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Chef’s Table

My hands-down, all-time, forever-and-always favorite television show is most definitely The West Wing. If you haven’t seen the show, I urge you to stop reading this immediately and go watch the pilot (all seven seasons are now streaming on Netflix!). I have been a bit of a political junkie since the age of 12 (although 5 was when I first declared that I would be the first woman president) and started watching The West Wing as soon as it premiered. I came across my day-planners from high school recently and there’s a big “WW” every Wednesday at 9pm. After the show ended my mom (who is also a die-hard WW fan) bought the complete series on DVD and I re-watch the series every year. I think I’ve seen the entire series 7 or 8 times at this point which I realize may seem obsessive but it just never gets old. Seriously, though. Go watch it if you haven’t yet (or even if you have).

But this post wasn’t really supposed to be about The West Wing, it’s about my new second favorite television show: Chef’s Table.

If you haven’t seen Chef’s Table then I urge you to finish reading this blog post and then go watch it. David Gelb (who directed Jiro Dreams of Sushi) directs this Netflix-exclusive series featuring different chefs from around the world. The cinematography is in the style of Planet Earth and the storytelling is incredible. When my partner and I watch it together we regularly turn to each other and say “this is just so good” because it is just so good. Each episode features a different chef and their story – how they came to do what they do, what inspires them, what challenges them. The food is a visual treat, for sure, but it’s mostly about their lives. I am especially inspired by the women (although there aren’t nearly enough featured) because they had to work that much harder to get where they are and fight that much harder for recognition in the field.

I’m inspired by the chefs’ reflections on creativity and empathize with their complicated feelings about ambition and achievement. They all (men and women alike) talk about how (or how not) to navigate both their professional and personal lives. For some the two are so entangled they just exist in both simultaneously and for others there’s a struggle to feed both with the same energy and attention.

I’ve always been curious about human behavior, what inspires people to do what they do. These small snapshots are thoughtful and thought-provoking glimpses into the lives of some remarkable (and in many ways still relatable) chefs. They express themselves through the food they prepare but it could just as easily have been art, writing, dance…or even jello molding. Food for thought, to be sure.

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