Chefs table is a Netflix mini series created by David Gelb that explores the lives of six world renowned chefs in a documentary like manner. In each episode we enter the world of one chef and are able to learn how they work in and out of the kitchen. Through commentary of professionals, friends, family, and even themselves we become immersed into their world.
I chose to focus specifically on this show to point out its importance as a modernised new wave of lifestyle television. From this I will explore how lifestyle television shapes our identities.
Lifestyle television as we know it, often presents certain values or particular styles of class and taste such as Pimp My Ride, Better Homes and Gardens, Master Chef, or Grand Designs. All these programs share the common ground of depicting a certain style that people watch to immerse themselves in. Many lifestyle programs are based on a makeover (which is a sub-genre within lifestyle television) but not all do (Smith, A. 2010).
Chef’s table is a lifestyle television program but has adopted some contemporary ways of broadcasting. Firstly, it is a mini series meaning it is a short single season of the program. Secondly, it is broadcast on Netflix and through the magic of the internet Chef’s Table has taken advantage of developing technologies and can be watched on any device (be it television, computer, phone or tablet) and any time (as long as you have Netflix). In using Netflix as the broadcasting medium Chef’s table adds another aspect of contemporary culture as well as a specific attribute of an identity, and style. This flexibility in how people watch keeps up with the rise of mass culture as it removes restriction on viewing times and locations and allows people to follow the program ‘on the go’, which appeals to a wide audience.
In David C. Chaney’s text, he suggests that ‘people increasingly treat their lifestyle as a project articulating who they are’. This is a key element of understanding why lifestyle television makes such an impact on who we are, or who we want to be. This refers directly to social status as it is often thought to be linked to the lifestyle we lead (David. C. 2001) and shows the importance of lifestyle programs in shaping our identities.
Chef’s Table puts a little twist on the average lifestyle/ food program and goes beyond by creating a story within each episode. It reinvents the way we experience this type of television through delving into the creative work of each chef. Rather than a simple challenge or makeover, we are immersed, for a whole 55 minutes into their creative exploration.
It focuses not only on the chef’s career but it emphasises their philosophies, their surroundings, and their experiences to create a different lifestyle and culture in each episode. Yet the linking factor between all episodes is its high class feel through only choosing to enter the worlds of six elite chefs.
People will watch this type of program not only to gain knowledge on the creative process behind these brilliant minds but they will watch for the style it presents through its crisp, neat mise en scene and array of cultural landscapes. People watch to adopt these styles as part of their own and while doing so Chefs Table use the frameworks of lifestyle television as a marketing technique for the country they are in, the chefs they present and the restaurants they own.
Through the way Chef’s Table is watched, the way it is presented and is available to audiences it becomes a defining framework of modernity and contemporary culture as well as a new wave of lifestyle television.
‘From Ways of Life to Lifestyle: Rethinking culture as ideology and sensibility’, David C. Chaney, in James Lull (ed.), Culture in the communication age, 2001
Smith, A. (2010). Lifestyle television programmes and the construction of the expert host. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 13(2), pp.191-205.
GENZLINGER, N. (2015). Review: ‘Chef’s Table’ Profiles Top Culinary Talents. The New York Times. [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/25/arts/television/review-chefs-table-profiles-top-culinary-talents.html [Accessed 28 Oct. 2015].