I am a Food Network glutton. I can't get enough of the channel's increasingly brain-frying form of entertainment. Cutthroat Kitchen? Bring it on! Guy's Grocery Games? Get me a shopping cart! Chopped marathon every night? Sure!
So it is with delight and admiration that I share my current favorite food show, a new Netflix original that doesn't revolve around a countdown clock or smack-talking competitors. I'm talking about Chef's Table.
The six-episode series is from David Gelb, the director behind 2012 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a fascinating look at a master sushi chef named Jiro Ono whose 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo basement has brought him culinary fame (and three Michelin stars, the guide book's highest honor).
Chef's Table is similar to that documentary in focus: It's about masterfully crafted food and the chefs behind it. But not in the Food Network-y way you may think. The series portrays the process of cooking more as a way of life, through the eyes of six chefs for whom putting together exquisite meals is a second-nature compulsion.
The show conveys this through shots of bustling kitchens and prepared plates juxtaposed with interviews with the chefs, which are often startlingly intimate and revelatory. Table is beautifully shot, slow-motion pans of impeccable knife work and closeups of decadent ingredients — food porn at its most exquisite.
The food here tells a story, and it's one that foodies should seek out.
A thread running through every episode is the overwhelming amount of work that goes into preparing this kind of food. The integrity of ingredients is front and center; many are locally sourced, hand-picked and hand-crafted.
The second episode features Dan Barber, the man behind Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, a truly farm-to-table restaurant that gets most of its ingredients from a farm on the premises. Barber's struggle to spend time with his family and manage his ambitious concept is a main thread throughout his episode.
At N/Naka, a James Beard-nominated Los Angeles restaurant featured in the fourth episode, chef Niki Nakayama strives not to repeat dishes and keeps binders full of repeat customers' preferences.
"Cooking is the one thing that I can completely trust what I'm doing," Nakayama says.
The series is a window into the rarefied lives and work of these chefs, but personally, the big takeaway was the care and detail that quality food requires. It's something to be nurtured, whether it's at a place like N/Naka or in my own kitchen.
Contact Michelle Stark at email@example.com or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17 on Twitter.