In the Watch This Next column, Man of Many takes a look back at a great TV show or film that may have slipped under your radar. Given the near-limitless entertainment options in the Netflix era, it’s easy to overlook amazing content in favour of the latest hit. For every Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, there’s another thing equally worthy of attention and we make the case for why you should watch it and where you can find it.
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“You do not grow on a secure path. All of us should conquer something in life. It needs a lot of work, it needs a lot of risk. To grow and improve you need to be there at the edge of uncertainty.” – Francis Mallman, ‘Chef’s Table’
Humanity’s relationship with food is as rich as the story of humanity itself: not just a vital part of our existence, but an ancient medium through which we express our cultures, traditions and ways of life. Our fascination with all things culinary has reached critical mass in recent years, so much so that you can switch on your TV at any hour of the day and chances are you’ll land on food-related program.
Whilst most are happy to exploit the art of cooking for simple dramatic tension, ‘Chef’s Table’ elevates the humble cooking show to high art. The American documentary series, commissioned and released by Netflix and created by David Gelb, explores our deep attraction to food through a series of profile pieces on the world’s most interesting chefs. From the kitchens of chefs like Magnus Nilsson in Jarpen, Sweden, to Alex Atala in Sao Paulo, Brazil, each episode brings celebrated, worldly cuisine to your screen with the most breathtaking documentary cinematography this side of ‘Planet Earth’.
The show excels at capturing the essence of each of the chefs they profile, exploring not only their career and love of cooking, but their search for deeper meaning within their work. Like all artists, the chefs on ‘Chef’s Table’ are continually striving for creative excellence: pushing the boundaries on how we approach and understand food in the 21st Century and what our eating habits can tell us about ourselves.
Above all, watching ‘Chef’s Table’ is a meditative, engrossing experience akin to eating in the very restaurants it so masterfully portrays. From the beautifully crafted shots of each chef’s signature dishes, to the way it captures the operational demands of high-class cuisine and the personal struggles of those who bring it to life, it’s a series that, more than any other, reaffirms our cultural connection to food and its almost-transcendental appeal.
All three seasons of ‘Chef’s Table’ are available on Netflix, along with the spin-off series ‘Chef’s Table: France’.