Netflix just can’t help themselves: they’re producing more content than anyone else. The real surprise is that a lot of it is very good. Chef’s Table, a documentary about some of the best Chef’s in the world, according to Michelin, is the latest one to hit the table.
This documentary is far from many – it doesn’t make you cry or really empathise with anyone, but it makes you incredibly hungry. Probably best watched straight after dinner, but not during because you might be disappointing (with the food you have to eat). It’s very light toned as you’d expect. But this doesn’t equate to a boring documentary about food. This documentary isn’t really about food, but the artists that make it.
I’ve only watched the first and last episodes and plan to complete the other four, but I still feel qualified to critique this documentary as once you’ve seen one you can feel the gist of the rest. Not because each episode is just a filled in template, but because there’s a clear and definite structure. This is superb as you know where you are at each stage. It’s also great how I was able to just pick and choose the episodes at my leisure. I watched the first one because it was the first one that played, but episode six just amazed me. No spoilers, but it’s about a guy in an ice-cold, isolated part of Sweden. It’s not about how isolated he is, although that does effect how the restaurant operates, it’s about the processes he completes in order to be a creative genius. That may sound all a bit poncey, but imagine it like Leonardo da Vinci going from canvas to a complete Mona Lisa or Mozart going from an empty stave to a symphony.
The extremities reached are crazy. They really make you think differently about food. Yes, we need it to survive, but as an art form its radically different depending on country, but also the chef’s personality. A Swedish chef is most likely to prepare Swedish food, but Magnus’ (chef starred in ep 6) creativity leads him to completely unexplored regions – which is fitting for his location.
Whilst I admire the expression and passion shown, I do still feel as though the restaurants featured lacked variety – not only are they all in the Western World, but they’re all very high-end. This may more be a problem with the way Michelin rank restaurants, but Chef’s Table doesn’t have to follow that guide and it does make you as a viewer feel a bit out of touch with the world being portrayed. The first issue can be addressed in the second season by featuring Asian restaurants, for example, and so I’d be happy if they did that for season two.
However, I still feel as though high creativity does not need to be highly expensive and postmodern. There are millions of chefs around the world with something that makes them special and even though covering more simple-folk restaurants might make the documentaries scope too broad I feel as though it would send a clear message – creativity is in everyone and can be accessed by everyone. Right now the documentary makes me feel as though there is a prescribed way to creativity that must be followed.
I do feel however, that this issue is softened by the fact that we see the story of each chef – how they got here. The two I’ve watched started from fairly humble beginnings. Giving inspiration to those who want to show their cooking potential. We also see that these chefs are normal people – they have families, other non-cooking related hobbies and have fallen in and out of love with cookery. The first episode, featured Massimo and his incredibly thrilling and quite exciting love story.
I will be honest you won’t learn a lot from watching Chef’s Table, it won’t teach you how to make a top rated restaurant, but I think that is part of the story it is trying to tell. Being a fantastic chef is not about following the cookbook, it’s about using the tools you have to create something new and unique.
The music is also brilliant. For example, the theme: