“We’re not going to make it less spicy because you can’t eat spicy. People walk out from my restaurant, but we are happier if they decide not to eat, because if the mind is not going to open from the beginning, it’s not going to work,” Chef Bo Songvisava — Chef’s Table, Season Five
Chef’s Table, the Emmy-nominated Netflix show (which showcases a different innovative chef each episode) is trying something new for seasons five and six. They’re zooming in on women and people of color. What’s so great about this commitment to show diverse chefs on screen isn’t just that it’s happening (although that’s very exciting), it’s that the show’s producers made the move after people complained that the series had mostly been featuring white men. Instead of becoming defensive or doubling down, the Chef’s Table team listened. And then they promised to dig deeper and learn from the conversation.
This kind of thoughtful adjustment is a rarity these days and we all get to reap the spoils — a more diverse food culture is a win for literally everyone. Besides, getting to know the work of chefs like Thailand’s Bo Songvisava is just plain old great TV.
Chef Bo embodies the same spirit that drove the Chef’s Table creators to widen their POV. Her restaurant, Bangkok’s Bo.lan, is both truly authentic and highly regional. With locally sourced, high-quality ingredients, and cooking and preparation methods that harken a return to traditional cooking.
Just like Chef’s Table decided to believe that people would be just as drawn to diversity in chefs, Songvisava believed that tourists and young Thai people could embrace the actual culture and flavors of Thai food. When she opened her restaurant, she set out to give them the chance to do so.
“There is a gap in the society,” Bo explains. “As culture changed in Thailand, working outside of the home became the norm and the traditional versions of recipes that were passed from mouth to mouth, mother to daughter were being lost. A lot of dishes were disappearing really quickly.”
Songvisava grew up loving cooking. She adored the happiness food could bring people. But the food her family cooked, she says, wasn’t traditional Thai. People in Thai cities didn’t have the time to cook anymore the way they used to, and food carts and stalls dominated the food scene. As a result, anyone who wanted to be a chef in Thailand most likely ended up at a European or American-run place.