After the success of his 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, director David Gelb approached Netflix about creating a docuseries showcasing the lives of award-winning chefs from around the world. Chef’s Table became Netflix’s first original documentary series.
Spanning six volumes, it digs into the lives of the renowned professional chefs, treating restaurant cooking as a revered art form instead of just an industry. So much of Chef’s Tale‘s strength hinges on its beautiful cinematography, intimate interviews, and focus on biographical details about each chef. In its totality, the series weaves a compelling narrative about the creative power of cooking and sharing meals.
10 Magnus Nilsson – 8.4
Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson served as head chef at the restaurant Fäviken until it closed in 2019. Located on an isolated 19th century estate, Nilsson was first hired to manage the restaurant’s wine cellar, but he eventually transitioned into running the kitchen.
Before Fäviken, Nilsson learned to cook at award-winning restaurants in Paris. Fäviken was in its prime when Nilsson was featured on Chef’s Table. Relying on ingredients found within the estate or nearby, Nilsson developed a menu inspired by Nordic cuisine – creating dishes people traveled from all over the world to taste.
9 Corrado Assenza – 8.4
Pastry chef Corrado Assenza runs a humble sweets shop in Noto, Italy. Assenza’s desserts are considered the best in Italy, especially his cannoli and gelati. The fourth generation of his family to run the Caffè Sicilia, Assenza relies on inexpensive ingredients to make flavorful and complex treats.
Bored with the status quo, Assenza broke from tradition, incorporating unusual elements in his distinctly Sicilian offerings. Assenza’s legacy involves reviving the Romana almond, a delicacy with historically low yields in the region.
8 Jordi Roca – 8.5
Pastry chef Jordi Roca runs the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Catalonia, Spain with his brothers Joan and Joseph. Serving up traditional Catalan meals with a twist, the restaurant has been awarded three Michelin stars and is considered among the best in the world.
This episode of Chef’s Table focuses on all three brothers, but it pays close attention to Jordi’s intriguing and brilliant approach to making pastries. His dishes are works of arts, creating intense emotional and olfactory responses from anyone lucky enough to try them.
7 Musa Dağdeviren – 8.5
Musa Dağdeviren is considered the savior of traditional Turkish food. After traversing his homeland north, south, east, and west, Dağdeviren returned to Instanbul. In the capital city, the chef opened Çiya Kebap and Çiya Sofrasi.
Dağdeviren’s life is dedicated to preserving cooking traditions he observed and participated in all over the country. A native of Nizip, a southern Turkish town, Dağdeviren’s restaurant gives him a platform to showcase the work, love, and storytelling that goes into preparing distinctly Turkish food.
6 Massimo Bottura – 8.6
A modernist through and through, Italian chef Massimo Bottura is a controversial figure. While some foodies consider Bottura an innovative and compelling chef, others see him as a meddler – a man who debases sacred Italian recipes.
Bottura’s unconventional restaurant, Osteria Francescana, ranks amongst the best in the world. Without sacrificing flavor, Bottura gives new context to Italian cooking by treating the dinner plate as an art canvas.
5 Alex Atala – 8.7
Rugged and handsome, Brazilian chef Alex Atala comes across as a renaissance man with a deep knowledge of his country’s cuisine. Atala, the chef, and proprietor of São Paulo’s D.O.M., is revered is his home country and the around.
Whether he’s foraging for bugs, working with Amazonas farmers, or plating a complex dish, Atala is in his element. His episode of Chef’s Table pays tribute to his career as both a preserver and a modernizer of Brazilian food.
4 Gaggan Anand – 8.8
Gaggan Anand ended up in Bangkok, Thailand after managing a large-scale cafeteria serving thousands of people in his native India. Anand jumped at the chance to run a restaurant in Bangkok. The restaurant, Red, was a success, which prompted Anand to pursue his own dream of building an eatery from scratch.
Anand opened his eponymous Gaggan as a way to explore Indian food with a modern twist. Gaggan’s progressive, communal approach to dining put it on the international market, where it remains one of the best restaurants in the world.
3 Virgilio Martínez – 8.8
Considered a true visionary, Virgilio Martínez runs Central in Lima, Peru. A quiet, reserved man, Martínez came into his own as a chef after exploring the diverse ecosystems in his home country. Instead of grounding his restaurant patrons in a single culinary vision, he sends them on food-based journeys across Peru with his ever-evolving menu.
Martínez learned the ins and outs of professional kitchens working in Spain, and he brought his knowledge back home to Peru. At Central, Martínez bases his dishes on ingredients foraged and found at different altitudes – making for a novel dining experience.
2 Jeong Kwan – 8.9
Watching Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan squat over a buried jar full of kimchi while she rotates the fermented cabbage inside with her hands is the key to understanding her culinary approach in this episode of Chef’s Table. A spiritual chef, Kwan cooks without onion, garlic, chives, or other pungent vegetables that cause what she refers to as an energy imbalance.
Kwan is a spontaneous, self-trained cook who resides in a monastery south of Seoul, South Korea. Chef Eric Ripert discovered Kwan while traveling around South Korea, eventually inviting to prepare an invite-only meal in New York City. Since then, Kwan continues to visit cities around the world, sharing her singular philosophy to preparing meals.
1 Grant Achatz – 9.2
Grant Achatz’s journey as a chef is one rife with tragedy. Venerated around the world for his Chicago restaurant Alinea, Achatz is considered a pioneering chef known for bridging the gap between molecular gastronomy (a more scientific approach to cooking) and fine dining.
As his career blossomed, Achatz was diagnosed with tongue cancer. This caused Achatz to lose the most vital sense for a chef: taste. Thanks to chemotherapy, Achatz’s cancer went into remission, and he eventually regained his ability to taste.
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