AUSTIN – From the moment he stepped onstage at the Paramount Theater, Jon Favreau was looking to entertain. “Chef,” the film he wrote, starred in, co-produced and directed, opened the 2014 South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival Friday night, with all but a standing ovation.
“I shoot food the way Michael Bay shoots women in bikinis,” Favreau told Variety at the after-party, held at Mohawk, several blocks from the theater. Prior to the screening, Favreau (pictured) and the cast dined at Franklin’s barbeque, a famous Austin barbeque joint, which makes a cameo in the film, as does musician Gary Clark Jr., who was deep into his second hour of a live performance.
The movie takes place in Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans and Austin, follows a chef (Favreau) as he quits his job and travels cross country in a food truck with his son (Emjay Anthony) and his sous chef (John Leguizamo).
After the screening, the multihyphenate invited the audience en masse to the party, which also featured a food truck handing out Cuban sandwiches (and secretly Austin-style Cubanos made with Franklin’s barbeque). There were also free posters and stickers, designed by Robert Downey Jr. himself, who, according to Jason Cassidy, the president of marketing for Open Road, is a burgeoning graphic designer.
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“I learned a lot about having a movie at a festival at Comic-Con,” Favreau said, referencing his experience with Marvel’s “Iron Man” franchise (he directed the first two pics). Downey Jr., Favreau’s “Iron Man” leading man, also appears in Favreau’s movie along with Sofia Vergara, Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson.
Roy Choi, the Los Angeles restaurateur who launched the food truck craze and prepared all the food for the film, was standing nearby the food truck, partially making sure everything ran smoothly, but mostly enjoying hungry patrons enjoying their food.
“I tried to make all the food in the film look like real food,” Choi told Variety. “We didn’t dress it up and I didn’t do anything different,” he added, “but we ate everything we made. This was probably the most well fed cast and crew.”
Favreau also said that his intention was to make a film for chefs, cooks and food lovers alike, citing Disney/Pixar’s “Ratatouille” as the sole film universally liked by chefs, the much-loved 2011 docu “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” notwithstanding.
“This is not a lofty film but something incredibly personal with tremendous personality,” Favreau told the packed house prior to the film’s screening. “I hope you like it.”