Netflix’s The Final Table has the dramatic production style of Iron Chef, the beautiful cinematography of Chef’s Table, and multicultural celebrations of friendship, successes, and beat the odds perseverance that reminds one of The Olympics. The Final Table isn’t about dramatic fights or people yelling at each other, although they do have the kind of conflict one would expect chefs to have when cooking together. Instead, this show focuses on chefs from around the world working in teams of two to make dishes from the country on which each episode focuses. As we get to know the teams we find out the interesting ways each pair has found each other. Along the way, each chef gets to honor their cultural perspectives and backgrounds as we learn their stories.
It's an interesting study in friendship because some teams have cooked together many times and some never have. Often times teams are made of chefs who cook from different countries and cultures so their approaches, styles, and strengths are at times radically different. Seeing these chefs learn to work together is as close as this show ever gets to the kind of drama one might typically expect from reality competition shows. But rather than throw things or scream, the chefs learn to trust each other or at least how to work it out. It’s a nice change of pace. Plus, the show does a great job showcasing the way that no one corner of the globe has the market on “fine” food. Each country has something to offer and ingredients worth celebrating.
Admittedly, The Final Table is missing some elements that could push it into being truly great food TV. It took me a second to get past the first episode’s exposition and explanation of the concept. Then the final episode was also a far less interesting watch than previous ones. The former teammates compete as individuals to earn their prize, a seat at “The Final Table” which is stacked full of the finest chefs the world has to offer. It sounds interesting enough, but once the partnership aspect was gone, the show lost its heart. The finale still had the flashy production and impeccable shots of incredible looking food, but the thing that truly made the show intriguing was missing. But in spite of this, The Final Table is a welcome addition to the ever growing collection of “kind” food competition shows. If that’s your thing like it’s mine, don't be afraid to give it a shot.
Strange Perspective is a weekly look at all things pop culture with Progress columnist Rachel Strange.