One of the few films in the mini French Film Festival this year, Le Chef sees Jean Reno drop his gung-ho action demeanour, and put down his pistol, to pick up the culinary knife for the kitchen, where he lords over his 3 Michelin Star restaurant. But even one of the greatest contemporary chefs Alexandre Lagarde (Reno) in the world gets his fair share of a writer's block equivalent when he needs to come up with a new menu for the next season, and worse, has boardroom politics to contend with when the owners of the restaurant threatens to unfairly replace him with molecular food chefs should he lose a star come the next restaurant critique.
Enter Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn), a chef wannabe, or passionate food amatuer, who has spent the most parts of his life impressing many with his fine choices of food, and skill set to go with, but usually doing so at the wrong places. Pressured by his pregnant girlfriend Beatrice (Raphaelle Agogue) to find a steady job, he has to forsake his talent for something that brings home the bacon, and when fate allows him to meet with Alexandre, with the latter offering him an unpaid internship at his restaurant, Jacky has to balance working for one of his idols, whom he has already mastered all his recipes, and that of putting on a show for his girlfriend thinking that he indeed has a regular 9 to 5 job.
Le Chef has the talents of both Jean Reno and Michael Youn to thank as they play master and apprentice, although the apprentice here comes with a mind of his own, in ever so willing to defend his master's famous recipes, with obsession that doesn't even allow his master to make tweaks to them, for the sake of purity. The tussles of course lead to comedic situations between them, where the talents of both men make these moments come across naturally rather than feeling forced or contrived. Despite its relatively short run time, the story by writer-director Daniel Cohen moves at such breakneck speed, it's pretty amazing at how both characters were nicely fleshed out rather than to lapse into the easier caricatures, nicely left to the supporting act.
And not forgetting, the many fine cuisine that one can view when dishes have to be whipped up. There are many parallels with Pixar's Ratatouille, with Jacky being both the down and out kitchen helper Linguini and the rat with fine taste Remy combined, with that bit of drama, romance, and love for food all rolled into one delightful film with expected outcomes for both principal characters.