Much of ‘Chef,’ opening Friday, takes place in Venice and Santa Monica

By Michael Aushenker

After hitting box-office heights with “Elf” and two “Iron Man” movies and big-budget lows with “Zathura” and “Cowboys & Aliens,” filmmaker-actor Jon Favreau returns to his indie-film roots with the micro-budgeted “Chef” — a small-budget feature in which the Westside figures prominently.

“Chef,” which co-stars Bobby Cannavale, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, and Favreau’s “Iron Man 2” stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlet Johansson, chronicles Favreau as Carl Casper, complacent star chef at Hoffman’s Brentwood restaurant, who gets fired after engaging in a Twitter battle with a food blogger. Several twists later, Casper reconnects with his passion for cooking and with his young son by running a food truck.

Set in L.A., Miami and New Orleans, “Chef” shows Casper renting a Venice apartment and bonding with son at Third Street Promenade. The Brig on Abbott Kinney Boulevard appears often in the background — including at Venice’s monthly First Fridays event, where Roy Choi’s Kogi truck, progenitor of L.A.’s gourmet food truck craze, appears. Although Choi, a producer on “Chef,” taught Favreau some food truck protocol, Favreau said he trained for his role with an instructor from Santa Monica’s Art Institute of California.

During a Monday night screening at L.A. Film School, Favreau described “Chef,” which opens in limited release tomorrow, as a return to the likes of his 2001 film “Made” and the iconic 1996 film “Swingers.”

“For me creatively, it couldn’t be a more satisfying experience,” he said.

Favreau, who financed the movie himself, lamented the current Hollywood atmosphere that eschews small- and middle-budgeted films for expensive spectacles.

Despite its small production values, “Chef” does rely on one special effect: conveying Twitter correspondence key to the storyline, as well as portraying Facebook, Vine and YouTube. Employing the trademark bird logo for these tweets, Favreau said there was “no clearance needed for Twitter. With new media, they are not trying to control the content.”

*This story was published in The Argonaut’s May 8 edition.