What We Can Learn from Netflix's “The Chef Show”

Jon Favreau’s new “The Chef Show” on Netflix is good for the soul.

chef seasoning

“Are we doing, like, a simple syrup?  Is that what you call it—when you use half and half?”

“No, we’re just doing a straight sugar caramel”

“Wait you’re not going to put any water into it?”

“I’m not going to put any water.”

“How come we’re doing it that way?  Cause it’s different than how we did…”

“I guess that’s like… a child-proof version”

The quirky stop-motion animation, the casual conversation, the minimal production that juxtaposes against the larger-than-life celebrities – in a world where food and drink media flip flops between extreme aestheticism in “Chef’s Table” and the spunky anti-chef vain of Anthony Bourdain (RIP) and David Chang, “The Chef Show” is overwhelmingly relatable.

It’s relatable in so many ways, and it’s fun to live vicariously through Jon Favreau.  In episode three, Jon and chef Roy Choi (Jon’s cooking mentor on the movie Chef) are making Pasta Aglio e Olio and Jon repeatedly exclaims that the garlic is burning.  Roy’s calmness when reassuring him that everything’s fine makes for such an authentic situation that the fact that it’s being filmed is funny in and of itself.

This beautiful shot of pasta is the kind of thing that’s absent in “The Chef Show”

This beautiful shot of pasta is the kind of thing that’s absent in “The Chef Show”

The show is super stylish in its minimalism – no narration, no text on the screen, no indulgent food close-ups.

The focus of this show is on people, reactions, and interactions around food.  The show takes its time.  In the Aaron Franklin episode, Jon trims a brisket down, asking Aaron questions along the way.  Aaron asks if he can trim one too, and they showcase his trim in real-time as he casually explains his thought process.  They know what they’ve got—they know that this kind of footage with a Texas barbecue legend doesn’t need fancy editing or shots.

I also love that when they’ve completed a dish and begin tasting, they eat the whole plate.  In fact, these guys seem to like food so much that they kind of race each other to steal bites of the finished product.  I can get down with that.

If you can’t tell, I loved the show.  I think it was eye-opening for my own experiences in coffee—I find that the ways food and coffee compare and contrast are really interesting.

Here are some lessons I learned along the way:

Interact more with home baristas

In these videos, Jon Favreau (despite his fame) plays the role of the home cook.  In coffee, I interact with professionals all the time, but watching this show has made me realize that I should talk to home baristas way more.  Speaking to professionals in a like-minded setting can make everything sound correct.  When Jon watches these chefs cook and asks, “Why do you do it that way?” these chefs take a mindful second to think about the best way to explain.  For many, these cooking techniques and concepts have been ingrained from thousands of hours of experience—it’s awesome to see them distill all their knowledge into one-sentence answers for Jon’s questions.

Be more curious and don’t fear looking ignorant

Favreau is insatiably curious, yet he presents himself with a sense of humility and respect that causes these chefs to give away everything.  They can see that he’s genuinely there to learn and work and that he loves the process as much as he loves the food.  Sometimes, I find myself trying to learn things by myself—I might see someone do something and then Google how they did it later, when I could have just interacted with them, learned way more quickly, and built a relationship on the way.  Stepping out of my comfort zone and learning to accept teaching can improve my coffee understanding so much!

Invite others into coffee making

Sabrina and Connor Baristas

At home—when I have people over or my family visits town—I usually like to offer coffee.  I think it’s a nice gesture, but I usually treat it as a gift to guests rather than a communal activity.  At a dinner party, I think it’s expected that you might be included in cutting up some vegetables or stirring the pot so it doesn’t boil, so why not coffee?  In the future, I’ll definitely invite people to brew coffee with me and build more situations like in The Chef Show.

“If you make a mistake, do it again.”

Chef Roy Choi keeps it simple.  He’s patient in a way that shows that chefs don’t have to yell at each other to command excellence.  His words “if you make a mistake, do it again” really resonate with me.  Because it’s so simple, it’s easy to nod and do it.  With the content we’ve been making on the Boomtown Instagram, one of our main goals is to have more people make more coffee.  I may have to steal Choi’s words in the future.

Chris PortoComment