On the set of Iron Man 2, Gwyneth Paltrow shouted the crew and director Jon Favreau mouth-watering meals from the famous Kogi BBQ food truck to say thank you.
As Favreau tucked into their short rib tacos, little did he know that years down the track the owner of Kogi food truck – chef Roy Choi – would play a huge part in one of his films.
After Favreau wrote his latest movie Chef (which he also produces, directs and stars in) the foodies among his staff pointed out the similarities between the main character’s story and what actually happened to Choi in real life.
Favreau says like his character, chef Carl Casper, Choi had traditional training and went to the Culinary Institute of America.
“He had worked in a very big hotel kitchen and he was working his way up the ladder when it all fell apart, and he came back,” he says.
“He was actually a trailblazer in the food truck area.
“He was the first guy to match it up with Twitter and use social networking, so there are tremendous parallels to the story I had written.”
Favreau reached out to Choi for help to learn the tricks of the trade and make sure the film captured the chef culture authentically.
Choi was on set every day – first as a consultant then as co-producer – making sure the filmmakers got everything right, from the knives to the way Carl ties his apron.
“He related very much to the story and he liked my movies,” Favreau says of Choi’s decision to come on board.
“He was my mentor and we’ve been buddies ever since.”
Choi wasn’t Favreau’s only buddy on the Chef set.
The cast also features Scarlett Johansson, who Favreau first worked with on Iron Man 2, as well as Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr.
The two shared the screen frequently in the Iron Man films, with Favreau playing Iron Man (aka Tony Stark)’s onscreen bodyguard, friend and chauffeur, Happy Hogan.
Favreau says it was great to work with Downey Jr again, who plays something of an onscreen rival of his in Chef.
“I knew that it was a role where the character was going to beat up on my character a bit,” he says, adding it might not have been enjoyable for Carl, but it was great fun for him and Downey Jr to film.
“He just got to get under my skin as far as he could, but he’s just such a charming guy that even when he’s playing a bastard, he’s so likeable…
“And of course, you want to give Robert a moment to shine and steal the movie and he certainly did not disappoint.”
* Chef releases in Australian cinemas on May 8