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Netflix's Chef's Table
Food, Writing

Why Writers Should Watch Netflix’s Chef’s Table

By now many have seen Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Now in its fourth season, it’s a series structured around 45-minute episodes focusing on one notable chef each. Yes, they’re “food porn” worthy, with gorgeous, slow-motion segments highlighting minute details of particular dishes. But they’re also explorations of people’s journeys to pursue their passions, the hardships they overcome, the pressures of society and family to conform, the financial pitfalls they tumbled into … In short, the show is about the pursuit of dreams. It’s also about the creative process, and if you’re a writer, here are a few reasons you should watch.

They Fail

Every writer knows the sting of failure. It doesn’t matter if it’s the paragraph you can’t perfect no matter how many times you read it, the form rejection to a query you sent to your top-choice agent, or a publisher who decided against your project. If you write, you fail.

So do these chefs. They’re at the top of their games, highly regarded within their communities and worldwide—and yet, they speak emotionally and openly about their failures and fears.

And we, as writers, soak in the words. We find common footing with a profession we possibly felt was far removed from our own craft, and we find community in the shared failures we all experience on our creative journeys.

Netflix's Chef's Table

They Inspire

Creatives are constantly seeking inspiration. The well depletes and must be refilled. Chef’s Table inspires in many ways. Here are two.

First, it’s visually stunning. Plates are prepared in fast, then slow, motion and displayed to the camera in quick succession, showering you with vibrant colors and intricate arrangements. It’s visual overload in the best way, a way that leaves the mind packed with fresh inspiration to invent on the page.

Secondly, there is intense emotion in each episode. Family lives are tremendously impacted by the pursuit of greatness, and a single fleeting comment can speak volumes. Other times, the chefs speak openly about overcoming barriers within society and tradition. I often end an episode contemplating how each chef presented his or her journey. What did they gloss over? What did they dwell on? What motivated them? Why? These biographies are explorations of human nature, of sacrifice, and of love in numerous forms. These are people striving for something—exactly what every character we write should do.

Netflix's Chef's Table

They Don’t Give Up

Gear Patrol’s J. Travis Smith said it best: “It’s not a cooking show so much as it’s a show about failing to concede a limitation on what’s possible.”

And thus, we’re back to failure. If you’re a writer, you’ve been given a choice. Once, twice, many times. Do I stop bruising my ego and heart in pursuit of something that shows little promise right now, or do I hobble my broken creative soul through the muck a while longer?  Do I stop pushing myself creatively for something easier? Stop pushing for an agent? To sell a particular project?

Before you decide, watch Chef’s Table. Don’t binge it. Let each episode marinate for a bit. Then ask yourself what’s possible, and keep going.


Mary Oliver’s Interview with On Being

I recently discovered podcasts on my iPhone. I’m quite late to the podcast club, I admit, but now that I’m  here, I’ve been enjoying the resources it provides to writers. It’s not a surprise to any writer that the act of putting pen to paper is often isolating. Podcasts have given me an unexpected venue through which to feel the companionship of other writers and people contemplating things that I am also contemplating at the time. And it’s nice to hear this articulated aloud rather than via emails.

So it was that I stumbled upon the podcast series On Being this past weekend. On Being recently interviewed the wonderful Mary Oliver, poet extraordinaire. I won’t take away from the podcast by summarizing it here, but I will say that Ms. Oliver touches on topics like religion, writing as a discipline, writing as healing, wounds and how we deal with them, the family dynamic, and much more. If you, like me, are new to podcasts (and even if you aren’t), I suggest you give this a listen. Preferably somewhere where you can keep a pen and paper nearby to jot down all the things the conversation will bring to mind.