Netflix is betting hard on food TV. The streaming service has a stadium cooking show in The Final Table, they’ve continued to grow the Chef’s Table brand, they’ve got a travel entry in David Chang’s Ugly Delicious, and they recently branched off with a “Netflix Food” handle on social media. Now they’re entering the food/talk/celebrity game with a humble show from chef Roy Choi (of Kogi Truck fame) and Hollywood multi-hyphenate Jon Favreau (you know, the dude who directed Iron Man).
I use the word “humble” very purposefully here. Favreau’s and Choi’s The Chef Show could have been a bloated, look-at-my-famous-friends vehicle for ego stroking. Instead, they’ve gone the complete opposite direction. It’s simple, loose, and cruisy. The choice pays huge dividends.
The Chef Show‘s premise is exactly the sort of thing you could never sell without huge names attached: two longtime friends who love cooking together do exactly that with their mutual friends around the country. Favreau and Choi formed a friendship while the latter was advising the former on the food for Favreau’s hit film Chef. The filming ended and each went their separate ways in life. They came back together to cook with friends when time and schedules allowed, as friends do. Eventually, Favreau started filming it and the show was born.
Though it sounds simple, the format of this show is a kind of a breakthrough. The show isn’t just Choi schooling Favreau on a bunch of non-specific recipes. For The Chef Show, they dialed in the recipes to be a sort of Blu-Ray commentary track come to life — with the focus being recipes Favreau’s character cooks or eats in the film Chef.
As I watched each episode unfold, with Choi teaching folks like comedian Bill Burr or YouTube star Andrew Rea (Binging with Babish) how to make dishes from the movie, I couldn’t help but think how awesome a show like this works as a companion piece to the cinema. Then I started to wish for exactly what The Chef Show was doing but for my other favorite food films. Oh, how much I’d give to have Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub walking us through the recipes from The Big Night, episode by episode.
That’s where The Chef Show both transcends and rises above your average food porn cooking programming. The first two episodes, lean in towards Favreau’s Marvel Universe family. The first episode has a guest appearance from Gwyneth Paltrow, who we learn introduced Choi to Favreau when she brought Choi’s Kogi Truck on set for a party. Then, in episode two, Favreau and Choi lead Tom Holland (Spider-Man), Robert Downey, Jr. (Iron Man), Marvel producer Kevin Feige, and Avengers Endgame directing duo the Russo Brothers through a seafood feast in Atlanta. The meal serves as a sort of oral history — over Tom Holland’s first oyster — of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Episode three takes a turn away from Marvel and dives into Chef‘s film-food history. The heart and soul of the show really come into focus when YouTuber Andrew Rea arrives for a long segment in which the trio recreates the infamous lava cake with an oozing ganache center. Rea, who built his brand around recreating iconic food from film and TV, is clearly humbled and honored to be working with two heroes. The segment ends with Choi and Favreau gift Rea with a prop from Chef that’ll bring a damn tear to your eye.