Since its debut three years ago, David Gelb’s Netflix series Chef’s Table has raised the bar considerably for food documentaries. The show’s hyper-cinematic style and emphasis on artistic virtuosity has helped the series earn two James Beard Awards, while influencing the look and feel of other culinary documentaries and inspiring a few hilarious parodies along the way. And now, after three proper seasons and a French-themed mini-season, all focusing on chefs who cook savory food, Gelb and his crew turn their attention to four iconoclastic dessert makers.
Chef’s Table: Pastry looks at the careers of Italian gelato star Corrado Assenza, forward-thinking Spanish chef Jordi Roca, American empire builder Christina Tosi, and dessert tasting-menu guru Will Goldfarb. All four chefs approach their craft from different angles, but they each share a drive to be the best at what they do.
Gelb and Netflix have served up nearly four more hours of engaging food TV. But some viewers will have a hard time digging into Chef’s Table: Pastry because of the gender disparity found in not only this batch of episodes, but all the previous seasons of the show. Men always vastly outnumbered women in the Chef’s Table universe; through all seasons, including this one, 19 men have been featured, compared to 7 women. And as several writers have pointed out, the creators of the show missed a huge opportunity this time around by neglecting to feature more of the talented women who make the pastry scene so exciting around the world.
True to its usual formula, the show’s narratives are mostly silo-ed from the cultural conversation of today, zeroing in on the culinary achievements and personal stories of its four featured chefs. Plus, there are the expected glamour shots of the food; predictably beautiful. Highlights from the virtual dessert trolley of Chef’s Table: Pastry include: Assenza’s silky almond granite with brioche; Tosi’s majestic unfrosted wedding cake towers and stunning cereal milk panna cotta; Roca’s naturalistic “rainy day in the forest” fantasia with its edible dirt and crystal-clear stalagmite; and all of the Golfarb’s technicolor Bali-meets-New York creations.
Here are deep-dive guides into all four episodes of Chef’s Table: Pastry:
For more discussion of this new batch of episodes, head over to Eater’s new Facebook group Eat, Drink, Watch, which is dedicated to food TV and movies.