"You have to see this movie."
I love conversations that begin this way. With a command. That means my friend, who knows me intimately, has something to share that I would love. And, in this case, MUST SEE.
Further explanation comes: "It's got salsa music and Cuban food. You have to see this movie." There's an urgent tone in her voice.
The movie in question is called "Chef" and is the brainchild of accomplished director and actor, Jon Favreau. My salsa-dancing-Cuban-food-loving friend, Rosabelle dragged me to see it.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I caught her urgent tone. Why hadn't I heard of this film? It's got a great plot, hilarious moments, clever storyline, wonderful acting.
This synopsis from IMDB: A chef who loses his restaurant job starts up a food truck in an effort to reclaim his creative promise, while piecing back together his estranged family.
That's the premise: a chef starts a food truck. But people, he starts by cooking CUBAN SANDWICHES. And yuca fries. And arroz con pollo. And he marinates the pork ("pierna") in mojo criollo.
When was the last time a movie spoke our language as clearly as this?
If you can still find it in a theater near you, go see this gem of a movie. (Warning: lots of f-bombs are dropped, but not gratuitously. It makes sense to the plot.)
Immediately after I went to see Chef, (in fact, as I was leaving the theater) I text my daughter, Amy: ""You have to see this movie."
I make arrangements to take her and Lucy. After the 3 of us had seen it, Lucy took her boyfriend to see it. "You have to see this movie."
Then I insisted that Eric and Jon go, too. "You have to see this movie." (Yes, I went to see it 3 times, but that's not important right now.)
It's difficult to explain without giving too much away, so I end up sounding like a crazy person. "He's a chef. And he gets a food truck. And he makes Cubanos! And the music! Trust me. You have to see this movie!"
It turned out that Monday, July 21st, Jonathan had an audition just a few blocks away from that very spot, at 5:30. It didn't take much convincing on my part to get them to go.
He and Lucy found Animal Restaurant on Fairfax and saw that a line had already started to form, so they just jumped in and started texting me the play-by-play.
"The line's not too long. You can smell the sandwiches from where we are."
"Mom, he's here. Jon Favreau is HERE. And he's headed our way."
And then, these photos:
They said he was lovely and personable and funny and took the time to greet everyone in line, while they blurted out something to the effect of: "We're Cuban! And Mom cooks! And we loved the movie!"
After they got over the fun celebrity encounter, and as they approached the front of the line, the smell, they said, became overwhelmingly intoxicating. My people, of course, have been raised to recognize the awesome that is roasted pork.
"The Cubanos look amazing!"
"They're using real butter…"
"…and a genuine Cuban plancha."
And so the texts and photos kept coming.
The world of the food they'd grown up with and the world of movie magic colliding in a wonderful explosion of the Best-Cuban-Sandwich-Ever-Yes-Even-Better-Than-Mami's.
If you've never had a Cuban Sandwich, or Cubano, here's the recipe: The Sandwich Generation.
We're grateful to Jon Favreau for putting Cuban Sandwiches on the map with Chef. And I'm particularly grateful that he made those Cubanos accessible to my Cubanos via the screen and in person.
Well played, Mr. Favreau. Well played.
"You have to see this movie."