Review | Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator

Originally published at: Review | Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator - XboxEra

Our little publication has grown over the years, and we’ve decided that it’s time to expand into new frontiers: the kitchen. I don’t think anyone on the team is a very good cook, however, so we’ll stick with what we know best—the almighty video game. This is where Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator comes into play. Developed by Cyanide Studio and published by Nacon, this game promises to lead you through the upbringings of a local eatery for the neighbourhood to becoming a Michelin-starred restaurant (yes, the tyre company). And for what it’s worth, the game does a fine job of not only offering a unique restaurant experience you can have virtually but can be a cathartic or sweaty experience.

Let’s dive into the world of cutlery.

Heck’s Kitchen

In Chef Life, players start off by creating their own chef prior to walking into their new restaurant. This character creator is fairly limited, so don’t go in expecting too much, but I imagine you’re just here to cook. And so, the game is happy to let you do that, diving into not just the foodstuff creation process, but customising your establishment, managing stock and employee welfare, keeping your customers happy, your ecological footprint and all that other busy work. It starts off small but quickly grows as you pick up on more recipes, get more staff, and expand your restaurant.

Starting off with the cooking gameplay, it’s as easy as following prompts on the screen to complete actions such as tossing up a salad, beating an egg, cutting up ingredients, and more. Things get more complicated as you progress through the instructions of a recipe. When at a frying step, for example, you may need to insert particular ingredients at specific phases of the dish being cooked or flip it about to make sure sides remain even.

Seasoning is a must for some dishes and sometimes customers may ask that their meats be cooked for longer. It’s easy to forget that you’re running a restaurant of course, so you’ll need to balance your focus between multiple dishes to make sure they get sent out on time. Not to mention, some steps to a recipe are time sensitive—you’ll need to make sure that you’re combining all the required ingredients within a good timeframe so that you don’t send out cold food. Shy people, don’t worry—your customers here will be far nicer than any other service-related work.

This all might sound daunting, but it really isn’t too bad. For starters, you’ll have plenty of time to make preparations. One aspect of running your own establishment is that you get to decide on the menu and cut up foodstuffs ahead of time. From the start of the day all the way until you open up shop, there’s plenty of time to check out requests from regulars to directing staff to prepare meals. The game starts off fairly slow in this regard and opens up over time which gave me a lot of comfort, as I was concerned that my inability to cook in real life would find its way into the game. The foods you get to cook look tasty too, stuff you’ll see from Michelin restaurants all over the world. And you can change the plating of a dish to your liking, provided you can muck about with how food plops onto the dish.

Plus, there are accessibility options you can turn on, such as fewer customers coming in, no-fail dishes, and even turning off the time limit on when orders should be fulfilled. It’s a very handy set of options and I had some of them on for quite a while until I found myself comfortable with managing operations. There are a lot of specific settings you can enable too, such as making your restaurant vegetarian only.

#1 Boss Award

Speaking of operations, that’s the other half of the game that you’ll need to pay attention to. You’ll need to buy ingredients and stock up when there are good sales, but you also need to watch where you source your foods from as that could impact your eco responsibility standing, which impacts your coworker’s ability to work (I didn’t quite understand this one much). Menu management includes learning new recipes and upgrading the ones you already know, which will attract more customers and in turn, more revenue. Equipment doesn’t come cheap, y’know. And there’s a lot of tools you’ll need to buy or even double up on, so your kitchen is working at capacity.

Now I do have to say that I am not a fan of the user interface very much. It’s a bit cumbersome to navigate especially when you’re working on a timer. You might take out more ingredients than you want to in the heat of the moment, and sometimes notifications may not be as helpful as they should be, especially when multiple overlap. Another issue I have with the game is that it has a very tight policy of only letting prepped ingredients move into the restaurant’s opening if they’re in a fridge. You’ll get much more storage later on, but it doesn’t make much sense why some prepped foods (like soups on a tray) sitting out on the counter ready to be served will just up and vanish once it’s time to open. This also includes ingredients sitting in your inventory as well, and sometimes you’ll forget to put something away making serving time just a little harder.

On a smaller note, I did run into a bug related to this where one of my blending stations became unusable because I had left pesto on it prior to opening the shop. Thankfully restarting the game will load you prior to opening hours, but it’s a nuisance, nonetheless.

Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator is the best kind of laidback experience you could ask for. Being able to cook meals at your own pace as well as making the restaurant your own space feels cathartic and you could spend hours unlocking and upgrading meals. Not to mention how you decorate your restaurant to appeal to certain crowds, building your own wardrobe, etcetera. A Michelin-star worthy game.

As of this review’s writing, the game is currently available on Steam. The Xbox version will launch late next month on the 28th..