Whether it is the majestic orchestral score or the beautiful, slow motion shots of delicately crafted food being plated by master chefs, there is an awe-inspiring quality about “Chef’s Table” that keeps you engaged and coming back for seconds.
This six-part “portrait of a chef” docuseries on Netflix is unlike any cooking show I have ever seen. While most entries in the genre these days are broken down into extravagant competitions and outrageous challenges, “Chef ’s Table” is layered with elegance, inspiration, and personality. The series chronicles the successes, failures, motivations, and of course, imaginative dishes from six elite chefs from around the world: Massimo Bottura, Dan Barber, Francis Mallmann, Niki Nakayama, Ben Shewry, and Magnus Nilsson.
These chefs are not only changing the way we perceive each individual ingredient in a dish, but they are also revolutionizing the way food is presented, especially for those in the produce industry. Their ingredients become more than just a mere component; the food is elevated to an art form.
It’s difficult to capture exactly what’s so captivating about a series that seamlessly blends the aesthetics and mood of food-theater into a one-hour show in words alone. Though these photographs speak volumes about these chefs’ dishes, the stories they tell about their drive to cook is enough to influence anyone interested in food.
Take Dan Barber, for instance. He is considered by many to be the voice of the farm-to-table movement. His agricultural background and desire to utilize the whole farm rather than just a single product pushes him to use ingredients that aren’t popular among many. He says, “It’s not about the dish, it’s about what the radish represents,” meaning that you need good ingredients for good flavor. Chef Barber tells a story about how he came back from the farmer’s market with a couple cases of asparagus only to find that his restaurant already had cases lined to the ceiling with asparagus. That night, he decided that every dish would incorporate asparagus in some way, even the ice cream. A high-caliber restaurant reviewer happened to walk in and loved every dish, calling it the epitome of farm-to-table.
That is just one of the many triumphant stories you will hear in “Chef ’s Table.” You will easily find yourself rooting for Chef Nakayama and the pressure she faces to stand out in a male-dominated industry, or motivated by Chef Nilsson’s ambition to continually invent and create fantastic dishes even with vegetables that aren’t fresh and are instead preserved and stored in a cellar. There is something to learn for everyone, whether you are drawn toward Chef Mallmann’s interest in the sensual experience of food and his passion for the outdoors, Chef Shewry’s ability to use emotion and color to animate what’s on the plate, or Chef Bottura’s quest to bring traditional Modenese cuisine to the 21st century.
I highly encourage everyone in the produce industry to watch just one episode. If you haven’t seen “Chef ’s Table” yet, you may find yourself hooked. And with a second, third, and fourth season on the way, there couldn’t be a better time to jump aboard.