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The Last Ten Minutes of "Chef's Story"
Monday, May 14, 2007 | posted by Mike

Usually, I like to devote a lot of time to any reviews that I write, giving the programs the serious thought and contemplation that they deserve. This is not one of those times.

You all know that we recently moved into the new TVFF HQ. Of course, there is no shortage of work to be done on the new facilities (mastering my circular saw technique on shelves and hanging bathroom hardware, in case you were wondering how I spent my weekend). So this has meant that TV viewing time has been at a premium. But I do watch when I can, as it's a nice rest from the seemingly endless amount of work that needs to be done.

And for some odd reason, when I do manage to get a few minutes during a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I keep managing to drop in on the last ten minutes of episodes of Chef's Story on my local PBS station (supported by viewers like you!). I mentioned this program a while back, at which time I jokingly called Inside the Chef's Studio for its seeming likeness to the the Bravo program Inside the Actor's Studio.

What I have caught of the actual interviews between host Dorothy Hamilton and the three chef's I've seen (Bastianich, Bourdain and Flay) has certainly been reminiscent of the interplay between Actor's host James Lipton and his thespian guests, although without all of the gushing and effusive praise. But, just as you get ready for the "Bernard Pivot Questionnaire" and Q&A on Chef's Story, they instead take you into the kitchen.

Cool, right? Well...

It's certainly great to see the chefs in their element. It's a straightforward preparation of a dish and each of the ones I've seen do a pretty good job of walking the viewer through it. Of course, they all have considerable TV experience, so their effectiveness is no surprise. Bourdain goes through duck confit, and just barely disguises his belief that a trained chimp could make the dish. He gets a good response from the crowd of culinary students when he explains that he wouldn't use his own knives to take the ends off of the leg bones.

But the problem is that Bourdain's audience response is the exception rather than the norm in these pieces. It's not a masterclass in the sense that people are calling out questions or asking to have techniques demonstrated more explicitly. There's just no give-and-take with the students and it feels like a big missed opportunity.

Ahhh....of course, you can order the DVD of the episode, which does include all of the extra goodies (including, I believe, a full Q&A). Since this is a PBS show, and we know how much it's costing you to watch it, we won't begrudge them trying to make a buck or two. But giving a little more to the viewing audience would have been nice.

Anyone else watching this more regularly than me? Love it?/Like it?/Hate it? Let us know!



Hi, I'm Mike and I created TVFoodFan.com as a place where you can come to get the latest news and views about what’s going on in the world of culinary television.

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