The Chef Daniel Cohen
Published Apr 04, 2013Unlike the sort of gourmet delicacies being prepared in kitchens by the masters at the forefront of its story, The Chef serves up a rather pedestrian and formulaic dish; one peppered with a few intermittent laughs but lacking any real flavour or sustenance. As such, it's tantamount to cinematic macaroni and cheese, going down with relative ease but remaining infinitely harder to digest.
Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn) is a chef who lives and dies by his impossibly high standards of excellence, having been fired from job after job due to his outlandish demands from the types of bars and restaurants that have no need for his kind of haute cuisine. In an attempt to support his pregnant girlfriend (Raphaelle Agogué), he takes a job painting at a seniors' home as a stopgap, and before long, he is knocking on the window of the kitchen and teaching the inexperienced cooks how to properly prepare cod.
Meanwhile, renowned chef Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno) is in the midst of a mutiny. He refuses to bow down to the group that owns his restaurant, including its conniving leader, Stanislas Matter (Julien Boisselier), who wants to overhaul the place, luring away all of Alexandre's top assistants in the process. This is when he and Jacky cross paths and, while learning of Jacky's impressive acumen and reverence for all of Alexandre's old recipes, the two attempt to create a Spring Menu that will keep the business afloat.
The plot shows little regard for subtlety, attempting to compensate for how anaemic it is with the inclusion of needless threads and characters, like Alexandre's scholarly daughter Amandine (Salomé Stévenin), who he is seemingly neglecting as she prepares to defend her thesis. Another useless complication proves that it is difficult to convince any audience that a relationship is truly in trouble when she is carrying his baby and becomes mildly upset by his relatively understandable actions.
That's not to say there aren't some moments of levity to be found in the performances and the dialogue, especially in the dynamic between Youn and Reno, such as the apprentice's insistence that the master is stuck in a "sauce rut." These are undermined; however, by a villain that might as well be twisting a moustache and a truly unfortunate set-piece that sees the two chefs dress in kabuki attire in an attempt to surreptitiously borrow some ideas from a rival restaurant. (Gaumont)