Chef Is the Pick of the Week

In college, I had a friend who majored in theater. One day he hit me up to help him out with a project. It was for his directing class and I was to be his actor. It was no big deal, he assured me, as I wasn’t meant to really act. This assignment was all about staging – where to place bodies to create an interesting picture from the audience. I didn’t need to memorize lines or nothing.

I agreed and my friend Kellie and I spent a couple of days with Charlie learning where to stand when we said certain things. I wanna say the script was by Neil Simon but I could be wrong there. It was about food, or at least this particular scene was. I had great speeches about various culinary nourishments. The day came, the professor sat and watched us read our lines and move about the stage.

Afterwards, the professor came over to me and asked, “You’re not much of a foodie, are you, Brewster?” I was taken back by the question and asked him why he asked. He noted that while reading all of those lines about delectable delicacies I acted rather bored. Turned out I was supposed to be acting and not just reciting lines, and my reaction to deliciousness was less than delightful.

I felt bad about that, still do in fact. Had I known I needed to really act, I might have put some effort into it. I don’t know what kind of grade my friend got, but I expect he was knocked a few points by my performance. More than that though, I’ve always been troubled by the question. At the time, I thought I did like food. I mean, there were lots of things I enjoyed eating, and the process of putting food into my mouth was always something I looked forward to.

As time has passed, I’ve realized I’m nowhere near a foodie. For this I blame my mother. She wasn’t a bad food provider, but she’s a long ways from a chef. She’s what I’d now call a good utility chef. While I grew up, she had a number of good – not fancy – meals that she cooked regularly. Things like hamburgers, spaghetti, and fried chicken. It was good, but not exactly gourmet. They’d usually come with one vegetable, maybe green beans or corn, and some bread, and that’s it. Perfectly acceptable meals, but again not what you’ll see on the Food Network or pay high dollar for at the fancy restaurant.

I didn’t even know there were other sorts of foods until college and didn’t start eating them until I got married. Eventually, I started experimenting with foods out of my comfort zone. Traveling helped. When a bunch of Communist officials you are trying to persuade to build an orphanage put squid tentacles in front of you and eagerly wait you response, you can’t exactly say “no thanks, where’s the French fries.”

I now love all sorts of food, and my mouth waters watching those cooking shows and trying new dishes. I’m still not really a foodie, but I’d like to be. I have to admit when it’s my turn to cook I usually turn back to my mother’s standbys, but the wife likes to get fancy from time to time. It takes her hours and the mess is enormous, but the taste is out of this world.

Sometimes, I think I might enter that world. I dream of making things from scratch and inventing new, amazing recipes. Then I realize I don’t have the patience for it, and I’ll order a pizza and turn on Julia Child.

Which (finally) brings us to our Pick of the Week. After finding huge success with the Iron Man franchise writer/director Jon Favreau has gone back to his roots with a small, independent film. Chef is the story of a gifted chef who quits his job as a chef at a trendy L.A. restaurant and opens a small food truck in Miami. The critical response has been good, including the review by our own Adam Blair, and it looks very funny and entertaining. It helps that he’s able to use his big blockbuster credentials to hire guys like Robert Downey, Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman. and others to star in his little picture.

I’ll pick great actors and presumably a lot of wonderful shots of delicious food any week they’ll let me.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Are You Here: Mad Men‘s Matthew Weiner directs Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakas, and Amy Poehler in this comedy about a family feud over an inheritance. I can take or leave Wilson and Galifianakas, but Parks and Recreation has made me a huge fan of Poehler, and I’m interested to see what Weiner can do to the big screen.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Series: Before Steven Moffat’s modernized update on the Holmes story there was this 1984 version starring Jeremy Brett (well, ok there were lots of other versions too, but this one’s coming out now). I’ve never seen this particular take on the Holmes character, but I’m a fan of the fictional detective so I’m sure I’ll be at least checking it out. This 12-disk set features all of the episodes from this series plus various extras including audio commentaries and features.

Agatha Christie’s Marple, Series 6: Marple always seems to stand in the shadow of Christie’s other famous creation, Poirot, but this series has proven to be very enjoyable as well.

24: The Complete Set with Live Another Day: I gave up on 24 in season 4 or maybe 5. At some point it was like “oh, another nuclear warhead…yawn.” But before that, this series was like crack. As the title implies, this set has all the original seasons plus Redemption and the recent Live Another Day. There are also various features on the making of, some Comic Con panels, etc.

Sundays and Cybele (Criterion Blu-ray): I’d not heard of this until now but the plot sounds intriguing. A Vietnam vet, reeling from the scars of the war and killing a child, becomes friends with a 12-year-old girl. Through a series of outings, they each begin to heal one another until a neighbor spots them and starts rumors that their is something illicit going on.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Criterion Blu-ray): Another Criterion release that I don’t know much about but that I’ve heard lots of good things about.

Mat Brewster

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