We've all seen movies where a dumb character needs to get some advice, but they're self conscious about their problem, so they try to phrase their question as if it was about somebody else. Of course, being dumb they have a hard time creating a plausible ruse, so everyone immediately sees through them. "I have a friend who needs to know how to get an arrow out of their head," they might say, knowing full well that the arrow that is sticking out of their head is completely visible to anyone with eyes.
Chef is a movie about cooking, but it's really a movie about movie making. It's so transparent about it's true intentions it might as well have an arrow coming out of it's forehead.
Technically, Chef is about Carl Casper. Casper used to be a young chef who showed promise, but he signed up to work at a restaurant where the owner has no vision. The owner wants the menu to be full of nothing but comfort foods, because that's what his customers want. One day a food critic comes along and savages Casper's cooking for being bland and safe and Casper loses his mind, because he, too, wants the food to be more exotic. He quits his job, then decides to go buy a food truck with the hope that with less overhead and more direct contact with customers he can rediscover what lead him to fall in love with food in the first place.
Chef's writer, director and star is Jon Favreau, who directed the first two Iron Man films. The first Iron Man is about as good of a superhero movie as you're going to get, but the second one was really hampered by Marvel's insistence that it set up the Avengers. Critics really lambasted all the unnecessary scenes with Nick Fury, which they felt really slowed the story down, but Favreau probably had no choice; at the end of the day, it was Marvel's show more than it was his, and they clearly wanted him to shoehorn in a bunch of exposition that would help them build their multiverse up. After the frustration of Iron Man 2, Favreau left to make a little indie movie with low stakes, probably in the hopes that it would rekindle the passion that lead him into the movies to begin with.
With such transparent ruses, it's up to the audience to decide how to respond. If you are feeling charitable, you might play along, and give "the friend" the advice they need without calling them out on their lie. But if you're feeling mean, you might call them an idiot that deserved to get an arrow in their head.
For me, the defining aspect of Chef is that it's an amiable movie. There are no villains in the movie; the restaurant owner might be short sighted, but he just wants to make his customers happy, which is not the worst thing in the world. The food critic might come off like a dick, but he's only disappointed in Casper because he really wants him to succeed, and it pains him to see Casper turning in such mediocre work. And Casper himself is a generous guy whos is trying to juggle all the demands on his time and his energy as best he can. They are all in conflict at different points, but they all have their own form of integrity.
So, yes, it's easy to see through Chef, and yes, the plot is pretty aimless, and yes, Iron Man Two did suck, even if it wasn't Jon Favreau's fault. But personally, I'm inclined to just let it ride. Hopefully Chef helped Favreau exorcise his frustrations, and now that he's pulled that arrow out of his forehead he can go back to making movies that are a little more adventurous and maybe a little less transparent.