This post originally appeared on June 7, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.
Welcome back to Friday afternoon. In addition to a roundup of the week’s food-related entertainment news, I’ve got a recommendation for a new Netflix show that’s unlike anything that’s been released by the streaming service in the past. Here’s what to watch this weekend:
The laid-back charms of Netflix’s The Chef Show
There’s a moment at the beginning of The Chef Show that feels like it would have landed on the cutting-room floor, were this any other food TV series. Roy Choi, the Los Angeles chef behind the ever-evolving Kogi empire, has just agreed to help his pal, Hollywood player Jon Favreau, to make a batch of beignets using boxed mix from New Orleans’s famed Cafe Du Monde. After making the dough (just add water!), cutting it into pieces, frying the squares, and showering them with powdered sugar, Choi takes exactly one bite, and slyly throws the rest in the garbage can right behind him. “It’s not quite like there,” Favreau says. While fumbling for the right words to say, Choi returns to the stove for a minute and then whips around with a big grin on his face. “I can tell they’re a year old,” he says bursting into laughter along with his friend. “I didn’t want to say it on camera, but fuck it, this whole thing isn’t about lying.”
This scene delivers one of the biggest laughs of the series, but it also cuts to the core of what The Chef Show is really all about: the joy of cooking alongside a friend in the kitchen.
Favreau and Choi famously met while working on the film Chef, and hatched the idea for this new series as an excuse to cook with each other again. While that might sound like a bit of Hollywood spin, it’s apparent from the first few minutes of The Chef Show that Choi and Favreau have great rapport in the kitchen, a mutual respect for each other, and similar taste buds.
Choi is no stranger to food TV, having appeared on Ugly Delicious, Top Chef (as a judge), and as the star of his excellent new KCET series Broken Bread. But this new series allows the chef to showcase his obsession with technique and enthusiasm for the craft of cooking in ways that we’ve never seen on TV before. In every kitchen sequence, he drops culinary knowledge like an older brother handing you a mixtape of his favorite jams. Favreau, meanwhile, manages to keep the spirit light, even as he gets tackles new culinary challenges at the encouragement of his friend. Part of the fun is watching the writer/actor/director gradually increase his skill level and build more confidence in the kitchen.
In addition to awesome recipe demonstrations, the show also features some memorable banter between the hosts and their celebrity guests. Here, in no particular order, are a few of my favorite moments from the show:
Gwyneth’s Spider-Man blooper: In the middle of a “pepper pot soup” demonstration with Jon and Roy in the Goop kitchen, Gwyneth Paltrow reveals that she completely forgot about appearing in Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Tom Holland gets “crushed”: During a meal with the cast of the Avengers at the Optimist in Atlanta, Tom Holland eats his first oyster and asks Roy about the practice of chefs sending out a ridiculous amount of food to other chefs. “What is this ‘getting smashed’ thing?” the actor inquires. “Getting crushed?”
A tribute to Jonathan Gold: My favorite episode, by far, is a culinary tribute to the late food critic Jonathan Gold. This chapter features a pie tutorial from his friend Evan Kleiman, and a green curry demonstration from Jitlada’s Jazz Singsanong. The Chef Show is a very dude-centric endeavor, so it’s nice to see Jon and Roy cook with some women for a change.
Choi and Chang talk growing up Korean-American: After preparing a big pot of miyeok guk, a seaweed stew that’s traditionally served on birthdays in Korean households, Chang and Choi discuss misconceptions about Korean culture in America. “People think that being Korean is all one thing,” Choi says. “But from the moment I met Dave, I knew that our families had different backgrounds, and we had different styles of cooking, we come from different regions of the country. We’re still Korean, but we have different food. All Korean food is not just one thing.”
The brisket slice-off: Approximately one third of the Aaron Franklin episode is devoted to a brisket-butchering tutorial, where the famed Franklin Barbecue chef and Favreau compare slicing techniques.
A cauliflower cameo: Sin City director Robert Rodriguez is both a skilled pizzaiolo and a cheerleader for gluten-free cauliflower products. Roy and Jon are impressed by his cauliflower crust pizzas, and later successfully make a version of Choi’s kimchi fried rice using ground-up cauliflower. It’s a major moment for the cauliflower industry, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the show causes a rush on Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice and pizza crusts.
I hope that Jon and Roy don’t wait too long before planning another season of The Chef Show, and that next time around they invite more women to cook with them. All eight episodes of Season 1 are now available on Netflix.
In other entertainment news…
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you want to cook something in the vein of The Chef Show at home, consider checking out Roy Choi’s recipe for kimchi and ketchup fried rice.