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Going With Your Gut in a Food Truck

A Conative Movie Review

Have you seen the movie Chef? The first 20 minutes are a perfect picture of what happens when a boss, teacher, or parent compels you to ignore your instinctive strengths, and it’s nothing good!

Carl Casper, the film’s protagonist (played by Jon Favreau), is a culinary genius as well as the highly regarded chef at an up-and-coming restaurant in Los Angeles.  However, when Carl’s instinctive talents are restrained by his boss (who is more interested in turning a respectable and predictable profit than in taking risks with creative changes to his menu), Carl eventually releases his frustration in an over-the-top emotional outburst toward a prominent food critic.

While watching this pivotal scene, one suspects that on some level Carl realizes that he is not “exploding” because of the critic’s poor review (which he knows is spot on); rather, he’s reacting to the fact that he’s being crushed by his own situation. 

Any audience member familiar with Kolbe Wisdom™ will recognize that Carl has been suffering from a severe case of conative stress.  As that kind of stress continues to grow, emotional “explosions” of one form or another are entirely predictable.  What is interesting about this movie is how it demonstrates that such explosions are not necessarily unhealthy or even bad for one’s career – though their repercussions may appear devastating in the short term. 


Indeed, Carl soon finds himself humiliated, unemployed, detached from those he loves, and without direction.  As he tells his close friend Molly, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I’ve never not known what I was going to do. I’m lost.”

To which Molly replies, “I think that’s a good place to start.”

Carl is left with no option but to “go with his gut.”  He decides to prepare food in his own way and in the only place that’s available to him – a 30-year-old food truck that serves as the perfect metaphor for his conative condition.  Like Carl’s career, the vehicle has become dilapidated from years of neglect.  However, once Carl cleans it up and removes and replaces equipment that is either not working or not necessary, the truck takes his culinary career on an exciting and reinvigorating journey that leads to his next big professional adventure.

Almost immediately, Carl regains his smile.  His personal and professional lives – which he had previously tried to isolate from one another – become intertwined and begin to change in ways he could not have anticipated.  His embrace of these changes becomes the focus of the entire movie.

Although the script never mentions the word “conative,” Chef is a two-hour celebration of what it means to rely on your “instinctive strengths” and how doing so will affect you and those around you.  It’s a fun movie – but it may leave you feeling hungry for a really good sandwich.


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