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Chef: A Restaurant Tycoon Game - Early Access Review

Chef A Tycoon Game Header

Chef is a tycoon game by Italian developers Inner Void and published by Digital Tribe.  I discovered this game a few weeks ago in the Steam upcoming items and the developers have kindly provided me with a copy of the game to have a look at now that it has entered Early Access.

The game lets you take the reigns of planning and running a restaurant empire and managing every aspect.  This ranges from ensuring you have the basic equipment required, to hiring and firing of staff, to a list of policies which are available.  These policies include things such as cleaning and advertising contracts.

When you first start a game you have a few choices to make.  Firstly you need to create your avatar using the standard options of head, hair colour, clothing colour etc.  Secondly you must decide which restaurant to rent from a randomised list.  There are a number of restaurants to choose from when you first start out.  These have a variety of things to consider when selecting your location.

Customising our avatar

They have a mix of small, medium and large kitchens and dining halls, locations, perks and mixture of clientelle.  For example, a countryside location may not attract blue collar workers, but will have a higher rent as it may be on a nature reserve, where a restaurant in an industrial district won't attract families but will also have a generally lower number of diners.  As you progress and begin to make money you are able to move to a new restaurant.

Left: Showing a potential site showing the Landmark perk.  Right: A potential site with the Isolated penalty

Whilst it is tempting just to jump at the largest potential site for maximum space, or the smallest for maximum cash it is worthwhile thinking it through a bit.  In one game I decided not to take the cheapest site as it was in an isolated mountain region, but wen't for a middle-priced site which, despite being near a dock which can reduce diners, had a world famous landmark nearby which would attract tourists.

When you load in there is a tutorial which will guide you through the finer points of being a restarateur, but you can skip this if you wish.  I would recommend playing through it on your first time as some of the gameplay points were not very intuitive to me even with the tutorial assistance (NOTE: This has started to be addressed in post release patches).

Our first diners in our modest dining room

Your first order is to kit out your restaurant for it's first diners.  You will need to make sure that you have some equipment for prepping and cooking meals and some tables for your diners.  There are also some (very) limited options for customising your restaurant in the form of a handful of table varieties and decorations.

You can also decide which items are added to your menu.  Which items you can add to your menu is dependant on what coking equipment you have in your kitchen - you can't grill steak without a grill or roast potatoes without an oven.  At the start you have a limited number of options available, but as you progress your chef gets skill points which allow you to upgrade your skills and learn new recipes or you can create your own in the Recipe Editor.  You will also be able to unlock new, and higher quality, ingredients in the Ingredients Panel.

Selecting the dishes for our menu by dragging from right to left

You will also need some staff to help run your restaurant.  You can hire waiters and additional chefs in the staff panel.  These candidates all have their own unique set of skills which will affect (positively or negatively) how well they will work and any effects they will have on your guests.

Top Left: The chef skill screen with no points. Top Right: Another page of the skill screen with points spent, after spending 5 points the next tier of that page is unlocked. Bottom: The ingredients panel where you can unlock new ingredients

Once you have opened your restaurant there isn't very much input you have for the day-to-day running of the restaurant.  Setting up your restaurant and the customising of your menu is interesting and can be fun experimenting with different combinations, particularly whilst making new dishes, however once the restaurant opens it feels very passive and there isn't much you feel that you have to react to or any sense of urgency. 

A larger dining room with a number of clients perusing the menu

My overall verdict for the game?  I'd probably say you are best to wait for a few updates (although they are pushing them out fairly quickly).  There are a number of issues for me with the game.  I played for a while and saved, then when I went back to the game later I couldn't continue, as I hadn't completed the tutorial despite playing for about 40 minutes, with many options being locked out and the English language localisation is a bit off in places.  The tutorial also has issues with some instructions which are unclear, but improving with patches, and parts of the game which are not overly intuitive.  That said, there is definitely some potential there, the game is Early Access and had 2 patches pushed within the first couple of days of launch.


  • Detailed skill/progression system
  • Varied restaurant perks
  • Interesting recipe creation system
  • Regularly being updated


  • Tutorial needs more work
  • Language localisation clumsy
  • Character models and animations often misaligned with world objects
  • Gameplay outwith initial set-up feels passive
Chef is available to purchase now from Steam priced at £15.49/$19.99

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