The SXSW Film Festival kicked off last night in Austin with the world premiere of Jon Favreau’s Chef, an easygoing charmer about a man rekindling his bonds with both his craft and young son. The movie, which Favreau wrote, directed, and stars in, marked what was clearly a personally reinvigorating return to his indie roots. Inspired by foodie gems like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, Big Night, and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, Favreau has made a shaggy dog story about a creatively frustrated chef who opens a food truck after losing his restaurant job. He hits the road with his sous chef (John Leguizamo, at his grooviest) and his 11-year-old son (charming newcomer Emjay Anthony), making beautifully-filmed pit stops in foodie meccas New Orleans and Austin. (And did the Austin audience ever appreciate the hometown doting.) Sofia Vergara plays Favreau’s ambivalent ex, and there are cameos from friends-in-high-places Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Dustin Hoffman.
Favreau was joined on stage by Leguizamo, Anthony, and Oliver Platt (who plays a food blogger whose harsh review at the beginning of the story sends the chef into a tailspin) after the screening for a Q&A. When asked about the theatrical release of the film (it opens on May 9), Favreau sounded relaxed about its box office chances. “It’s going to be swimming in those same shark-infested waters as Iron Man did…and it’s not Iron Man.”