Chef’s Table

David Gelb, director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, created the excellent new Netflix series Chef’s Table and season one is online now. If you’re not compelled by Type A personality Chefs on artistic missions with humanistic implications, stick to the Food Network.

For the rest of us that want a little more mouth-feel, Chef’s Table satisfies.  Like Jiro was satisfying. Which you’d know if you’d seen it, but you haven’t, just admit it.

Episode 2 is particularly strong, focusing on Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. This episode should be required viewing for anyone that needs to understand Farm to Table. Directed by Clay Jeter, it paints Barber as a chef in position to “change his community and ultimately the world” as Ruth Reichl puts its, summing up the movement succinctly…

“Farm to table is exactly what’s in season right then. It’s an old way of eating, it’s the way our ancestors ate until there was refrigeration and air freight. But we’ve completely turned that on it’s head in the 20th and 21st Centuries where just think the world is our oyster and we can have everything we want all the time and it doesn’t matter how good it tastes.”

Chef Barber’s organic farming methods are steeped in constant improvement of the milk and pasture which ultimately improves flavor of everything on the farm. You want the best milk? You need free range dairy cows with access to the best grass. You want the best grass, you need healthy chickens to spread cow manure and happy goats to eat the weeds the cows won’t touch. Now you’ve got humanely raised goats, chickens, and cows on the menu, along with fresh dairy and eggs and a garden of organically grown produce at your command.

Add a master chef and it’s the perfect storm for amazing flavors.

“It has to add up to something larger than a plate of food,” Barber reminds us.

I can go on about each episode, like Episode 3’s focus on Argentinian Chef Francis Mallman, sometimes on his remote island in Patagonia.

Mallman keeps alive the old traditions – cooking meat on huge open flames, grilling Patagonian lamb horizontally, and roasting vegetables in curanto under the ground.

Each Chef in the series is a distinct character worthy of the attention and Chef’s Table is a window into some enviable lives.

Other episodes feature Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana), Niki Nakayama (N/Naka), Ben Shewry (Attica) and Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken).

 

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