— Empire Magazine (@empiremagazine) June 6, 2014
On Friday, I had one of the biggest surprises of my life so far. I’d won tickets to a film premiere. One simple whim of a retweet of Empire Magazine had resulted in my being able to attend the European premiere of Jon Favreau’s new film, Chef, in London three days later. Of course, when I entered this competition I didn’t think there was even the vaguest possibility of my going, and I hadn’t even considered how I’d get to London from Southampton, who I’d go with, how it’d work…but I decided that being part of the experience was worth the stress of planning.
A few days later, I was ready to go. A scorching day in Southampton, accompanied by a handbag with a capacity reminiscent of the TARDIS, hadn’t filled me with the sense of calm necessary to maintain when travelling to London. Finally making it into the big city and heading across to Brick Lane (where the premiere was being held) was surprisingly easy, and as I’d arrived early I settled down in cute little trendy tea shop Pretty Cuppa – see why it attracted me? – to wait to pick up my tickets. When my tea was finished, I found a well-priced and gorgeous bookshop a few doors down where I wiled away the rest of my time and fervently wished that the TARDIS bag had a little bit more space so I could fill it up with books.
Picking up the tickets was followed by a stressful time of trying to find my brother in an increasingly rainy area of London with which I had no familiarity, but when we finally made it back to the premiere I was pretty excited. Never having experienced anything like this before (although having dreamed about similar experiences for years), I was a bit too keen to just soak up the atmosphere around me rather than actually getting involved in it. Listening to the Cuban music played by the live band next to me, smelling the street food being served next to the screening room, and having to walk down the actual red carpet to get there, was entertaining enough for me before the movie had even begun. We stood, we listened, and we waited to be seated.
Finally, we all began to take our seats as the film was ready to begin. Everyone eventually was seated, clutching their complimentary water bottles and apples. Firstly Tom Parker-Bowles spoke about the film and what it meant for the presentation of culinary arts in cinema, citing it alongside other classics (the most memorable for me being Ratatouille, which is one of my favourites).
Then the director and writer himself, Jon Favreau, was introduced, and he talked about his relationship with the film and what it represented. He suggested that the film had a uniquely American sensibility, and that this was the first time that it was playing outside of the United States. When he was finished, the film immediately began. I was so confused about not seeing trailers before seeing a film on the big screen that I was momentarily distracted, but I quickly forgot about the surreal nature of the experience and became engrossed in the film.
Chef, firstly, is a fun movie. I enjoyed it immensely – and perhaps more importantly, my brother (who doesn’t have the same degree of interest in cinema as I do) did too. It balances between salty dialogue and sweet relationships, showing a father and son rediscovering their connection with one another through food. As it becomes more of a road movie in its second half it also incorporates gorgeous shots of America, with each city and its unique food experiences becoming part of this film’s own narrative. Wonderful performances from all involved become part of the mix. But the food – THE FOOD – is perhaps the most inspiring takeaway from the film. Everything is presented so lovingly, and so beautifully, that if you leave the film without wanting to eat immediately than you are a far stronger person than I. I’d far rather have had one of the Cubanos seen on-screen than the discounted pork pies I bought as an emergency snack at the train station, but then again I’d far rather have one of those sandwiches than any other sandwich I’ve ever seen in my life. Apart from the grilled cheese which also makes an appearance. Because oh my, that looked like one hell of a snack.
I was always going to love a movie that combined food, Cuban music, America, and comedy. I admit the experience probably made the film even more enjoyable – there is nothing better than laughing alongside a large group of other people who are sharing the same moments with you – but I think it would have been enjoyable anyway. When the film comes out in the UK on the 25th June, if any of those elements appeal to you I’d recommend you go and see it. And as the premiere experience goes, well, if you see a competition offering free tickets, enter – because you never know if you’ll win! Thank you to Empire magazine for running the competition in the first place.
As for me, I’ve now got the premiere bug. I’m off to do a Tom Haverford and put red carpet insoles into all my shoes.