cannavale and Jon Leguizamo. Oliver Platt is the offending critic. Amy Sedaris dons a supremely fake tan for her role as an L.A. publicist. Even “Iron Man” star Robert Downey Jr. shows up for a cameo. Given a score of 91 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Favreau seems to have found a fresh recipe for reinvention. —John Birmingham