Jon Favreau’s Curiosity Continues to Make ‘The Chef Show’ One of Netflix’s Best Series

     February 19, 2020

Jon Favreau is a warlock. This is the only reasonable explanation for how the guy can make a cutting-edge Disney movie, the first-ever live-action Star Wars TV series, and a Netflix cooking series at the same time. And while The Lion King and The Mandalorian understandably took up the spotlight last year, Favreau’s Netflix series The Chef Show is sneakily one of the best things he’s ever done. The show returns with a third volume of all-new episodes today, and they are as entertaining, delicious-looking, and inspiring as ever.

Favreau created The Chef Show as a way to continue his apprenticeship under acclaimed chef Roy Choi, with whom he collaborated in preparation for his 2014 film Chef. Favreau so missed his cooking sessions with Choi that he started filming the two cooking dishes inspired by Favreau’s movie, bringing in guests like Gwyneth Paltrow, Bill Burr, and Dave Filoni to spur inspiration and exciting conversation.

What continues to set The Chef Show apart from other cooking shows is Favreau’s curiosity. He doesn’t merely sit back and let the episode’s guest take over, nor does he ask questions to which he already knows the answer. Any pretense of this being a “show” fades into the background, as The Chef Show is more like a voyeuristic look at Favreau learning from the best and chatting with friends new and old. He wants to attempt the recipes and techniques himself, understanding that failure is sometimes a valuable lesson (as evidenced by the hilarious beignets ordeal from Volume 1).

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Image via Netflix

In The Chef Show Season 3, Favreau and Choi venture to Las Vegas for a trio of excellent installments. They visit chef Wolfgang Puck at his Vegas steakhouse CUT where they cook and taste various cuts of steak; they head over to Border Grill to test out some modern Mexican cuisine recipes from co-owners Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger; and they take a special trip to Choi’s own Vegas restaurant Best Friend, where the Chef Show co-host explains the personal nature of some to-die-for dishes.

But again, these episodes aren’t just showcases for various restaurants. In the Wolfgang Puck episode, Favreau wants to prove to the chef that he can make a great omelet having fallen short before under Puck’s tutelage, so he gives it a go as Puck watches on. In a later episode at Wexler’s Deli in Los Angeles, Favreau, Choi, and chefs Micah Wexler and Michael Kasser have a fascinating and spirited discussion about the push and pull between traditionalism and progressivism as it relates to art—be it food or films. There’s even a delightful episode in which Favreau teaches acclaimed filmmaker Sam Raimi how to make sourdough bread.

This third volume consists of just five all-new episodes, plus an “extra helpings” installment featuring cut footage from previous installments. But even the “extra helpings” episode is genuinely inspirational, as Favreau, Choi and Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson have a candid discussion about creativity and their past almost-careers in finance all while making a cake. Again, this is not normal. I’ve seen a lot of cooking television, and most of it is pretty banal. The engine that fuels the creative thrust of The Chef Show is Favreau, and watching this show, it’s not hard to see why he was drawn to pushing the boundaries of what was technically possible with films ranging from Iron Man to Elf to The Jungle Book.

It appeared as though the first couple volumes of The Chef Show were made up of footage Favreau had captured over the years, and indeed while the Vegas episodes of Volume 3 appear to be newly shot, they were done so in a likely short span of time. Between The Mandalorian and whatever next massive film project Favreau has on his plate the filmmaker certainly has his hands full, but I do hope he continues to find time to create new installments of The Chef Show.

This isn’t just one of the best, most delightful shows on all of Netflix, it’s also one of the most creatively inspiring TV shows in recent memory. That it’s also a “cooking show” is yet another testament to Favreau’s talent and versatility. I submit to you once again: the guy absolutely must be a warlock.

Rating: ★★★★★

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