Chefs on film: 5 flicks that featured real-deal kitchen talent

Jon Favreau's latest film, Chef, is but one in a long line of food movies employing real-life chefs to portray the restaurant world

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Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay


Since debuting last Friday, Jon Favreau's Chef has been generating buzz for its veritable depiction of restaurant life—Time Out gave it four stars, commending the "nonstop kitchen bustle," "high-calorie food porn" and the "savviness with which Favreau portrays the food world." What separates the authentic from the fanciful on the silver screen, especially when pertaining to a food movie? Chefs on set. Here are five feature films where a talented toque helped elevate the story.
 
Chef (2014)
Even Anthony Bourdain has attested to the movie's bona fides, and there's a big reason: Roy Choi, the mastermind behind L.A.'s Korean-Mexican barbecue taco truck Kogi, consulted on the film. Choi spent six weeks training writer-director-actor Favreau, who plays a chef who leaves the formal restaurant scene and ends up launching a food truck. "The experience was top-notch," Choi says. "It was similar to the restaurant world in the respect of how teams collaborate. A movie takes a team—each doing their own specialty to create a whole, while following the direction of a leader. Very similar to a kitchen."
 
The Chef (working title, TBD)
This time last year, news abounded that Gordon Ramsay was training none other than Bradley Cooper in an upcoming film about a drug-addicted chef with lofty Michelin-leaning aspirations. Though it launched a wave of speculation over how the seasoned actor would fare under the chef's baptism-by-fire style of criticism, a spokesman for Ramsay said the movie has not yet started filming.  
 
Ratatouille (2007)
Pixar hired Thomas Keller—of Per Se and the French Laundry fame—as consultant for this animated romp about a rat who can cook. Sources speculate the fastidious Remy is modeled after Keller, and when he and his sidekick, Linguini, serve the title dish, it's Keller's own recipe for confit byaldi.
 
Spanglish (2004)
The unforgettable BLT with a fried egg and cheese might be the most memorable image in the James L. Brooks–directed dramedy. This is also thanks to Keller, who contributed the recipe and personally taught lead actor Adam Sandler how to make it.
 
Tortilla Soup (2001)
In this Mexican-American remake of 1994's Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, filmmakers turned to Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, the hotly talented duo behind L.A.'s beloved Border Grill. They trained Hector Elizondo and Jacqueline Obradors on cooking basics, like how to hold a knife and flip food in a pan, and also prepared and styled each dish in the film. "It was a ton of work, and so much fun," Milliken says of the experience. "You know, it's similar to restaurant work, where you get really close, and you're working hard all day, then suddenly it's 6pm, and the door opens. It's time for the curtain to go up and the performance to begin."


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