Clark: A foodie lover’s dream on screen at the State

04/30/2014 3:42 PM

05/01/2014 9:45 AM

Food, food, food shows. I’m obsessed, and so are a lot of other people who frequent the Food Network, Bravo and other TV channels that have gotten into the foodie, mostly competition, game.

The list of food-related shows continues to grow, many featuring chefs competing against one another for prizes or just bragging rights. As it turns out, a lot of chefs are amazingly competitive people. And there’s also the chance that competing on TV might become a portal into one of the fastest-growing glitter groups in the entertainment industry, celebrity chefdom.

Think Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, John Besh, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine (more on him later), Ina Garten, Marcus Samuelson, Tyler Florence, Turlock native Michael Chiarello and so many more.

Now, the State Theatre is getting into that game – for one night, anyway – as the downtown historic arthouse prepares to show “Chef,” a new comedy from actor, director and screenwriter Jon Favreau. The film is the next selection in the monthly New York Film Critics Series, in which The State is participating. It will screen Wednesday.

Favreau will be broadcast live following the State screening via a high-definition simulcast to answer audience questions. The series presents pre-release movies and Q&As with stars and filmmakers moderated by Rolling Stone magazine film critic Peter Travers. The sneak previews are shown at independent theaters across the country.

The screening of “Chef” caught my interest because I’d heard about the film on the one, the only, the best foodie show in the world, “Top Chef” (natch).

Favreau was a guest judge in January during season 11 of the competition/reality show on Bravo, where he talked about his research for the film and, obviously, was promoting it. He spoke to the cheftestants about his journey making the movie and the story he was trying to tell.

The film, he said, is about a chef who has lost his “voice” and no longer connects to the food he works with, so he opens a food truck and travels across the country with his son to recover his passion.

Until I started watching shows like “Top Chef” and the myriad others that I inexplicably can’t get enough of, the idea that chefs had “voices” when it came to their food was totally foreign. But watching all those shows has shown that being a real chef isn’t just about searing a steak, mixing up a sauce and dropping it all on a plate. It’s actually an art form that appeals to four of our senses – sight, taste, smell and touch (think texture). Hey, add snap, crackle and pop, and it covers our fifth sense, too. (But don’t suggest processed cereal to any true chef. You learn these things watching them in action.)

“Chef” is a PG-13-rated comedy and it’s got a seriously impressive cast. Along with Favreau (in the title role) there’s Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., John Leguizamo, Sofía Vergara, Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale and others. If you’re a foodie or a foodie show fan, the State screening sounds like a don’t-miss. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Tickets are $12.

Modesto had its latest celebrity chef sighting Saturday when the aforementioned Irvine brought his “Live” show to the Gallo Center for the Arts. Of course, I was there.

Irvine, clearly, is not just a chef, but a seasoned entertainer – almost as funny as Anthony Bourdain, who appeared in standup comedy mode at the Gallo Center in 2011. Irvine and his team were energetic, comical and got the all-but-sold-out audience (only 35 seats were open, according to a Gallo Center spokesman) into the action early and often. Irvine himself ran not just through the first floor of seats, but made his way up all the way to the balcony, as well, collecting audience participants for his three demonstrations/challenges.

Cooking and fun were the show’s hallmarks, but Irvine does his live appearances for a more personal reason: Proceeds from the sale of items in the lobby go to armed forces charities. During the show, Irvine asked all former and current military members in the audience to stand up and announce their branch of service, thanking them for their contributions.

Irvine signed autographs and posed for pictures following the event. Many of those photos can be seen on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ chefirvine, as well as a few comments from audience members.

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