"Le Chef" — not to be confused with the current Jon Favreau gastro-hit "Chef" — is an amusing soufflé of a comedy that pokes fun at foodies while honoring the art of those who cook for them.
The film, directed by Daniel Cohen from a script he wrote with Olivier Dazat, follows an odd-couple of chefs: the legendary Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno) and the younger, more impulsive Jacky (Michaël Youn). They unexpectedly meet and team up to save Lagarde's suddenly shaky career.
Lagarde must prove to the snotty new head of the company (Julien Boisselier) that the fine traditional cuisine at his three-star restaurant is still critically and commercially viable. Jacky, an inspired cook and longtime acolyte of Lagarde's, must keep a kitchen job long enough to make his mark in the profession — and to assuage the nerves of his pregnant girlfriend (Raphaëlle Agogué).
Despite a rough start, Lagarde and Jacky prove a formidable duo, helping each other become both better men and smarter chefs as, among other things, they navigate the trendy world of molecular cooking.
The pair's fast-paced, often sardonic journey makes for an enjoyably comic fairy tale, one that's greatly enhanced by the nimble performances of Reno and Youn as well as by the brio of the supporting cast. Only a subplot involving distracted dad Lagarde and his disgruntled daughter (Salomé Stévenin) feels a tad wedged in.
MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language; in French with English subtitles.
Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle's Royal, West Los Angeles.