photo courtesy: www.thewrap.com
The first time I saw Chef's Table, the first season was inconspicuously placed in my Netflix queue as something in which I might be interested. It was Sunday, I was bored and so I ventured. What unfolded in the next hour was a beautiful, personal, food-driven documentary about Massimo Bottura, the famed Executive Chef of Osteria Francescana in Moderna, Italy (which is now rated as the #1 best restaurant in the world according to San Pellegrino's 50 Best List). I was hooked and could not stop watching until the very last episode was over. I was starving for more but it would be another year until that thirst was quenched. Quenched it was, as I am happy to report the second season delivered.
If you haven't caught the second season of Chef's Table you are behind the game big time. David Gelb, of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, delivers the same romantic and inspiring episodes he produced the first time around. In each episode of Season 2, which premiered on May 27, he focuses on one particular chef, their restaurant, and their backstory. Each episode is an opportunity for the viewer to get a rare look into the psyche of a successful chef and help them to understand how such creative food is produced. The audience also gets a glimpse into their personal lives--from Dominique Crenn's recent passing of her father to Grant Achatz's struggle with stage four tongue cancer.
The way Gelb tells his story his highly palatable as well. The cinematography is so artistic; every shot could be a framed photograph. The music composition matches the elevation of the cuisine in a stylistically classy way. It is this type of format which makes Chef's Table, Season 2 appeal to the masses. It is not just another foodie show or something which only culinarians could enjoy.
On the flip side, if you are an aspiring culinarian, you need to watch this series. We are novice chefs in culinary school bound by deadlines and tests. For the next two or three years, we are sequestered among these walls and limited by financial resources (for the most part). What Gelb does during each hour show is transport the viewer to another time and place. From the rolling hillside of Slovenia, to the bustling, colorful streets of Bangkok, and the jungles of the Amazon, you are there with the chefs cooking their food. You are in their kitchen; you feel the heat when Crenn screams an order. You are there to feel the comradery of Enrique Olevera's kitchen when the whole staff tries a new dish. You are there sitting beside Gagaan as he anxiously waits for his name to be called at Asia's 50 Best reveal. Most importantly, you are there inside the mind of a chef as they walk you through their process of creating new dishes. I am not sure how many of us have the time or ability to travel to Brazil, L.A., Mexico, or Slovenia to experience these items in person. Which is why I think it is extremely important for us to devour them through media.
With Season 2, Chef's Table continues to be an important docu-series for the moment; a food-driven biographical series which appeals to both industry insiders and the lay person. This series sets expectations high with poignant delivery of memoirs for some of the greatest culinary artists of our time. I will continue to be on the lookout as Netflix has renewed the series for a third and fourth season already, with the next season focusing solely in France.