The Art of Small


The requirements of success

So much in today’s world is measured by “the big”—big numbers, impressive achievements, wide reach, big salaries. It’s understandable, of course. It’s hard to purchase a lot with “small,” both metaphorically and in real life. But labors of love and a true connection to art often require small, especially at first, and I think there’s a real craving for that in our mass production world. When you focus on pleasing the big crowds (and all that that entails), something gets lost.

That’s certainly the case for celebrity chef Carl Casper in the movie Chef. Losing his “big” job opens up the path to a richer, more authentic, and more connected life. Director and writer Jon Favreau, who helmed the Iron Man franchise and who plays Casper, has here returned to his indie roots, and it’s easy to draw parallels between the crowd-pleasing art that Favreau produces in the form of those Hollywood blockbusters and the crowd-pleasing food “hits” Carl is pressured to produce in the restaurant in which he’s chef. When Casper exits his job at the famed L.A. restaurant in some heated circumstances, he eventually starts up a food truck. This intimate setting—not to mention his refreshed mindset—allows Carl to re-connect with his authentic creativity and craft, as well as with his son, who has borne the brunt of his father’s workaholism.

Taking time for connection and art

One review of the movie criticized it for being slow and essentially plotless, but I don’t agree at all. The movie relishes its storytelling, perfectly appropriate for a labor of love, and it was hands down one of the sweetest movies I’ve seen in awhile. Carl is incredibly respectful of his ex-wife and her say in any parenting matters, magnanimous in his well wishes for his colleagues (even where they’ve profited from his loss), generous with the people around him, and incredibly touching (albeit gruff) as an imperfect father who’s trying to get it right. There is a section of the movie that meanders a bit, but it allowed for some fun bonding as well as for spotlighting the role of Twitter and other forms of social media in generating word-of-mouth marketing. It was fun, like hanging out with friends over a long, delicious meal.

I walked out of the movie feeling happy and hungry—the latter despite its focus on meat (though I will advise to other non-animal eaters that I had to turn my head on an early scene). It was impossible not to admire the themes of integrity, attention to craft, following one’s heart, the importance of relationships, and, of course, the emotional depth with which food affects our life. As Carl says, “I get to touch people’s lives with what I do. I love it.”

Chef is a good reminder of the power of small. It’s also a great testament that “art”—however you define that—is everywhere, in anything. It’s the way you approach what you do that matters.

What do you think?


On the same note, albeit a different medium, be sure to check out this better blogger series profiling how some writers, such as Nina Badzin, have found their own voice.



Filed under Inspiration

5 responses to “The Art of Small

  1. watch this video for inspiration and success, you are gonna like it 😉

  2. For so long there has been something prodding me in the side, annoying me about the state of affairs in the world today. I think you have finally pinpointed at least one source of that angst. There seems to be an overwhelming fascination, and sometimes obsession with what you call the big. Big numbers, big achievements, big experiences. It appears that so many people are engaging in things that they say they love and are passionate about, for the wrong reasons. Instead of partaking in an activity for the inherent joy in doing it, we too often miss out on the experience because we are focused on the big. Sometimes, no maybe most of the time, the small is the big when we allow ourselves to be immersed in it with no concern for the big demands of society. Great post and wonderful trailer, this might be a movie I look up when I get the chance. Thanks again and best wishes for an inspired day 😉

    • “Instead of partaking in an activity for the inherent joy in doing it, we too often miss out on the experience because we are focused on the big.”

      So true, Dave, and thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comment.

  3. Have you seen “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”? The movie is a testament to the art of small, from the simple portrait of a Tokyo sushi chef in the film itself to his 10-seat restaurant with no menu, where apprentices simply massage octopus for years before being allowed to do anything else. I think you’d love it. I’ll be sure to check out “Chef”!

    • I saw someone on twitter comparing the food art/craft aspect of the two movies, and that’s long been on my list, but not yet. I will make a point to see it soon! And definitely let me know what you think of Chef if you do see.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s