By Joe Carrel, Buffalo Exchange HQ
I’m not a foodie. Not even close. Most of my dining experiences involve the phrase, “I’ll have the #9.” So I was more than a bit skeptical when a friend recommended I try the Netflix series Chef’s Table. Once I began watching, however, that skepticism soon transformed into an appetite for more. How so? Let’s just say that this show, like all good recipes, contains a secret ingredient.
The premise of Chef’s Table is simple – profile one world-class chef per episode. That’s it. So why, after just six episodes, did Netflix promptly order 16 more?
It’s all in the presentation.
In season one we discover how, after a devastating earthquake in Italy threatened the Parmesan cheese business, chef Massimo Bottura hatched a brilliant idea to save it. We’re shown how New York’s Dan Barber, in a quest for better tasting ingredients, created his own sustainable ecosystem. We meet Magnus Nilsson, who turned a tiny eatery in a remote Swedish village into one of the world’s top 20 restaurants.
Season two introduces us to chefs like Grant Achatz, who incorporates elements like liquid nitrogen, edible spray paint, and floating food in order to challenge diners’ perceptions. We hear of how Brazilian Renaissance man Alex Atala incorporates the power of Amazonian ants into his kitchen. We see how a love between chef Ana Ros and her sommelier husband has launched a burgeoning gastronomy scene in Slovenia.
Series creator David Gelb first enjoyed success with his 2011 chef-centered documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. A tribute to work ethic, the film profiles a tireless 85 year old sushi master who turned his 10-seat restaurant in the basement of a Tokyo office building into a world renowned 3-Michelin-star destination. While Chef’s Table is not dissimilar in its approach, it takes a more finely-tuned, artful look at the personalities that inhabit the culinary world.
The secret ingredient of this series is that it isn’t about food – not really. It’s about creativity, and how very different people from around the globe navigate their own paths of inspiration to arrive at that creativity. And whether you’re a foodie or you order your meals by number, these are the type of journeys we’re all hungry for.