Review – Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator

With the popularity of Master Chef and Gordon Ramsay memes on the internet ever since 2020, one would expect that cooking video games would see a resurgence. Although, with the exception of Lost Recipes, which was released solely on VR devices, we haven’t seen a new Cooking Mama or anything like that. Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator, while not as easy-going or family-friendly as that inexplicably successful franchise, is trying to fill in this specific, but noteworthy niche. So, did this cooking simulator developed by the makers of Blood Bowl 3 and Call of Cthulhu (no, really) do well enough to earn a Michelin star?

Chef Life Steak

Go grill that steak on a proper grill you maniacs.

After creating my own chef (who ended up looking like a Sims 2 character, given how dated the visuals in particular section were), I was presented with the news that I was ready to open my own restaurant with a buddy of mine. After a detailed tutorial section, where I was struggling to cook a steak with fries given how ugly the UI for it was, I was told it was our time to shine. Learn how to cook new recipes, make them properly with skill and fresh ingredients, present them to customers, make money, use said money to upgrade our restaurant, and so on. More than just a cooking simulator, Chef Life is a restaurateur simulator. It mixes business skills and gastronomy, unlike its peers.

Chef Life UI

Chef Life features an ugly and intrusive UI for a game about finesse and style.

Chef Life succeeds by not making either of these gameplay elements overly complicated. Cooking is all about following steps and partaking on small QTEs (flip steaks, rotate mixes, know when to properly remove chips from the fryer) with timing and finesse. The business aspect comes after you’ve earned your well-deserved bucks after a shift. Look for better (or cheaper, depending on how trashy you are) suppliers, purchase better equipment, and so on. It’s a gameplay loop that works, despite the small amount of jank and unimpressive presentation (the graphics outside of the appealing dishes are bland and the music is just decent enough).

Issues are apparent if you decide to play this simulator with a mouse and keyboard, which would be otherwise considered second nature for a simulator. The key placement and controls are just way too confusing and far from intuitive. Using a controller, on the other hand, removes these issues almost completely. Sadly, the UI cannot be fixed. It wasn’t a terribly neat one, especially for a game about fancy dining, where looks and aesthetics are the core principles of the experience. Otherwise, there aren’t that many glaring issues with the game, besides its niche appeal.

Chef Life QTEs

Make sure to play the PC version of Chef Life with a controller. The keyboard-and-mouse controls are not ideal.

Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator doesn’t try to impress anyone other than its core audience. If you’re not into cooking games, such as the now-dormant Cooking Mama series, or, at most, business simulators, then this game will have nothing you’d find appealing. Otherwise, the sheer amount of recipes, Michelin endorsement, and intuitive mixture of gameplay styles are enough to satisfy gamers who are also culinary enthusiasts. Just make sure you have a controller in hand if you decide to buy it on Steam. In a scale from Pizza Hut to Gordon Ramsay, this game scores an honest Guy Fieri.


Graphics: 7.0

It retains a somewhat “Sims 2“-ish visual approach that feels a bit dated for 2023 standards… but the dishes and ingredients look good enough.

Gameplay: 7.5

Best enjoyed with a controller, since the mouse-and-keyboard setup is far from intuitive. Cooking is all about following steps and partaking on small QTEs, which is fun enough, considering the genre and premise.

Sound: 6.5

The funky music being played while you cook is decent. Other sound effects present in the game are just too forgettable to be mentioned.

Fun Factor: 7.5

A niche experience, but one with enough content and a competent gameplay loop to keep culinary enthusiasts busy in front of the computer screen for hours on end.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, and  Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.

A copy of Chef Life: A Restaurant Simulator was provided by the publisher.