Jon Favreau’s “The Chef Show” hit the radar after a clip of Gwyneth Paltrow forgetting she was in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” made the rounds earlier this month. The Goop owner and actress was zesting an orange alongside Favreau and his chef buddy Roy Choi when she simply couldn’t remember she played Pepper Potts in the 2017 Marvel movie. Although the internet got a kick out of Paltrow in that moment, the soup she, Favreau and Choi were cooking up also looked, well, delicious.
Turns out that dish was a vegetarian version of a Caribbean pepper pot stew — very clever — which Choi was making for Paltrow at Goop headquarters in Los Angeles. My mouth watered five minutes into the episode. Even my dog was salivating as Choi, Favreau and Paltrow prepped the ingredients for the soup and talked about his 2014 movie “Chef,” which inspired Favreau to revisit his love of being in the kitchen. The eight-episode series premiered on Netflix June 7 and has already gained its fair share of food-loving and Marvel-obsessed fans.
Like “Chef’s Table,” “Top Chef” and “The Great British Baking Show,” “The Chef Show” is a cooking series that’s not only easy to watch but feeds your feel-good soul. Choi and Favreau have undeniable bromance chemistry on screen and bounce off one another while prepping, chopping, blending and tasting an assortment of ingredients and dishes that immediately make you want to browse GrubHub.
There’s Choi’s roast Mojo pork and his buttery Cubano and grilled cheese sandwiches to melt over. There are lobster rolls and shrimp toast. There’s chocolate lava cake. Choi and Favreau even meet up with the likes of Momofuku maven David Chang and master of barbecue Aaron Franklin to cook everything from crispy fried rice to tender brisket. And, of course, they eat a surf-and-turf meal with actors Tom Holland and Robert Downey Jr. and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige at Atlanta hotspot The Optimist, where Spider-Man devours his first oyster.
Every scene is delightful, bringing viewers not only recipes but conversations about upbringing, career achievements and, well, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are also charming animations for each recipe so us amateurs at home can pause or screenshot ingredients like you’re watching a YouTube tutorial. It’s inspired.
It’s not surprising, however, that these guys could create a compelling reality cooking show. Consider the success of “Chef,” which was co-produced by Choi, and written and directed by Favreau. The movie told the story of Carl Casper (Favreau), the head chef of a popular Los Angeles restaurant who leaves after a bad review to start a cross-country food truck business. It was deemed “food porn” by Cinemablend, and was considered to be a hugely accurate depiction of chefs to those in the culinary world. That had a lot to do with Choi and his mentorship, Favreau said during that meal with the Marvel crew.
“The story that I wrote was very similar to [Choi’s] life story. He went to the Culinary Institute, he worked at Le Bernardin and worked his way up the ladder, and then gave it up and decided he wanted to do the food truck thing [with the Kogi BBQ Taco Truck],” Favreau says. “Our first meeting was six hours of me just following him through these different restaurants and him saying, ‘If we do this, I’ll do whatever you need but we got to get to get it right, because food movies don’t get it right and the chefs all get pissed.’”
“I said,” Choi clarifies, ”’If you’re willing to do it right, I’ll be there every step of the way. And I just knew, I felt something inside that he was going to do it.”
Once the film was done, Favreau missed cooking with Choi so he decided to combine his passions of food and filmmaking.
“I was like, ‘Let’s bring a camera crew and cook for some of the people that are working on that show, and some restaurants and some chefs in Atlanta.’ And then I took that footage and I started working on it like a documentary,” Favreau told People. “We filmed in our kitchens, whether in our homes or his restaurant, other people’s homes, other cities, and it started to take form.”
Favreau and Choi bring some comedy to the kitchen, too. Bits pop up left and right on “The Chef Show,” like when Favreau introduces Choi to Cafe Du Monde’s beignet mix in Episode 1. Although it only requires the cooks to complete three easy steps ― stir water into mix, drop beignets into hot oil, coat them with powdered sugar ― the guys find out the hard way that expired mix will never lead to yummy results. (Choi eating a stale beignet, while trying to ease Favreau’s mind, is everything you’d think it’d be.)
The moment also shows viewers that, no matter how small, even professionals make mistakes ― and learning from them is how you eventually get better at whatever gig you’re chasing. (Choi reiterates that point throughout the series.) The guys buy a new box of Cafe Du Monde the following episode and give baking another shot. The new beignets turn out much better than their previous dried-out dough balls, and once again make your eyes glaze over with thoughts of sugary desserts.
So, if you’re someone who orders takeout while watching “Ugly Delicious” or finds yourself flipping on “Salt Fat Acid Heat” or “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” every evening, “The Chef Show” is very much for you. Bon appétit.