Happy Friday. I hope you made it through this week in one piece. It’s time to start thinking about weekend TV watching, and thankfully, the streaming gods are smiling upon us. Here are recommendations for three things to watch, plus a roundup of the week’s entertainment news.
‘Chef’s Table’ ups the ante
The new season of Netflix’s culinary documentary series Chef’s Table includes the series’ best-ever episode, not to mention three others that also rank very high on the list. If you’re new to the Chef’s Tablephenomenon, or if you abandoned the series after getting fed up with all the temperamental geniuses on display, this new season is a great place to dive in: The show has a more diverse cast than any previous season, and the filmmakers are all working at the top of their games.
In terms of storytelling, cinematography, and emotional impact, the Cristina Martinez episode is a new highpoint for the series. Martinez, the undocumented Mexican immigrant chef behind Philadelphia’s renowned restaurants South Philly Barbacoa and El Compadre, has an extraordinary life story that’s gracefully told here, in an installment directed by Abigail Fuller. Martinez found wild success in America by reclaiming a dish she was forced to make in an abusive relationship back in Mexico, and in doing so, can thrive in North America while also supporting her daughter back home. The last moment of this episode — a FaceTime conversation between Martinez and the daughter who she has not seen IRL in over a decade — is the kind of scene that sticks with you long after it’s over.
The second strongest episode of this batch concerns Albert Adrià, the Barcelona-based chef/restaurateur who worked for two decades as the pastry chef and test kitchen leader at fine dining legend El Bulli. The story of that restaurant has been told countless times before, but as the documentary points out, Albert’s more media-savvy brother Ferran usually gets most of the credit, despite that fact that the younger Adrià was the one driving a lot of El Bulli’s innovation. This episode offers a compelling alternative narrative about the most influential restaurant of the last half-century, and it serves as a great crash course on the culinary avant-garde movement in general.
The Bo Songvisava and Musa Dağdeviren episodes both tell stories of chefs who found their culinary identities by embracing the traditional foods of their homelands. For Songvisava, that means searching for generations-old Thai recipes and organic farmers who can supply the best possible ingredients to go into these dishes. And for Dağdeviren, his journey involves traveling around Turkey to learn about regional dishes that have all but disappeared from the culinary lexicon. Both chefs are charming, intelligent, and obsessive about their cuisines. I would happily watch entire Chef’s Table seasons about either or both of them.
All four episodes of the Chef’s Table Season 5 are now streaming on Netflix. If you’re watching this weekend, please stop by the Eat, Drink, Watch Facebook group for an extended discussion of the new episodes.
Streaming recommendations du jour
Tacos of Texas, “Migas”
Watch it on: YouTube
The gist: Austin-based taco journalists Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece have turned their book Tacos of Texas into a new digital series. The first episode focuses on migas, a dish that is synonymous with Austin. Rayo believes this is “the most important taco of the day.”
The hosts visit Tex-Mex staple Joe’s Bakery to sample the migas and chat with East Austin community activist Jose Miguel Anwar Velasquez about gentrification in the neighborhood. Then the guys pay a visit to the new location of Eater 38 favorite Veracruz All Natural to eat tacos with co-owner Maritza Vazquez, and learn about how the restaurant came from humble origins and quickly became a fixture of the local food scene.
Rayo and Neece are clearly having a lot of fun on their taco crawl, and they manage to serve up a good amount of local history in eight breezy minutes.
Late Night With Seth Meyers, “Ted Danson”
The gist: Ted Danson has the sort of ease on a late-night set that can only come from decades of promoting sitcoms with various talk show hosts. His recent appearance on Late Night With Seth Meyers finds the actor in a nostalgic mood, talking about the heyday of Cheers, and how he would never consider rebooting the show. Danson tells Meyers, “It would be a bunch of people in a bar in their 70s going, ‘What?’”
Perhaps best of all is an anecdote about how he prepared to play Sam Malone on the storied NBC comedy. “I went to bartender’s school and worked my little butt off to learn how to make drinks, and the first month of shooting, I was making Manhattans, and grasshoppers and all sorts of weird drinks,” Danson remarks. “And then it dawned on me they didn’t give a [bleep] about [the drinks]; they want their jokes said well and on time, and they’re shooting you above your hands.”
As Meyers points out, Danson actually got to do some bartending on a recent episode of The Good Place, so all that training didn’t go to waste.
In other entertainment news…
- Atlanta and St. Louis are getting Bob’s Burgers pop-ups this weekend.
- While taking the Famous Original Eater Questionnaire this week, Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski explained his culinary approach on the show: “I come in with what I know, and I try to parlay that into lessons for our ‘heroes.’ But that’s really listening to what they need. Sometimes it’s a little more ambitious. Sometimes it’s very simplistic. But it’s got to be something that’s condensed into a short amount of time.” His new Manhattan restaurant opens next week.
- Netflix’s forthcoming goth-tinged baking show The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell premieres on October 12. The poster for this show is just great.
- The new season of Barefoot Contessa: Cook Like a Pro will premiere on the Food Network on October 21.
- Parts Unknown’s Kenya episode is an instant classic. Make sure to watch after the credits for an insightful note about TV storytelling from late host Anthony Bourdain
- And finally, I have no idea what the hell this inverted pizza pita thing is, but I hope it makes a cameo on a future season of Ugly Delicious.
Have a great weekend everyone, and if you’re looking for something satisfying to prepare for dinner (or lunch or brunch), consider making Marc Forgione’s chicken under a brick, using this recipe.