For years now Netflix’s Chef’s Table has been illustrating to food fans everywhere, through some of the greatest chefs on the planet, that food is not simply nourishment. It’s art. The chefs featured in this series are some of the greatest in the world and they are at the very top of their game.
These culinary artists have spent years perfecting their skills, dishes, and philosophies in order to give diners an experience unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. From a Buddhist temple in South Korea to a fine-dining, Michelin-starred marriage of artistry and creativity located in Chicago, these restaurants (and the chefs that made them) are so much more than a dining experience.
10 Ivan Ramen (S3E4) - Ivan Orkin
Ramen is actually rather new to Japanese cuisine, only going back about one hundred years. Ramen is lo mein, which came from China. Originally just called lo mein it eventually, ramen became the name that would stick. Very interesting facts to be sure, not typically facts one would imagine learning while Chef’s Table spotlights a Jewish chef from New York, however.
From a young age, Ivan Orkin had been obsessed with Japanese cuisine and culture. This kind of obsession doesn’t often amount to anything other than a fascination with anime or a trip across the globe, but for Ivan, it culminates in the creation of one of the most famous ramen shops in Japan. From the noodle to the broth and everything stacked on top, Ivan has worked long and hard to create one of the greatest ramen experiences in the world.
9 Baegyangsa Temple (S3E1) - Monk Jeong Kwan
As Jeong Kwan says in her own words before the credits and theme music even rolls, “I am not a chef. I am a monk.” While she prepares some of the finest Korean served on the planet, Kwan is not a chef. She does not run a restaurant. She simply cooks. For herself. For her monastery. And the people who manage the trip out to visit her.
It’s called temple food. Food designed to clear the static from the mind, body, and soul. Temple food is natural, simple, it’s food meant to connect others through a feeling of sharing. Much like all food is supposed to, according to Kwan.
8 Osteria Francescana (S1E1) - Chef Massimo Bottura
Chef Massimo Bottura and Osteria Francescana weren’t exactly the success story that Chef’s Table paints them out to be. For a long time, Massimo’s cuisine was looked down on for doing something most Italian chefs would never do.
Change up traditional Italian recipes, tear down the grandmas’ recipes, and replace them with something that had never been done before. For all the negativity and snickers that Chef Massimo seems to have endured, one might think he put pineapple on a pizza or something.
7 Alinea (S2E1) - Chef Grant Achatz
Tropical Fruit - Rum, Vanilla, Kaffir Lime. This incredibly unique and downright magical dish that likely wasn’t even on the menu when Grant Achatz episode was released. That’s the beauty of it though. Achatz’ whole philosophy of food is best summarized in once sentence: Follow your creativity.
Creativity will always lead you to something new, something interesting, and it with that thought in mind that Achatz runs his restaurant. He may no longer have the taste buds (Seriously. Dude’s like the Mozart of fine-dining), but when a chef like Achatz loses his sense of taste he simply learns to taste through others.
6 D.O.M. (S2E2) - Chef Alex Atala
In the episode in which he is featured, David Chang calls Chef Alex Atala a “Millenial renaissance man” and he’s not far off. While many vegans may not agree with the food he serves, Chef Atala takes great care and consideration to illustrate and illuminate the sacrifices made by nature to sustain his diners.
Chef Atala is obsessed with illustrating what an important part nature plays in not only his dishes but the world at large. He has taken it upon himself to deliver a message about the imbalances that are taking place on the planet, the respect it deserves.
5 n/naka (S1E4) - Chef Niki Nakayama
While a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles may not exactly be unique, it’s the way that Chef Niki Nakayama working within those precise rules, the way she twists and bends them to fit her more take on Kaiseki that is so impressive. Chef Nakayama, much like the aforementioned Chef Buttora with Italian cuisine, is shaking up a rigid and distinct set of rules for how Japanese food should be prepared and served.
Her home in Los Angeles served as the perfect background to explore and expand upon the traditional rules of Kaiseki. Her journey of self-expression through the lens of tradition culminates in her Abalone Pasta. A dish featured prominently in her Chef’s Table episode.
4 South Philly Barbacoa (S5E1) - Chef Cristina Martinez
With all the talk about what type of people are allowed over which borders, Netflix’s Chef’s Table shines a light on an unexpected chef to remind us all that there are real people attached to the stories we often hear. Chef Cristina Martinez (an immigrant from Mexico) is reminding people, through her food, that the only lines between us all, are the ones we’ve made up.
After building her business up from a pushcart to a brick and mortar shop, her delicious, homesick, and nostalgic dishes have taken her far. She is illustrating to the people around her that even when one is separated from their family, they can still feel at home.
3 Tickets (S5E4) - Chef Albert Adria
Despite not seeking fame, not wanting attention, and not being good with TV, Chef Albert Adria managed to find himself featured on Netflix’s Chef’s Table. His imaginative and magical dishes are what keep starry-eyed diners raving. While he may not be good at TV, he happens to be excellent when it comes to shutting up and doing the work.
An introvert’s gift as well as their curse. His fascination with magic displays itself all over Tickets. From the way dishes are served to the thought that goes into crafting each trick, Chef Adria has been inspiring and influencing Spanish cuisine since before Tickets even opened.
2 El Cellar De Can Roca (S4E3) - Chef Jodi Roca
While having two brothers that already ran an incredibly successful restaurant in Spain may seem like it put Chef Jordi Roca in the fast lane to fine-dining success, this pastry chef’s journey home wasn’t simply a piece of cake (ba-dum tss).
From making tender dishes dedicated to sheep and babies, to dishes filled with dirt, Chef Roca is inviting his diners to remain playful. His passion for his cuisine may have taken a while to find it’s the way to him, but when it finally managed to reach him, it took his family restaurant to new heights.
1 Faviken (S3E6) - Chef Magnus Nilsson
Nearly 700 kilometers north-east of Stockholm, Sweden, adventurous diners will find Faviken. Or they would if it was still open. Chef Magnus Nilsson worked tirelessly to create an experience for his diners.
Working very hard to hide from the influence of other chefs or restaurants, Chef Nilsson set up Faviken in a secluded area where he and his crew could simply create. Chef Nilsson’s dishes are not simply beautiful and delicious meals, they are reminders. Reminders to look at the world, to appreciate what we have all been given here on this planet.