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Hungry for success: Six reasons graduates need to watch and learn from Chef...


Jon Favreau and Co serve a slice of depth in this moreish release...

Hungry for success: Six reasons graduates need to watch Chef, and what they need to learn from it…

With a personality as flavourful as his career, Jon Favreau has been a firm favourite for as long as I can remember. The 47 year old actor-turned-director was the saving grace of Couples Retreat; added light relief whilst leveling the overall tone in the Iron Man series (which he both acted in and produced); and has harked back to his indie roots in his latest release, Chef.

So, when Shadowlocked was offered time with the iconic actor/director/producer, you’d of been hard pushed to find someone with more of a genuine passion for an interview. Unfortunately though, the PR in question didn’t agree.

Perhaps there were hungrier, more delicious invites for Mr. Favreau, or maybe it was decided that our entree sized application wasn’t worthy of the films mighty appetite. Whatever the case we missed out...and to this day I’m upset.

However, ever the professional I refused to let our rejection bitter my passion, instead deciding to view the film as an independent with strong foodie undertones rather than as a work-focused film journalist; and now, having had time to let its performance digest and my thoughts to settle, I’m glad I did.

A broad taste

From the outside Chef would appear to be a directors passion project, one that incorporated both an intrinsic love of food and an impressive back catalogue of celebrity friendships. And yet, when all has settled and one thinks back to the 115 minutes of culinary bliss, a number of deeper - and far more meaningful messages - begin to surface.

Don’t believe me? Well, go grab yourself a Monte Cristo (or other kingly sandwich), kick back and allow me to blow your mind with five simple points...and a handful of food-puns:

Find what makes you truly happy and go for it

What can we learn from Chef Carl Casper and El Jefe?

Without revealing too much Chef’s lead protagonist, Chef Carl Casper (ala Jon Favreau) is unhappy. His position is castrating his creativity; he’s lost sight of what’s really important to him and, worse still, his passion is taking a backseat to salary. Ultimately, his work/life balance is off, and no amount of bravado can hide this fact.

And so, following an unsavory review, a social media call-out and his boss’ persistent demands to remain consistent and respectful of their current menu, Chef Casper snaps, venting rage that has been building for some time.

Following some persuasion, Carl heads back to his roots, his love, and buys a food truck in which to reignite his passion, with little to no capital at his disposal. However, when Carl’s sous chef come El Jefe partner Martin asks him how he feels, his reply is priceless: “I’m broke, but for the first time in as long as I can remember I’m happy” - a line that speaks volumes.

So…the choice is yours. You can accept that bland admin role, taking your basic 18k salary and settling into a life of ambiguity and fruitless reward; forever fighting off the ‘what ifs’ with alcoholic weekend binges and pedantic excursions. Or, you can take a can discover what it is that truly makes you happy and go for it, no matter what. Remember:

“Give a man a job he loves, and he will never work a day in his life” (Confucius)

It worked for Chef Casper, but should you need further convincing. listen to this powerful message from Jim Carrey:

Harness social media

Twitter. Facebook. LinkedIn. Are you harnessing it's power and potential employability?

Thanks to the innate technological know-how of Carl’s 10 year old son Percy (Emjay Anthony), El Jefe becomes a social media phenomenon. RT’s and geo-location tags became synonymous with the food wagons success, much to the bemusement of Carl; and it’s something that all graduates should take heed of.

Sure, social media can be an outlet - well, outlets - for one to waste hours on pointless drivel, but ignore it at your peril.

Used correctly, however, and the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (especially) can provide outlets of advertisement for you, or any business venture you may be undertaking.

Conversely, ask yourself - what would a potential employer like to see? How can you catch - and hold - someone's attention long enough for them to gain a vested interest in you ( off the top of my head perhaps throw a vine collage together, or produce likeable - yet targeted - articles via a blog and share across LinkedIn/Facebook/Twitter?). Most importantly though, make your web-based presence felt. Tweet in the right directions, keep a polished LinkedIn profile, and make sure what you’re presenting is what you want them to see.

