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A Guide to Netflix’s ‘The Final Table’

Everything you need to know about the new global culinary spectacle

Adam Rose/Netflix

The big draw of Netflix’s culinary competition The Final Table is that nine of the world’s greatest chefs — including Grant Achatz, Helena Rizzo, Yoshihiro Narisawa, and Anne-Sophie Pic — serve as judges in competitions based around the cuisines of their home countries. But the show has many more intriguing elements to keep viewers engaged throughout its 10-hour running time. For one thing, the chefs competing in the challenges themselves are exceptionally talented, and many of them are giant stars in their home countries. Every episode also includes cameos by two local celebrity “ambassadors” — actor Colin Hanks! model Alessandra Ambrosio! legendary curmudgeon/Observer restaurant critic Jay Rayner! — and all the action takes place in what is surely the most over-the-top stadium in culinary competition history.

The 24 chefs compete in teams of two: Sometimes they have worked together before, other times they are mutual fans of each other’s work, and in a few instances, the pairings are strangers who simply share similar ideas about food and cooking. Many of the most rewarding parts of this series come from watching these partners collaborate on ideas in the kitchen, and work through challenging situations to create something that will knock the judges’ socks off.

A dish from the Japan episode
Adam Rose/Netflix

Each episode begins with a dish-themed challenge judged by the “ambassadors” from each country. The bottom three teams move onto an ingredient-themed “final plate” challenge administered and judged by one of the master chefs. This conceit, that the bottom three must cook for the country’s greatest chefs to stay in the game, proves to be an intriguing part of the formula, since it raises the stakes considerably. These second round cook-offs also showcase just how good the competitors are on the whole — there are a lot of very close calls. Once the final two teams get to the last round, there’s another big surprise waiting for them: The pairs must break off and cook against each other in the last competition. There are no cash prizes at the end of the gauntlet, just the esteem of the judges, and a seat at the Final Table.

Only time will tell if The Final Table will eclipse shows like Top Chef and MasterChef in terms of popularity. But as for now, it’s a great option if you’re looking for something food-centric and family-friendly to watch over the Thanksgiving holiday. As a primer, here are brief bios of the nine judges at the Final Table, as well as host Andrew Knowlton, plus further reading on how the show came together.

‘Final Table’ chef/judge/host dossiers:

Further reading:

The Final Table [Netflix]
All Coverage of The Final Table [E]