Among the many things a great chef has to master is learning to keep multiple pots and pans going simultaneously, while timing each ingredient exactly in order for a dish to come out perfectly cooked. In some ways, Jon Favreau is like a great chef, balancing his career as a writer, director, and actor. The director is less than 50 days from the release of his live-action remake of ‘The Lion King,’ appeared on-screen in both “Avengers: Endgame” and the upcoming “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” but he still found time to squeeze in a whole other venture – a new cooking series called “The Chef Show.”
“It took three years,” Favreau told Variety, in a sit-down before announcing the series at Netflix’s Food Day FYSEE event. “We have been working on this longer than ‘Lion King.’”
“I have so much planning that goes into these effects movies. I wanted to just something to do something very free, even freer than “Chef”, which is just let’s film, let’s have authentic moments,” Favreau said about the style of the show — which was also inspired by ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ and Favreau’s talk series ‘Dinner for Five’ which featured a rotating group of celebrities to eat drink and talk – and how he employed a documentary angle and mixed it with stop motion animation to illustrate the recipes.
Favreau stars in and produces the Netflix series with Chef Roy Choi, his collaborator on the 2014 hit film “Chef” – where Favreau played a man who quits his restaurant job and opens his own food truck in attempt to find his creativity again and repair his relationship with his family. For the movie, Choi taught the actor and director how to make a convincing chef during the preparation for and promotion of the movie by sending Favreau to culinary school and putting him to work in his kitchen.
“I got so much, so fulfilled out of ‘Chef’ and, and I didn’t want to give up on that part of my life and my career and the relationship with Roy,” Favreau gushed about his friend and collaborator, explaining that after filming wrapped, he continued to cook on his own as a hobby, but he was looking for ways to continue his friendship with Choi. In the trailer for the series, guest Gwyneth Paltrow jokingly describes this time period as “like being dumped.”
So instead of opening a restaurant together or making a sequel to the film (since they felt the movie worked as a standalone), Favreau got an idea. As he was heading to Atlanta to begin work on 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” with Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr, he called Choi to ask him to join the group in Georgia.
“I was like ‘If you’re available Roy, let’s get a film crew and film cooking there when left with the cast or serving them food.’ And so that’s when it started. And then we started filming segments in our kitchens, bringing other guests in,” he explained. “Then, things started to fall in place.”
Guests for the series include Favreau’s “Avengers” co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert Downey Jr, Tom Holland, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo. Choi told Variety that he earned some street cred through the show and a particular interaction with Spider-Man. “I am forever a hero with my kid because I gave Tom Holland is first oyster ever, in his life. That can never be done again by anyone,” the chef laughed.
“The Marvel crowd, that’s a family, For over a decade. So, when it’s Robert and I, we have this whole shared experience of what we’ve been through. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him cook a lot of stuff,” Favreau said about Downey, adding that he’s shared many meals with the Queen of Goop.
“My first time eating Kogi barbecue – the gourmet Korean taco truck Choi created — was because [Gwyneth] brought the Kogi trucks to the set of ‘Iron Man.’ The first screening we did of ‘Chef’ was at her house where we cooked with Gwyneth,” he said.
But speaking of Downey, what does the “Iron Man” director think of early Oscar buzz around the star’s performance in “Avengers: Endgame”?
“He has my vote for sure,” Favreau declared. “I think he was able to discover and explore dimensions of the character over the course of many, many films, which is a bit of its own category. But I have to say that if you look at, especially how it began and how it ended in his performances between the first one and “Endgame,” there was a really thoughtful arc to the character, both in his performance and how all the filmmakers contributed to that character.”
He continued, adding “I’m glad I got to be a part of it and be there for those meaningful scenes as an actor, but also to be there as a friend, and to watch him explore things deeply through a character [when] you don’t normally have that opportunity. And he took full advantage of it.”
For Favreau’s next dish, he’s preparing “The Lion King” and collaborating with superstar Beyoncé Knowles Carter.
“Oh, you’re in for a treat! She’s wonderful.” Favreau said, praising his star. “She’s been coming by looking at stuff. I’ve been hearing stuff, not just the stuff from that we recorded from the original film, but she’s been working on music as well. And she is a staggering talent and I’m so fortunate to be collaborating with her.”
“The Chef Show” is now streaming on Netflix.