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"The best thing about being a documentary filmmaker is living like the people you're following and going on their journey," Jiro Dreams of Sushi director David Gelb says. "How fun is that, especially when they're the greatest chefs in the world?"
Gelb and his crew trailed legendary grill master Francis Mallmann as he hopped from lamb roast to lamb roast in Argentina. They cram into the kitchen at Melbourne's acclaimed Attica; they sit with Ben Shewry as he turns far-fetched dishes from idea into reality in the span of a day. They trek to a remote Fargo-esque town in Sweden where Magnus Nilsson smokes, pickles and transforms the little that grows there into edible masterpieces at Fäviken, No. 19 on the The World's 50 Best Restaurants.
Why? It was all for Gelb's newest documentary series, Chef's Table, which premieres on Netflix this Sunday.
Dreamed up as a "spiritual sequel" to Jiro, Chef's Table is broken up into six short but mesmerizing documentaries profiling big-name chefs, as well as up-and-coming game changers. The so-called "cast" includes the aforementioned chefs, plus Niki Nakayama, one of the world's few female kaiseki chefs and the brains behind tradition-bending n/naka in L.A.; The Third Plate author and leftovers innovator Dan Barber; and Italy's Michelin-starred Massimo Bottura.
And like Jiro, the series goes deeper than endless shots of beautiful food (though there is a lot of that, too).
"Jiro was less about how to make sushi and more about why. What it means to give yourself to your work and what the cost of greatness is," Gelb explains. "All of the chefs [in Chef's Table] have created their own style of cuisine and forged this sort of outsider's path to success. They use their places as a vessel for storytelling."
Tune in Sunday, and you'll see exactly what Gelb means.
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