I’m a relatively content person. I can watch anything, read anything, do almost anything, and find some enjoyment out of it. But one thing that makes me really passionate, and somewhat elitist, is food. I really love, and desire, good food. Now add that with my relative contentness with all things, I’m someone who enjoys quality food of all flavors, and I can appreciate a well done meal from any nationality—at the very least of all the cultures I’ve tried so far. I think most of fine dining comes from fine chefs who put a lot of themselves into the dish, which is why the new Netflix series Chef’s Table caught my eye.
Chef’s Table is a six-episode documentary series following a different world-renowned chef each episode, with special care taken in showing what makes them different. For those of you who have watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi about the Michelin three-star sushi chef, you will find a very similar style since director David Gelb has a large hand in both works. However, for those not informed, this means the focus is much more on the chef, the history and their processes, with little snippets of some of their signature dishes as they fit in terms of the chef’s story. This is not a “how you cook” show, it is a “why you cook” documentary.
The first two episodes are probably the best at outlining the series, at least in terms of having incredibly compelling characters. The first chef, the Italian Massimo Bottura, is a Michelin three-star chef whose episode catalogues his modernization of the Italian kitchen, the huge role his wife has played in his work as his partner, and his struggle to attain both of these things. The second chef, Dan Barber, began as a run-of-the-mill chef until his desire for the best flavor led to wanting the best ingredients through direct control of his produce and livestock, with sustainable farming and plants genetically modified to taste better and not just feed more people.
In just these two chefs, you can see the breadth in not only the varying approaches to high-figure caliber cooking, but how the show captures these chefs who are world class for different reasons. Not only that, but Gelb brilliantly finds chefs who in some ways have it all figured out, but show how they have humility in terms of what they have not perfected in their personal lives or have learned through their own mistakes. This is a must-watch for those who want to know what makes an expert chef and for those who want to see something in the vein of Jiro Dreams of Sushi. For someone new to the culinary world or experience, there is a lot to appreciate and it is all expressed for even the layman to understand, so why not give it a taste?