Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) turns the lights on in the kitchen of the restaurant he works at, beginning to prepare some good food. He cracks garlic cloves, gets his spices and sauces ready, leaving no stone unturned. Coming in after him are his co-workers Martin (John Leguizamo) and Tony (Bobby Cannavale), the latter of which is hungover from the previous night. They pull a pork apart for bacon when Carl remembers to pick up his son Percy (Emjay Anthony).
Percy lives with his mother/Carl's ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara). Although Percy loves his dad, Carl doesn't always put in as much time as he wants to for the boy. He takes him out to the farmers market to get some food. Percy gets a bag of kettle corn and Carl buys both of them New Orleans-based food, inspiring Percy to want to go down there and try authentic Louisiana cuisine.
Carl and his cohorts prep up the kitchen for the arrival of renowned food critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt). Carl's boss Riva (Dustin Hoffman) bugs Carl about sticking to the menu as it has been for the past decade that Carl has been working there, since the last time Carl tried to change things up, nobody ordered his food. Riva leaves Carl to cook what he's best at, so Carl decides to serve Ramsey food such as caviar with eggs as a starter, and later a chocolate lava cake for dessert. That night, as Carl and his buddies celebrate at the bar, Carl reads Ramsey's review on his phone. Ramsey starts by praising the food he ate from Carl a decade earlier, but the review becomes less and less pleasant for Carl to read as he finds that Ramsey wrote his food off as "needy" and less ambitious than Carl used to deliver, leaving them with two stars. A discouraged Carl smokes a joint with his friend/the restaurant's hostess Molly (Scarlett Johansson), who comforts him and then lets him cook her some pasta. She takes one bite and lets out a satisfied sigh.
While bonding with Percy, Carl inquires about Twitter, since Martin and Tony kept telling him "Fuck Twitter" earlier at work. Percy explains to Carl the gist of Twitter as he sets up an account for him, leading them to find out that Ramsey's review went viral. Thousands of Ramsey's followers retweeted the review, causing others to write Carl off as well. Later, as Carl keeps going through the tweets of others, he decides to write back to Ramsey by saying "You wouldn't know a good meal if it sat on your face." The next morning, Percy tells Carl that he's received over 1000 followers since the past night, and that he is trending on the site for writing back to Ramsey. Carl believed he was sending a private message to him, unaware that he made a public reply. Ramsey wrote back with "I'd rather have you sit on my face after a brisk walk than to suffer that fucking lava cake again." At work, Carl send out another angry tweet to Ramsey, saying he's gonna have a new menu prepared for him that night.
Carl and the staff get ready to prepare a new menu for Ramsey, as well as the other patrons who are coming after reading the challenging tweet, but Riva comes in and tells him to stick to the menu and to run anything through him if he wants to post it online. He gives Carl an ultimatum - make the food that's on the menu, or leave. Carl chooses the latter, leaving Tony to be head chef. Carl goes home to make food while Molly and Riva personally tend to Ramsey. They serve him the same dull, unappealing food that he ate during his previous visit, while Carl prepares mouthwatering grilled beef with his own dessert. He calls Molly to stall Ramsey until he gets there. Once at the restaurant, Carl lets loose on Ramsey in front of the other patrons, angrily telling him he is not needy and that the review won't get to him, even though it clearly struck a nerve. Video footage of Carl's freakout hits the web, and he tries to get Inez's publicist Jen (Amy Sedaris) to do something about it, but she says there are probably countless other videos that captured him at the restaurant.
Now jobless and in need of a break, Carl joins Inez and Percy as they go to Miami. They meet with Inez's dad (Jose C. Hernandez), who thinks his daughter and Carl have gotten back together. Inez then sets up a meeting with her other ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey, Jr.), who gives Carl access to a food truck so that he can keep making food how he wants to. He is given a dusty truck that is in desperate need of renovations. Before he gets to fixing it, Carl asks Inez is she ever slept with Marvin after they (Carl and Inez) divorced. She says it almost happened but they never went through with it. Percy joins Carl in fixing up the truck, replacing the oven, stove, and sink. They get into an argument when Carl orders Percy to scrub a tray found in the oven that is filled with a gross and smelly crud that Percy refuses to clean. He runs away after Carl yells at him, but he goes to apologize to his son.
Martin joins the duo in their food truck venture, despite having been promoted to sous chef. They take their truck, now called "El Jefe" across the country, selling Cubano sandwiches to hungry customers. They are stopped by a cop in South Beach who only asks them to move the truck further up, and then asks to take pictures with Carl after recognizing him from his freakout video on "Tosh.0". Percy markets the food truck through Twitter, Facebook, and Vine, spreading word of El Jefe to others across the country. People love the sandwiches and are happy with Carl's food. When they stop off in New Orleans at last, Percy finally gets to try beignets. Along the way, he also takes one-second clips of each day that he spends with his dad and Martin. One night when talking to Inez, Carl tries to tell her about how Percy is really helping them out. While Percy chimes in by saying that he got to try beer and was given a knife by Carl, Carl tries to cut him off by telling Inez that Percy says he loves her, although it sounds more like Carl genuinely saying it to her.
With the summer winding down, Carl tells Percy that it's almost time for him to go back to school and that he can't let him keep working with him. Despite this, a sad Percy agrees to the terms. He is returned home with Inez, but not before reminding Carl to check out the one-second clips video he sent him. Carl opens it to find many clips of him and Percy together on their trip, along with Martin, Inez, and his grandfather. Percy captured their trip to New Orleans, his first beignet, his first beer, and many laughs with Carl. This inspires Carl to call him back up and allow his son to join him on weekends and after school. Percy excitedly goes to ask Inez for permission.
A while later, El Jefe is still going strong, with Inez having joined the crew. While she is serving customers, one of them turns out to be none other than Ramsey Michel. She turns him away, but he is there to talk to Carl. He claims that he sent someone to pick up the food for him, and he really enjoyed it, especially since he knows that Carl is making food the way he wants to. They make amends over their online flame war, and Ramsey proposes to personally back Carl's business without writing about it since he can't back anything he has personal interest in.
Six months later, Carl has opened his own restaurant, also called "El Jefe", with Percy, Martin, and Ramsey working behind him. Additionally, he and Inez have remarried, and her father's band plays in the restaurant as they celebrate, with plenty of great food to go around.
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