5-Min With Director of Chef’s Table & Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

Of compelling chef stories and scoring reservations at top restaurants

By Samantha Francis; Photos: Courtesy of Netflix

CHEF'S TABLE

David’s knack for telling compelling stories is taken to great effect in Chef’s Table.

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After making viewers drool over immaculate molds of sashimi in the critically acclaimed docu-series, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, David Gelb is now reinventing the cooking show with his Netflix series, Chef’s Table.

Each episode delves deep into the heart of world-renowned restaurants like Bangkok’s Gaggan, New York’s Blue Hill Restaurant and Chicago’s Alinea, artfully weaving the chefs’ journeys with robust visuals.

David’s knack for telling compelling stories is taken to great effect in Chef’s Table, allowing one to be drawn into the perspectives of the chefs themselves.

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Chef Ana Ros in season 2 of Chef's Table streaming on Netflix May 27, 2016. Photo: Suzan Grabrian/Netflix

A creation of Chef Ana Ros in season 2 of Chef’s Table. Photo: Suzan Grabrian/Netflix

No longer are they faceless workers labouring in the quest for culinary perfection — each personality comes to life with childhood quirks, cooking philosophies and the roots of their identity.

We chatted with the talented film director to find out what are some of his most memorable moments from the series and got him to share tips on snagging a seat at one of these top-notch restaurants.

In addition, he shares what he’s looking for in the search for Chef’s Table official Instagrammer. Listen up, foodies!

Hi David! What have you been up to lately?

Hi, I’ve been busy shooting Season 3 and 4 of Chef’s Table. One of the episodes will be shot at South Korea, where we’ll be featuring something unusual, that is temple food.

Which Chef’s Table episode has been your favourite so far? And why?

One of the more memorable episodes had to be the one featuring Alinea by Chef Grant Achatz.
His dishes all come with an element of magical surprise — what you see is never what you get. There was a tomato that tasted like strawberry, as well as a dish plated on top of a ‘pillow’. When you bite into the ‘pillow’, you taste nutmeg flavoured air.

Can you tell us a bit more about how you go about picking each chef for the documentary series?

I look for chefs who’re known for creating beautiful cuisine and most importantly, chefs with inspiring stories to tell.
A prime example is the success story of Chef Gaggan Anand, who rose from rags to riches to helm one of the best Indian restaurants in Thailand. Each season ought to have a good combination of chefs with distinctively different styles.

What’s one thing you’ve learnt from documenting these world-renowned chefs?

I’ve taken away a lot, from kitchen hacks to recipes.

One of which is an easy eggplant recipe, where you sear the eggplant on hot coal, hollow out its soft middle and serve it with parmesan cheese and olive oil. It’s a simple dish but its smokey flavour will blow your mind.

For somebody who has directed acclaimed food documentaries, are you a passionate cook yourself? Tell us more about what you love to cook.

I love cooking but I’m better at eating haha.
I pretty much cook all sorts of random foods, from Japanese to Argentinean cuisine. Recently, I was inspired to create dishes made with solely vegetables, from baby turnips to passionfruit. I wanted to show that meat isn’t always necessary in the creation of a great dish.

Chef's Table 2 premiering on Netflix on May 27, 2016. Chef Gaggan Anand from Gaggan in Thailand. Photo: Phil Bray/Netflix

From the kitchen of Gaggan in Thailand. Photo: Phil Bray/Netflix

If you could create a documentary series on anything/anyone in the world, what would it be? And why?

Well, I’m working on my dream documentary series right now. I’m passionate about food, and Chef’s Table is a wonderful way to showcase the stories behind these world-renowned chefs.

Any plans for The Chef’s Table to feature a Singaporean chef?

Sure, we’re looking at the possibilities. But I can’t tell you who yet!

Tell us, what are you looking for in an official Chef’s Table Instagrammer?

We’re looking for somebody with an appreciation of fine dining. We’re not looking for a professional photographer pe se, but he or she should have a keen eye for curating the right images and finding the right angles to showcase the dishes.

Any tips on snagging a reservation at one of these top chef restaurants?

Your best bet would be to check out the list of restaurants featured in the upcoming Season 3 and 4 of The Chef’s Table and make your reservations before the shows are out. Because by then, the amount of attention on these restaurants would be staggering!

Of if you prefer, go ahead and join the restaurants’ waitlists. More often than not, people cancel and you might just get a seat.

Chef’s Table Season One is now streaming globally on Netflix.

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