Chef’s Table: Your ticket to culinary dreamland
Netflix presents its second breathtaking series about the world’s finest chefs. Each of the six episodes of Chef’s Table‘s new season puts the spotlight on one of the world’s genius culinary minds, personalities who have revolutionised the meaning, look, and philosophy of cuisine, each in their own way. Combining interviews and first-hand accounts of these chefs’ paths to the heights of gastronomical fame with stunning imagery of the dishes, Chef’s Table is an enthralling journey into the art of food.
Episode One: Alex Atala
A tattoo-covered, redheaded, angry punk-rocker painting walls without a visa in Europe – nothing in Alex Atala’s youth hinted at his future career as one of the world’s most acclaimed chefs. Episode One of Chef’s Table focuses on the Brazilian master’s road to success, through his unlikely youth, frustrating first years in cuisines he didn’t identify with, and his determination to raise his home country’s ingredients and recipes to the highest standards of international gastronomy. Atala’s unique dishes have their origins in the meanders of the Amazon rainforest, using natural products and hidden treasures of the jungle. A promoter of ecological cuisine and a fierce defender of natural conservation, Atala is also the founder of projects like ATA, which employ tribal people of the Brazilian hinterland who in turn provide his restaurant D.O.M (and the rest of the world) with the singular food of the Amazonas. The episode features testimonies from high-ranking culinary professionals, fascinated by what Alex Atala has created, as well as giving space to all the different local producers D.O.M works with, interwoven with the chef’s own voice recounting his unforgettable story.
Episode Two: Grant Achatz
Somewhere between a magician, an artist, a chef, and a dreamer – or more probably all at the same time – Grant Achatz is as undefinable and unique as his cuisine. The second episode of Chef’s Table revolves around the Chicago-based virtuoso of molecular and deconstructive cuisine, granting a sneak peek of his sublime dishes, experimental beyond belief. From his childhood in a diner, where food was just a means to get a pay cheque, to his training at the Californian sensation The French Laundry with chef Thomas Keller, to the founding of Alinea and his fight with cancer, Achatz describes his career as a chef and as a man, with a love for creation and limitless imagination. Chef’s Table takes you into the kitchens of Alinea and sister restaurant Next, as Achatz explains the concepts behind his cuisine: rebellion against all conventional rules of food presentation, a tireless quest for new ways to incorporate emotions into the culinary experience, and the mind games he fabricates, going out of his way every time to serve his patrons pure magic and marvel.
Episode Three: Dominique Crenn
Landing in San Francisco, California, Chef’s Table Episode Three explores the world behind relocated French chef Dominique Crenn’s emotional cuisine. A journey of self-discovery and a search for her own identity, Chef Crenn tells her story, from her adoption by a French politician and painter, to her two Michelin star restaurant Atelier Crenn, making her the only woman chef in America to hold such a reward. A very childhood-focused tale, this episode delicately unveils where the memories, feelings, and poetry of the chef’s dishes come from. Crenn admits she is “serving her story, her soul”, in a profound desire to connect with people, and has at the same time managed to re-adapt classic French cuisine, transferring its recognisable recipes to a new level of poetry and emotion. Pioneer of a modernist turn in high gastronomy, Dominique Crenn’s dishes prove to the camera to be little works of art, while her impassioned but graceful approach to both food and life pervades a highly inspirational episode.
Episode Four: Enrique Olvera
Far from any arrogant idea one could have of world-famous chefs, Enrique Olvera’s modest, humble personality may surprise given his staggering success, but proves to be perfectly in line with his conception of cuisine. The fourth chapter of Chef’s Table is dedicated to this Mexican visionary who keeps a down-to-earth approach to his own culinary culture and that may indeed be the key to his triumph in the world of gastronomy. Similarly to Brazilian chef Alex Atala, after being trained within the European codes of fine dining, Olvera’s ambition became to serve the traditional dishes of his home country and raise them to international levels of excellency. Presenting local products like agave-based liquor Mezcal, or the potion-like mole sauce – a “living” concoction continuously alimented with new ingredients like a chain of flavours over time – his restaurant Pujol, located in Mexico City, has baffled critics worldwide. As Olvera tells of the difficult beginnings of his project and spices his story with several anecdotes, the passion and power of his cuisine emerge alongside his strong Mexican roots, the importance of family and his very personal notion of what makes a fine dining dish.
Episode Five: Ana Ros
Completely unconventional in the Haute Cuisine world, Ana Ros has defied all rules of the profession and all probability of becoming a world-class chef. Schooled to be a diplomat, she is a self-taught chef in a country with no culinary recognition in the world. The story of this Solvenian talent would be worthy of several hours of narration: her unplanned entry into the kitchen, dictated seemingly more by need than by vocation, the casual encounter with her life partner Valter, the opposition of her family… All odds seemed to be against Ros becoming a chef, and history has proved sceptics wrong: Ros remembers the succession of events that led to her and Valter taking over the restaurant they once met in, and through many difficulties brought it to international fame, in what may be the most heart-warming episode of Chef’s Table. Admitting the hard life of a chef, the struggles she endured to refine her cuisine to the levels food critics now hail, chef Ros speaks honestly about the demanding history behind what Hisa Franko is today: a destination for foodies from all around the world, where unexpected combinations of local ingredients create spectacular dishes, but where above all, as every journalist and expert interviewed in this fifth episode affirms, love and an almost maternal care always transpire.
Episode Six: Gaggan Anand
Challenging Indian cuisine’s reputation of being informal, somewhat inelegant comfort food, Gaggan Anand has revolutionised the image of India on the fine dining scene. The sixth and last window of Chef’s Table meets the young and ambitious chef who, never setting aside his playful and quirky personality, revisits all clichés of Indian food. An upfront chef who earned himself an internship at El Bulli when Ferran Adria was the world’s most worshipped name in the culinary milieu, chef Anand explains his desire to contradict all those who proclaimed that the food of his country could not be haute cuisine, taking full conscience of the issues of authenticity behind the most imitated “Indian” dishes. Provocatively telling of drunk business decisions and recipes invented thanks to 7Eleven, Gaggan Anand details the amusing birth of his signature dishes, interwoven by the tragic events of his personal life and the challenges faced in the profession. Adding voices such as renowned chef Daniel Humm’s to tell the full story of Gaggan, chef Anand’s restaurant in Bangkok, the series draws to a close on the festive celebrations as the young maestro’s is crowned Asia’s Best Restaurant in 2015.
Chef’s Table will return for a third and fourth season.
Watch the trailer for Chef’s Table Series 2 here: