Chefs Table

Ok so this is not strictly a movie, but anyway I wanted to tell about a great series of 6 short films produced and distributed on Netflix. This was from the director of the brilliant Documentary Jiro dreams of sushi (this deserves its own post which I will do once I re-watch this!).

This series focuses on 6 of the worlds most exciting, innovative and talented chefs working around the world at the moment, from a brilliant Italian Chef trying to modernise classic Italian cooking (much to many Italians disgust!) to a brilliant Patagonian chef who spends most of his time travelling the world cooking on open fires (my new food hero) these were all hugely interesting and each show focused on the chef, their ethos, the story of them getting to where they are – and ending with some seriously awesome pictures of their food (some of which are below) – heaven!

I blitzed these in a day (in the name of research obviously) . For me my favourites were the 1st, 3rd and last of the series, but they were all worth watching. Here’s a little synopsis of each:

Episode 1 – Massimo Bottura @ Francescana Osteria (Modena)

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Starting with a great story about the Earthquake in Modena and how Parmesan saved the world (sort of) this was the story of the influential chef of the current 2nd best restaurant in the world (list here) Francescana Osteria in Modena. As mentioned above this restaurant and this chef, along with his hugely influential wife, was modernising classic Italian cooking. You had his version of lasagne, which took all the best bits (mainly the crispy bits at the edges) and used that as the centrepiece of this beautiful looking dish.

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My favourite looking dish of his is the brilliantly titled ‘oops I dropped the lemon tart’. The story behind this is that the sous-chef accidentally dropped a lemon tart on the pass – however rather than launching into a tirade of abuse like most chefs would have done, Massimo looked at it, realised that there was beauty in the destroyed tart, and they now create this dish, which I am sure you will agree is no just way more interesting than a lemon tart, but is also a work of art – what a genius!

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There were lots more dishes on show, from the Hare camouflaged in the woods and foie gras in lollipop form covered in nuts – all stunning, inventive and by the looks of things, completely delicious – not your traditional carbonara!

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Episode 2 – Dan Barber @ Blue Hill (New York)

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This was perhaps the most interesting of the lot, especially in light of my recent viewing of the documentary Fed up, about processed food in the US. The chef here Dan Barber is all about farm to table cooking, so he works with specific farms (including his own – Blue Farm) to deliver simple ingredients, prepared simply but tasting unlike anything you have ever had. For example this starter of vegetables, very simple no fuss, but due to the exceptional produce would be amazing (and no doubt very pricey!)

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Another intersting thing that he talked about, which i hadn’t really thought myself was the importance of what you eat, eats – so for example he fed his chickens red peppers, which produced an egg with a reddish yolk – pretty impressive.

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 This was a fascinating insight into a new and traditional way of serving and eating food, focusing more on the production than the cooking to ensure the most amazing tasting food.

Episode 3 – Francis Mallman (Argentina & Patagonia)

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So this guys is totally my new food hero, and has made me desperate to go back to South America and visit one of his restaurants. He is a celebrity in Argentina and owns a number of restaurants, but this episode was about his style of cooking in the outdoors. Him and a team travel around the world putting on feasts using very traditional methods, such as cooking whole Patagonian lambs on open fire:

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Or hanging chickens over the fire to slow cook them

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If anyone knows meat (and fish) then it is this guy, cooking very traditionally, with great produce to create mind blowing dishes. In the episode he also caught and cooked a fish wrapped in mud, as well as just some of the most amazing BBQ cooking I have seen – the pics dont do it justice! I’m booking my flights now!

Episode 4 – Niki Nakayam @ N-Naka (Los Angeles)

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Niki Nakayama is one of the top chefs in the world, specialising in a unique Japanese style of dining called Kaiseki . This is a procession of courses served in a traditional order that has its routes in ancient Buddhism. This episode not only focused on her wonderful food and background, but also the challenges she had being a women in such a male dominated world (it is unheard of for Women to cook Kaiseki) but she was a very humble, determined person – with obviously ridiculous amounts of talent.

Again she was redefining traditional cooking, with dishes such as this Sushi plate:

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or her signature dish Abalone Pasta topped with truffle and cod roe.

naka_abaloneand finally, this stunning Shrimp with Yuzu Aoili dish

Zensai: Loup de Mer, Baby Potato, Fanny Bay Oyster Caviar, Australian Blue Shrimp, Yuzu Tomatoes, Japanese Octopus, and Wasabi Flower

Episode 5 – Ben Schewry @ Attica (Melbourne)

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For me this was the weakest of the episodes, as it did seem to veer off into long discussions about his family and the perils of being a chef, which was good but did take away from the food! Saying that, there was still some great things in this. Attica is a fantastic looking restaurant in Melbourne, it doesn’t look much from the outside, but the food was very experimental and interesting. One thing I did think was cool was that every Tuesday night it is experimental night, where they try out a range of new dishes for a reduced price (some are good, some not so good!) a nice way to experiment and test if you dont have a luxury of a test kitchen like some of the bigger places.

Focusing on natural ingredients found in Australia where possible Ben creates some spectacular looking dishes, so lots of seafood like this dish of Marron (Australian Crayfish) with leeks and peppers

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or this delicate crab dish

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Or this amazing dessert named Plight of the Bees, which apparently took 18 months to perfect

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Being a Kiwi, the show also talked about traditional Hangi’s – basically food buried in the ground and topped with coal to slow cook for about 12 hours – and they say that the US is the home of Slow and Low!! It seems to be a really lovely community thing in NZ and the food they dig up looked fantastic. Something I would definitely like to try and do one day.

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Episode 6 – Magnus Nilsson @ Favicken (Sweden)

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Despite being billed as the most isolated restaurant in the world, the young head chef Magnus is producing some amazing ‘hyper-local’ food for his 30+ taster menu. He focuses on things that are local (definitely a theme in these shows) and only uses what is in season – and as in this area nothing grows for 6 months of the year, it means storing vegetables, meat and fruits over the winter months – very impressive!

The place looks amazing, it takes an age to get to, but you stay there for 1 night and the food looks something else, the presentation is rustic and the dishes sound divine.

This chef is always looking at changing the traditions, one great example was the beef he uses. Traditionally cattle are reared for 1 of 2 purposes, dairy or for meat. Magnus decided that Dairy cows, with their high fat, low energy life may produce some good eating. He tested this out with retired Dairy cows as his theory is the older the better and these were the steaks he now uses – and the dish he makes with them – Incredible!

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Perhaps his signature dish is the scallops, caught locally and simply smoked over coals with Juniper bushes, then put back into the shells and served as below:

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All wrapped up with this delicious looking sweets box

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For me, this was the one I really want to visit, a total mission to get there, sure, but looks well worth the time, effort and money (just for the beef alone!)

This is a snapshot of these programmes, there is so much more within each one, and again I would really recommend getting hold of them. Sure it was a little sycophantic, and, as I read in Jay Rayner’s review of the show, it is building these guys up to Mythical, almost Superhero status – but hey, I found it interesting and worth watching for the pictures of the food alone in my book!

Roll on Season 2!

 

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