“Chef’s Table” opens with chef Massimo Bottura recalling the aftermath of an earthquake in Italy. As he speaks, oddly satisfying images of hundreds of wheels of parmigiano reggiano stacked like fallen dominoes flash across the screen. To get chefs to buy the damaged cheese, Bottura recounts, he developed a technique for cooking risotto in cheese, effectively saving the parmigiano reggiano company from ruin. Bottura’s tale introduces one of the series’ themes from the opening scene: the most successful chefs are highly creative and resilient.
Filmmaker David Gelb announced that it “Chef’s Table” will return to Netflix for three more seasons, according to Eater. In the meantime, the first six episodes are available for streaming. Each one features the head chef at a top tier restaurant. Footage of menu offerings at the restaurants indicate what they are like. Scallops nested in elaborate miniature forests; a minted, medium-rare potato framed by a simple white bowl; all the food looks like art. Delicious art.
The series is more than just mesmerizing food photography though. Each episode highlights a certain aspect of the chef’s identity. Francis Mallmann is a free spirit and it shows in his style of cooking with fire, often deliberately burning the food. An episode featuring Niki Nakayama looks at the extra challenges that females face in becoming successful chefs, and the drive she personally felt to prove her naysayers wrong. All the episodes give a glimpse into the chefs’ mind.
If you love gritty, direct cinema-style documentaries, Chef’s Table isn’t for you. Parts feel choreographed, and the chefs featured are presented as specific characters. But the slow motion and swelling classical music echo the composed atmosphere of the restaurants.
Be sure to check out the first season of Chef’s Table before the next six episodes are released in May. Just don’t watch it when you’re hungry.