Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chef's Table on Netflix


With Netflix newly launched in India movie-lovers have a lot to cheer for. As a foodie, I am excited to be able to watch movies that revolve around food, for instance - No Reservations, at my own convenience. Another exciting element of Netflix is it's original documentaries. I stumbled upon the "Chef's Table" over last weekend and could not help but watch the first season with six episodes, back to back. I was completely mesmerised with the documentary and I felt enriched and inspired at the end of the TV marathon.  

Each of the six episodes revolve around a world-renowned chef - Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana in Italy; Dan Barber of Stone Hill at Stonebarns and Stone Hill Restaurant in USA; Francis Mallmann of El Restaurante Patagonia Sur in Argentina; Niki Nakayama of N:Naka in USA; Ben Shewry of Attica in Australia and finally Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken in Sweden. Osteria Francescana, Stone Hill at Stonebarns, Attica and Fäviken featured in the San Pellegrino's Top 50 restaurants of the world in 2015.

Every chef in this documentary is nothing short of an artist, their masterpieces on the plate speak volumes of their creativity and talent in the world of food. They all have their individual styles and they wear their experience and and passion on their sleeves while working in their kitchens.  

Almost all of them come from very humble beginnings and have worked and trained very hard to be where they are right now, the pinnacle of their culinary journeys. Every one of them shared their fear of failure and how they almost gave up cooking before they were discovered by the food critics and the gourmands.  

The episodes flow as narratives by the chef’s themselves supported by a food critic from their part of the world. Another common factor that connects all these chefs is the desire to break away from the rules of traditional cooking and dream of something bigger but close to their hearts. Especially, Italian and Japanese cuisines have such rich heritage and tradition that is almost looked down upon when a chef tries to push the boundaries and expand the palate and imagination. 

Massimo Bottura’s story is very charming and romantic as it draws a parallel between his love life and professional life. The day he opened his current restaurant is the same day he proposed to his wife, Lara. His respect for the Italian Nonnas (grandmothers) is very evident in his cooking practices. 

Dan Barber is a chef who takes the concept ‘Farm to Table’ very seriously. He often works with biologists, farmers and chefs in order to serve local, seasonal and flavourful cuisine to his customers. His duty as a chef does not end with putting beautifully plated dishes on his restaurant’s tables. He wants to support and practice sustainable farming in order to do what is best for the community and the world. 

Niki Nakayama is a brilliant chef who innovates constantly and would never repeat a dish to a returning customer in her restaurant. Petite and calm, she is making a mark for herself in a very male-dominated profession. Niki prefers to work behind a screen so that people do not judge her food because of her gender. Niki's Kaiseki plates have a Zen-like calm and serenity about them. 

Francis Mallmann left home at a very young age to pursue a career in the culinary world. He places a lot of emphasis on the ambiance and also the memories created by food. His cooking style has evolved over the years, rustic and almost charred food is what describes his food now. The landscape and remoteness of Patagonia, where he grew up and now spends a lot of time in, also has a strong influence on his personality and cooking style.  

Some of us remember Ben Shewry from Masterchef Australia when he visited the Masterchef kitchen to set a challenge for the contestants. Matt Preston, who lives around the corner from Attica - Ben's restaurant, is a regular diner on experimental Tuesdays. Ben considers the landscape where he grew up and his family to be strong influences in his life and cooking style.  

Magnus Nilsson, after graduating from cooking school in Sweden, cooked in the restaurant kitchens of Paris and Stockholm. He now runs a three-Michelin starred restaurant which is a destination in itself in Lapland, the far northern reaches of Sweden. His dinners include over 30 courses and are executed with immaculate precision and creative imagination. 

The Chef’s Table is a must watch for anyone who enjoys and appreciates food. Images of those artfully crafted plates still linger in my mind. It has got my creative juices flowing and I look forward to experimenting with our local and seasonal produce in my kitchen very soon. 

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