Le Chef

Le Chef

2012, PG-13, 84 min. Directed by Daniel Cohen. Starring Jean Reno, Michaël Youn, Raphaëlle Agogué, Julien Boisselier, Salomé Stévenin.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., July 18, 2014

Parisian Jacky Bonnot (Youn) just can’t seem to catch a break. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of French gastronomy, a discerning palate that can ferret out an offending spice that’s holding back a dish from greatness, and not surprisingly, he can’t keep a job to save his life. Too much of a perfectionist, he won’t serve food that doesn’t pass his demanding scruples, much to the dismay of customers, managers, and restaurant owners alike. But this behavior can’t continue, for Jacky’s beautiful girlfriend (Agogué) is expecting their baby any day now, so he takes whatever gig he can get, and if that means painting the exterior of a senior center, then ainsi soit-il! Not being able to help himself, he’s soon giving the center’s cooks lessons in preparing fish from the scaffolding. Suffice to say, he doesn’t last very long.

Over at Cargo Lagarde, a Michelin three-starred restaurant, Alexandre Lagarde (Reno) is beleaguered by his own problems. A famous chef and bestselling author (a running joke that wears out its welcome has passersby constantly asking him random cooking questions), Lagarde is facing off against a CEO who has hatched a scheme to fire Lagarde so he can bring in a younger chef skilled in the trendy food science of molecular gastronomy. Jacky and Lagarde meet cute and eventually team up, Lagarde hiring Jacky as his sous chef, and Jacky helping Lagarde revitalize his menu. Thus, an odd couple is established, the inextricable wheels of destiny turn, and a light and breezy French farce is born.

Le Chef is practically bursting with good-natured bonhomie. Nothing is really at stake here, except perhaps the loss of audience interest as plot points arrive from miles away. Youn simultaneously channels Roberto Benigni, a young Steve Martin, and oddly, Paul Reiser (whom I thought I had completely stricken from my memory), and it’s nice to see Reno – known more to international audiences for his gritty, action-oriented characters – right at home in a comedic role. The film gently lampoons aspects of contemporary culinary trends, such as absurd entrées (free-range chicken ice cubes) and TV cooking shows. The few missteps the story takes, such as a scene where the duo dress up in Kabuki theatre garb to spy on a rival restaurant, are overcome by the sheer gameness of the cast (but really, that scene is pretty terrible). And any film that has a subplot that involves the defense of a thesis on Russian fantastic literature is okay by me. Le Chef isn’t breaking any cinematic barriers here, but sometimes leaving the theatre with a smile on your face is haut satisfaction enough.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Jean Reno Films
The Promise
The Armenian Genocide as seen through a love triangle

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 21, 2017

Hector and the Search for Happiness
Simon Pegg stars as a shrink trying to heal himself.

Marjorie Baumgarten, Oct. 3, 2014

More by Josh Kupecki
She Is Conann
Barbaric vision of how aging means eating your own youth.

Feb. 2, 2024

The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer's Holocaust drama is powerfully distancing

Jan. 12, 2024


Le Chef, Daniel Cohen, Jean Reno, Michaël Youn, Raphaëlle Agogué, Julien Boisselier, Salomé Stévenin

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle