Food, Passion, Father and Son
Some of my fondest memories today consist of the
time I spent with my father working side by side.
Actually, it was not all fun but it gave me a sense
of closeness with him, a growing sense of personal
mastery with the tasks we completed together and an
understanding of what work was and what it meant to
be a passionate working man.
Last night, on the eve of Fathers Day, I
saw the movie Chef with Jon Favreau
(Elf) playing Carl Casper, a head chef working in a
successful restaurant in LA, friends with an
ex-spouse but somewhat estranged from their ten
year old son.
Carl loves to cook and commands the respect of
all the staff who work with him but the owner
wont let him stray too far from the standard
menu so his passions are constantly kept in check.
Ever been in a situation like that yourself? Carl
and a food critic get into a tussle that ends with
Carl leaving his long tenure at the restaurant and
suddenly finding himself totally broke and on his
Carl tries to be the father he feels he never
was when living as a family but it takes awhile for
his son, brilliantly played by Emjay Anthony to
convince Carl that all he wants is to be with his
father, learn from him and share in his passion for
preparing food, really really good food. And there
is something this ten year old already excels at
that ends up being a big help in transforming his
I dont want to spoil it for you because I
want you to see the movie. Its treatment of
gender relations is surprisingly healthy with two
women in Carls life only trying to help him
live his real passion full out despite old baggage
with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara) and some sexual
tension but mostly sweet friendship with the
restaurant hostess played by Scarlet Johannson.
Neither gives up any of themselves to help Carl
believe in himself.
I loved the scenes of male bonding between Carl
and his pal from the LA scene (line cook played by
John Leguizamo) that more than fortifies the
journey Carl and his son travel across country in a
food truck and more deeply into each others
hearts. Not billed as a Fathers Day special,
its very special and says more about the
struggle of many fathers today than most
non-fiction Ive run across. Plus, it has some
absolutely gut-splitting moments.
One of the effects of the Great Recession has
been dads out of work. One of the side effects has
been more dads spending time with their kids, in
some cases becoming the primary caregiver at
Just this past week the Pew Research Center
released a report that 2.2 million U.S. dads stayed
at home with their kids in 2010, slipping down to 2
million by 2012 as the jobless rate eased up.
Stay at home dads were defined as those not
employed in the prior year and living with children
17 years old or younger.
The largest share of at-home dads, 35 percent,
said they were home due to illness or disability.
Roughly 23 percent said it was mainly because they
couldnt find a job, and 21 percent said it
was specifically to care for home or family.
By contrast, 1.1 million men were at home dads
in l989, the earliest year those kinds of data were
available. The 21 percent in 2012 who cited caring
for home and children as the reason for being out
of the workforce was up from 5 percent in l989 to
18 percent in 2007, the start of the recession.
The study states that while unemployment is a
factor overall, a convergence of gender roles has
made it more acceptable for dads to be caregivers
and mom to be responsible for breadwinning, though
affluent highly educated dads at home raising
children remain a subset.
Despite the phenomenon gaining greater
acceptance other Pew research shows 51 percent of
the public believes kids are better off when the
mother stays at home compared to 8 percent that
In the movie Chef, there is worry and concern by
mom for the safety and welfare of her child on this
road trip. But she also seems to know he is having
the time of his life with dad and surrogate
As in my own experience at age 10 and for
Caspars son, there are some rites of passage
that require a mens only time, space and
Enjoy the movie Chef, while celebrating
and supporting more closeness and nurturing between
father and son wherever and whenever it can be
* * *
Crutcher has over three decades of experience as a
teacher, counselor, and community
organizer/builder. He is a personal and
professional development coach, facilitator, and
consultant to both large institutions and small
organizations in the public, private, and
non-profit sectors. He has done extensive work with
men and boys to become all they can be having
opened one of the first state grant funded
mens counseling centers in America. He
developed programs to assist men in learning
alternatives to violence, father and son workshops
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