I was recently introduced to the Netflix original docu-series “Chef’s Table”. This is normally not the kind of content that I seek out. Though I like food (duh, doesn’t everyone?) I am definitely not a “foodie” and could care less about eating in fancy restaurants.
The season has six episodes with each one profiling one chef and his or her story. The chefs are from all around the world and include backgrounds and locations as diverse as a French chef who owns a restaurant in San Francisco to an Indian chef who runs a restaurant in Bangkok. What initially got me hooked on the show was the amazing cinematography. Each episode has an ethereal look and feel and the classical music soundtrack adds just the right amount of drama. The landscapes that they show are incredible, and so are the stories.
Unexpectedly, I found myself being very inspired and lifted up by these stories. Here were regular people who didn’t come from any wealth or distinguished background, doing something they were passionate about and being wildly successful at it. To me, these are people fully living their lives. Here are 5 things I learned from watching this season of the show:
1. Commitment and passion matter more than your background
Two of the chefs on the show never went to cooking school. One of them, Dominique Crenn, knew she was passionate about cooking and worked her way up through the restaurant ranks, learning and gaining experience as she went. Ana Ros was thrown into the chef role after her husband’s father retired from the family restaurant. Both chefs worked incredibly hard to learn everything they could about cooking and became highly-regarded. If you needed proof, Dominque Crenn is the winner of this year’s San Pellegrino “World’s Best Female Chef Award”.
2. Setbacks do not equal failure
I was continually amazed at how these now-successful chefs managed to come out on top despite multiple setbacks in their careers (and personal lives). From Gaggan Anand, whose restaurant opening was delayed 4 months because of political protests in Bangkok, to Ana Ros who, upon starting as chef at her husband’s family restaurant, proceeded to lose most of its long-standing customers. Each time they encountered a hardship, they acknowledged it, dealt with it, and moved on while never giving up and never stopping.
3. Listen to others
All the chefs referenced people in their lives who had helped them get to where they are today. Whether it was family members who supported them or master chefs who trained them, all were grateful for those who helped them along the way. I’d always thought of cooking and being a chef seemed as a very individual, almost loner, profession. Seeing how much they relied on the support and encouragement of those around them shows that you cannot achieve something truly great on your own.
4. Listen to yourself
Though listening to others was important in the all the chef’s lives, listening to their inner voices was key too. Most of Enrique Olvera’s friends and family thought he was crazy for taking what they saw as his hobby of cooking and making it a career, but now he’s got one of the best restaurants in the world. Ana Ros’s family basically disowned her when she gave up her promising career as a diplomat to become a chef. And nobody thought Brazilian food could be gourmet like Alex Atala did, even Brazilians! If you truly believe you can make something happen, you probably can.
So that is my take on Season 2 of Chef’s Table. I definitely plan on watching Season 1, but I’m a bit afraid that it might not measure up to Season 2!