Herbert J. Cohen

Kosher Movies: Chef

For the past several years, I have been trying to secure an agent to publish a book of mine. One of the critical questions that agents ask me is what is my social media platform. In other words, agents justifiably want to know the chances of your book making money. The larger the social network, the larger your presence in social media, the greater chance exists that more books can be sold. The question prompted me to join Facebook, LinkedIn, and other Internet social media sites. I even thought about Twitter, but could not wrap my head around how it worked and what its benefits were. Watching Chef made me more acutely aware of the power and pitfalls of social media in the marketplace.

Carl Casper is head chef of a posh restaurant in Los Angeles. One night, the famous restaurant blogger, Ramsey Michael, is planning to visit his restaurant. Carl intends to boggle the mind and palette of the food critic with an innovative menu, but Carl’s boss Riva insists that Carl follow the traditional menu. Carl acquiesces, but the review is cruel and insulting personally to Carl. In anger, Carl challenges Ramsey to visit the restaurant again, using Twitter to send his message. Not realizing that his remarks are public, he creates huge publicity, which mostly works negatively for him. Compounding the problem is Carl’s public meltdown, which is captured on video and goes viral, in which he openly berates Ramsey for his impersonal attitude towards all people who work hard for a living. Professionally, Carl loses all credibility and is fired from his job.

Without a new job in sight, he decides to obtain an old food truck at his ex-wife Inez’s suggestion, and journeys to Miami where he becomes enthralled with Cuban cuisine. His son, Percy, who longs for his father’s attention, asks his father if he can help him restore the truck to its previous shiny condition and Carl accepts his help. The experience unites father and son, providing a catalyst for a new and meaningful relationship between parent and child. Percy, who is savvy about social media, becomes the linchpin for driving Carl’s business to financial success because of his ability to use Twitter to generate new customers.

Proverbs tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue. It is a statement that also can apply to expressing oneself on the Internet or through emails. Electronic messages become an extended form of your speech, and what you utter in those forms has a ripple effect many miles away.

I remember once when I forwarded a friend’s email to another person to save some time rather than transfer the information to a new email, the sender of the original email criticized me for sending it without realizing that the email contained a long series of prior emails that discussed a highly sensitive issue. It should have remained a private matter, but because of my thoughtlessness, the information was now in the public domain.

Chef is a movie with valuable lessons about the consequences of carelessly using social media. On the one hand, it is a useful tool to connect with others, especially in business. It is inexpensive, fast, direct, and personal. Carl’s food truck business soars when the word spreads quickly about how good his food tastes. On the other hand, spreading gossip or slandering another person through social media sites makes one violate the laws of evil speech in an exponential way. The damage, once done, is irreparable because so many people are involved. It is impossible to limit its negative effects. Chef reminds us to think before pressing the send key.


About the Author
Originally from Mt. Vernon, New York, Herbert J. Cohen served in the pulpit rabbinate in Atlanta at the beginning of his career. After six years, he moved into the educational rabbinate and served for 23 years as Principal of Yeshiva High School of Atlanta. In 2010, he and his wife came on aliyah to Israel. His latest book, published by Urim Publishers, is "Kosher Movies: A Film Critic Discovers Life Lessons at the Cinema." He may be reached at
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