The Final Table, a Netflix original global cooking competition, tries to become the biggest culinary competition the world has ever seen. Yet it seems to fall a little sort of these big claims.
This show chose 24 talented chefs from around the world to compete (in teams of two) for a single seat at the final table. This legendary table has the biggest chefs in the world already sitting at it, chefs who have changed the culinary world of fine dining entirely. This includes chefs like Anne-Sophie Pic, Grant Achatz, and Helena Rizzo. (I’ll admit I had never heard of them before this show, but they do seem really awesome.)
I absolutely loved the first few episodes of this show. They did a great job showcasing new and interesting culinary dishes and ingredients from various cultures. I mean, I have never seen or heard of Nopales before (a cactus used in episode one: Mexico as the native ingredient chosen by legendary chef Enrique Olvera).
I also loved that the chefs got two chances to make a great dish before they were removed from the show. I thought the editing and pacing was nicely done, with a good balance of tense cooking moments combined with slower more relaxing moments as chefs were introduced and we learned about different dishes. This show was interesting and explored new ways of cooking from other cultures. I really enjoyed learning about these new styles, techniques, and ingredients.
During the beginning stages of this competition, it seemed reasonable when chef teams were asked to leave, they had failed twice to make a suitable dish, after all. As the competition entered the middle stages, however, I started to become more and more uncomfortable with the show. For me, episode six: USA was really the point I noticed things starting to go downhill. (Warning: some spoilers ahead.)
I cringed through the entire episode. I disliked their choice of judges; Dax Shepard, Colin Hanks, and Sam Sifton. I especially disliked this because they seemed to try to have at least one female judge for every episode, except for the episode from the USA. I really felt that they could have done a better job choosing judges there. This was also the point I started to notice that all of my favorite teams, the chefs I’d come to care about were slowly getting eliminated.
The next episode, Italy, cemented this feeling of growing unease with the show when the last females on the show (and the only female team) were eliminated by the end of the episode. (Also, Carlo Cracco seems super pretentious, especially in comparison to the other legendary chefs.) Monique Fiso actually broke down into tears after her elimination, saying she had sacrificed everything to be in this competition (she had no income coming in since she couldn’t work in her restaurant). That was definitely the moment this show wasn’t fun to watch anymore.
By the time I got to the finale, the only chefs left were the team from Australia (Mark Best and Shane Osborn) and the team with Canadian Darren MacLean and American Timothy Hollingsworth. Literally, all the of the “global” chefs from the show had been eliminated. (And all the chefs I cared about watching). After finishing the episode my only reaction was “Meh.” I didn’t really have any feelings, except disappointment.
Does the lack-luster finale have to do with the casting of the chefs? The structure of the competition? I’m not sure, but I know that it didn’t feel very global by the time I got done watching it.
Overall, if you love cooking competitions, you might like this one (and I do highly recommend the first few episodes!). But you might also feel pretty disappointed by the lack of representation by the finale.