TL;DR – Chef’s Table returns to its core by using its platform about chefs and their food to explore deeper issues in society
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
If you have read any of my past reviews about Chef’s Table (see here) you will know that I am in love with this series that explores the lives of impactful chefs right across the culinary world, their lives, their philosophy, and their impact. However, last season I found myself walking away from Chef’s Table feeling like something in the recipe just didn’t work. Was it the shorter run time, or the format, or was it on me because I am not really a dessert person. Well whatever the case, I approached this season with a bit more trepidation than I have in the past, and I am happy to say it was just as impactful as ever.
So to set the scene, Chef’s Table is a documentary show on Netflix exploring the lives of chefs, their history, restaurants, and philosophies. It explores our relationship to food and those who make it from those on the very cutting edge of cuisine to those defending tradition. This season we jump from Bangkok, to Istanbul, to Barcelona, and then to Philadelphia, exploring a range of different styles of cooking. Well then, let’s sit back, crack open the snacks, pump on the Tchaikovsky and dive in.
With today’s review, I want to focus on the two themes at play this season and which appear in most of the episodes and that is family and tradition. Family is a theme the show has explored before in the past, including Alexandre Couillon in Chef’s Table France (see review and also they need to just put this season under the one umbrella with the rest now that we have most to four episodes a season) and Jeong Kwan in Volume 3 (see review). However, this time around it does really feel like it is the focus. We have the pain of a parent leaving their child so they can make money for them, or the rivalry between brothers, or the interesting dynamics that happen when people who are married work in the same kitchen. It is that dynamic that created the emotional core of the show and it is also why you will be hard pressed not to find tears rolling down your face in places. The thing about families is that at times they are not comfortable and there is conflict, and there was one episode where it felt like we were witnesses to a long-standing family feud. However, there is also triumph like with Cristina Martinez who risked everything to be a part of this show and shine a light on deeply abusive practices and how we turn a blind eye to them.
The other core theme explored this season is that of tradition which also appears in just about every episode. In cooking, there is that need to be on the cutting edge, and tradition is something that needs to be cast off. Well, if by tradition we are talking about the 1960s where everything that could be cooked in gelatine was, well then I agree with you. However, you can only innovate from tradition if you first know what the tradition is, and it is here where we as societies are losing that cultural touchstone. It is finding out what traditional Thai cooking is all about or exploring the regional variations from right across Turkey. It is going through the long labour intensive process to make traditional central Mexican food, which brings people together. It is also exploring what factors are shaping our loss of understanding, whether they be cultural, political, or economic, and what do we do to counter these forces. In an industry that is hell-bent on moving forward exploring those who are standing strong against the tide created an interesting counterpoint to a lot of the other seasons.
Like every other season so far and other of Chef’s Table’s strengths is, of course, its presentation which is as strong as ever this time around. Every moment is expertly crafted from the framing of the shots, to the editing of the episode, to the musical score behind it. Every moment received a level of care and attention that brings you deeper into this world, a world that I doubt I would ever get to visit personally. This is important because it helps bring to life the worlds that we are exploring, which could feel daunting when you are throwing around places like elBulli which are so famous that even I know about it from sheer name recognition alone. This means that when the show explores an immigrants story it is expertly crafted, or the fight against industrialised food and what it is doing to the environment, or even when they show every kind of flat bread under the sun, goodness do I want some of those flat breads.
In the end do we recommend Chef’s Table Season/Volume 5? Yes, yes we do. It is beautifully constructed, is tackling deeply important issues, and hits you in the feels with a two by four in places. These are stories not just about food, but about people, humanity, and how we treat each other and the world we live on, and in that these will always be important.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen Chef’s Table yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Chef’s Table
Directed by – Andrew Fried, Abigail Fuller, Jimmy Goldblum, Clay Jeter
Music by – Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans, Sebastian Örnemark, Duncan Thum, Joel P West
Cinematography by – Will Basanta, Adam Bricker, Matthew Chavez & Chloe Weaver
Created by – David Gelb
Featuring – Albert Adrià, Musa Dağdeviren, Cristina Martinez & Bo Songvisava