“The Chef,” veteran director Mats Arehn’s first film in many years, is a let-down. Autobiographical story centered on a sea voyage from Sweden to Cape Town and back has lots of twists and dynamic elements, but Arehn doesn’t manage to develop or enhance them, despite strong perfs by his leads. Pic might score with Swedish auds, thanks to star Kjell Bergqvist’s popularity, but offshore there’s nothing cooking outside ancillary.
It’s 1969 and young Martin (up-and-coming Henrik Lundstrom in the Arehn role) signs on as an assistant chef on a cargo ship traveling to South Africa. His old friend Sundsvall (Peter Viitanen) is his assistant. Martin meets the chief chef, Peter Stein (Bergqvist, commanding and witty), and quickly learns he’s a man who demands discipline in the kitchen. Stein takes a liking to Martin, and finally offers to cut him in on his dream project — to buy an old manse in Sweden and turn it into a high-class restaurant. However, in Cape Town things go violently wrong. Pic fatally lacks any narrative drive, though tech package is fine.