Take a few key ingredients, put on the gas, swirl them around in a frying pan, bring them to a boil, and serve hot. Something missing? Aha… it’s the condiments! That in a nutshell sums up the film ‘Chef’, sounding suspiciously like the first name of its protagonist Saif Ali Khan, who plays Roshan Kalra – a foodie who left home at 15 and wandered around the countryside to realise his true calling. Landing up in New York as the head chef in Gally Kitchen – an Indian restaurant, his fiery temper leads him to physically assault a diner who complains about the food – forcing the owner to fire Roshan from his job. Circumstances compel him to go to Kochi (Cochin), where his estranged wife Radha Menon (Padmapriya Janakiraman) lives with their young son, Armaan (Svar Kamble).
The reason for his dismissal is one of the handful of aberrations from the 2014 Jon Favreau’s ‘Chef’, of which this Hindi version is the official adaptation. The film is as much about bonding with his son as it is about Roshan’s adventures with his setting up of the mobile food bus. The film does have more than a few enjoyable scenes – especially Roshan’s equation with his ex-wife’s beau Biju (Milind Soman), and the father’s lighter moments with his son. On the other hand, the film is not exactly MasterChef – the reason for the couple splitting or the buildup to the chef’s punching the customer is not quite perceptible to the viewer. Also, the talented ‘chef’ Roshan’s preparation of dishes ranges only from pasta to his indigenous ‘rotzza’, a portmanteau of roti and pizza.
There are some above-average performances – particularly from Saif Ali Khan, Padmapriya, the young Swar Kamble and Chandan Roy Sanyal as Nazrul, Roshan’s bosom pal. The landscape and backwaters of picturesque Kerala are beautifully captured by cinematographer Priya Seth. It’s a family fare, and with a gastronomical title like ‘Chef’, it’s easy to savour the toppings and ignore the rest.