The dining room at Wolfgang Puck’s eponymous restaurant at the posh Hotel Bel-Air is studded with industry players every day -- but not its kitchen. Yet Jon Favreau was seen working the line there during dinner service on Tuesday evening.
The Iron Man director and actor has been researching his in-the-works indie feature Chef by becoming the temporary protege of Roy Choi, the Korean-American cooking phenomenon who made his name several years ago with the influential Kogi food truck and went on to launch popular L.A. restaurants Chego, A-Frame and Sunny Spot. Choi had teamed with Puck as well as David Chang of New York’s Momofuku dining empire for a one-night-only, seven-course, $190 joint tasting menu served to a packed house filled with L.A. food-world luminaries, including Gjelina chef Travis Lett and former Bon Appetit editor-in-chief Barbara Fairchild.
Word of Favreau’s participation leaked out to the dining room as the evening progressed. He had been assigned to assist on Choi’s delicate Santa Barbara spot prawn dish, which featured sea urchin and salmon roe. Wearing chef whites and a black bandana, he perspired as he prepped a pile of shellfish while keeping his head intently down. The rest of the kitchen staff bustled by, not giving him any special attention. This was clearly participatory, not observational, research.
As the final seating of diners was served dessert -- a Matcha green tea ice cream and Bing cherry sorbet with yuzu meringue and a black sesame crisp -- the kitchen began to relax. The trio of pro chefs ushered Favreau out of his spot on the line, challenging him to make them an omelet as they teased and took pictures. The director, happily hazed, broke his eggs obligingly.
When THR asked Choi about the mentoring, the chef noted that the director has been with him for several weeks now: “In all of my kitchens, working his way through, to see what it’s really all about -- the whole journey.”
Open Road Films will distribute Chef and has announced a May 9, 2014, release date. Favreau is set to direct and star. Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sofia Vergara and John Leguizamo round out the ensemble cast.