Eric Qualman, public speaker and author of Socialnomics, once said:

"We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it”.

So… it’s time to assess your digital profile.

Stop measuring success in financial viability
Carl Caspers boss (played expertly by Dustin Hoffman) drove the ambitious chef to the edge, and all because he had a financial hold of him...

If you take one point away from Chef - and this article - it is this. Too many people are blindsided by this issue, sacrificing family, happiness and numerous other matters in their endless pursuit of ‘more money’...which for many equates to success.

Chef Casper is a victim of the system. Having shown so much promise as a young, vibrant, culinary artist in Miami, life - and the pursuit of financial prosperity ( aka societal success) - has left the man broken, bittered and, more worryingly, soulless. As critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) points out his passion has given way to financial stability and he’s sold out. Can you, reading this, honestly say you’re happy doing what you’re doing, chasing a promotion instead of a dream?

Of course, life isn’t that simple. We have bills to pay, the job market is incredibly tough and uncertainty is stressful. But...and this is a big but...shouldn’t we prioritise happiness? If money equaled happiness, the Betty Ford clinic would never have stayed in business (harsh, but true). Chef Casper found himself broke and unhappy after ‘playing it safe’, and so he invested in the only thing he could trust ...himself. He let his passion silence reason, and focused all his efforts into the most important thing...his happiness. Isn't it time you did the same?

Remember your place, but don’t let people walk all over you

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) tries to make sense of Twitter and his position at the restaurant...

The core of Chef’s plot revolves around Chef Carl Casper’s colourful outburst towards food critic Ramsey that is recorded on numerous phones before subsequently going viral on social media sites such as Youtube.

However, Carl’s outburst provides a great lesson for recent graduates, or just those new to the job market. While you will be expected to take a lot of crap because of your position, age and inexperience, never allow your tenuous position to become one of slavery.

Too often do I see young, fragile office temps, account executives - or any other junior based role - walked all over. Heck, I was once asked to iron an editors shirt on an intern-ship. But fear should not allow mistreatment - when push comes to shove you’re still the same, vertical based homosapien. Hard work should be recognised, and if the balance starts to shift to one of a ‘senior’ position exploiting either you or your hard work...speak up. Make yourself known - firmly, politely, and of course, confidently.

More often than not it’ll show strength of character, and will be respected. However, worse case scenario, you lose your job because of it. But then ask great of a job was it really? Mistreatment and a lack of!


Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) shows his son Percy the importance of quality ingredients...

A chef without presentation is like a Brazilian national squad without Thiago Silva - ordinary and uninspiring. Food is an art, even at its simplest form. If one doesn’t respect their position, or their work, then they are in no position to moan about the mediocrity that comes their way.

As a fresh-faced worker one thing is certain...presentation will make a big difference. Being well groomed, well dressed and possessing meticulous standards of hygiene are your three key weapons. Before ability and talent can be recognised, what does an employer have to judge, other than your personality and sense of cleanliness? Remember, an employee is a clients image - and first impression - of the company as a whole; and the general rule is that we make a judgement of someone - or something - in the first eight seconds.

So...sharpen up, dress well, and leave a lasting impression.

Remember the balance

Chef's key stars (left to right: Percy (Emjay Anthony), Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) and Inez (Sofía Vergara) ) provide the perfect picture of a family/work balance...

“I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich” - (Wilcox, Dan - key writer on M*A*S*H)

While not specific to youth, it’s an issue that lays its foundations at a young age.

In Chef, our protagonist has lost his marriage - and has little to no connection with his son - because of his work.

While passion is great, and a hard-working ethos to be admired, nothing should come before family. After all, when all else fails who picks up the pieces, who motivates and drives you forward?

Work hard, but remember that family comes first. A job can be replaced. Family can’t.

Final thoughts

Chef is a passion project with heart and flavour, and one that will leave a sweet taste in the mouth for all those willing to give it a chance. It's an enjoyable piece of cinema, but at the same time possesses more than a life lesson or be sure to listen up and learn.


If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.


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