“What do we do next, chef?” That question is Jon Favreau’s catchphrase throughout The Chef Show: Volume II. Favreau — an acclaimed actor, writer, director, and producer — lets his friend and culinary guide, chef Roy Choi, lead the way as the last six episodes of season one play out.
The results are inevitably fun, light, and hunger-inducing. They also inspire a fair bit of friendship envy, as the most common takeaway is, “But I want to hang with these guys!”
The back half of The Chef Show opens with Hollywood star and cooking aficionado Seth Rogen. Rogen cracks wise while he, Favreau, and Choi prep items for Choi’s “pork sauce” for a stewed chicken dish and then they whip up a pile of fried chicken. It’s simple, fun, straightforward food TV. It won’t challenge you (though adopting Choi’s brining technique is a good call) and it’s not really supposed to. It will make you hungry and leave you laughing. Watching these three in the kitchen is the visual equivalent to a pot of mac and cheese.
It was an interesting move by Netflix to release season one of The Chef Show in two parts. Volume 1 had eight episodes and 100-percent left us wanting more. Volume 2 strikes a very similar chord, tonally, but is even more lugubrious in its pacing. It also feels smaller. The dynamic cooking duo doesn’t leave California throughout these six episodes, giving the whole run a more intimate feel that’s very West Coast.
Pop culture still plays a vital, albeit backseat, role in the second half of the season. As opposed to Avengers assembling in Atlanta (as happened in episode two of the series), here we get Favreau and Choi hanging out at the legendary Skywalker Ranch. Dave Filoni — who writes and directs Star Wars animated series — jumps in the kitchen as Choi and Favreau cook.
Choi bustles around the kitchen as Favreau and Filoni basically talk shop about working on Star Wars projects, working at Skywalker Ranch, and being huge Star Wars nerds. If you’re into that stuff, well, you’ll be into it. As with the Avengers episode, they don’t dwell on the pop culture. It’s more like two insiders revealing that they’re just fans who got amazingly lucky and are now part of something they love.
The fact that this goes down while Roy Choi is having them slice and dice is a bonus. The stakes are much lower than Hall C at ComicCon and the conversation flows naturally.
Another high point comes when Favreau and Choi visit Hog Island Oyster Co. on Tomales Bay in Northern California. As someone who loves all oysters and have been to that spot several times, I can say with assurance that this episode perfectly captures the beauty of the place. I say this because with food TV — or any lifestyle programming or feeds — you often get the feeling that, “Yes, it’s dope but it’ll never live up to what I’m seeing unspool on the screen, or on Instagram.”
That’s not the case here. Choi and Favreau tour the oyster beds and then get down to prepping oysters in pretty much any iteration you can image. They make mignonettes with locally foraged ingredients, seaweed salads, grill copious amounts of oysters, and eat about a million raw oysters. People gather around, chill out, and enjoy the bounty of the land and sea. Is it idyllic? Yes. Is it real? 100 percent.
You can go to Hog Island right now and experience what you see on screen. That level of re-creatable experience makes this episode a standout.
As the episodes wind down you get a feel for this being a very compact and singular moment in television. The season feels complete when episode 14 comes along — featuring a return of Binging with Babish’s Andrew Rea (to cook breakfast) and celebrity chef David Chang (making kimchi amongst other things). The last episode sort of feels like two post-credit scenes in a Favreau-directed Iron Man movie. Funny bookends or outros to the larger project that was the first 13 episodes.
Which leads us to ask “what do we do next, chef?” It feels like now that season one is behind Favreau and Choi, and their concept is proven, they’ll get the chance to give it another whirl and widen their focus. (God, if these two megastars can’t get a Netflix renewal, what hope do the rest of us have?)
When I spoke to Roy Choi a couple of months ago, I actually asked him about what was to come for this collaboration. He lamented that the duo hadn’t hit up New York or Chicago yet (Favreau grew up in New York and cut his teeth at Second City in Chicago). Choi’s voice filled with anticipation at the thought of hanging out at Italian red sauce houses and Jewish delis in Manhattan and kicking it with Second City comedians while diving into Chicago’s food scene.
Whatever they decide to do next, fans of this friendship/food/pop culture-focused melting pot are sure to buy-in for more.