David Gelb - photographed by Mathieu Young for Netflix
David Gelb - photographed by Mathieu Young for Netflix

Chef’s Table director David Gelb - 'Virgilio Martinez gives the performance of his life every night'

Ahead of the third series the Chef's Table director tells us about rock star chefs, VR and one particular Peruvian

Season 3 of Chef’s Table comes to Netflix on February 17, and profiles, among other international culinary stars, Phaidon author, Central founder and Peruvian culinary sensation, Virgilio Martinez. 

Why did series' creator and director David Gelb choose to place Virgilio alongside such world renowned gastronomic talents as Massimo Bottura, Magnus Nilsson, Dan Barber and Alex Atala from previous seasons? Are chefs the new rock stars? And what’s easier, to create - a Michelin-starred kitchen, or an award-winning show? We asked David to tell us.

Big name chefs occupy an interesting position in culture right now. Do you place them on a par with rock stars, movie stars, or is there a more accurate comparison?  Chefs are artists, and there appears to be a growing audience excited to appreciate their work. I think of chefs like stage performers. It's never exactly the same twice. Each night, they have to make sure that they are giving the performance of their life. And when the food is consumed, it is gone, and just the memory lingers. It's like a play.

 

Virgilio Martinez by Daniel Silva. From our new book Central
Virgilio Martinez by Daniel Silva. From our new book Central

Are there any parallels between your work and theirs in terms of deadline pressures or public expectation? Chefs are both directors and producers. They have to raise money to start the business and keep it going. They have to get a great crew, train them, motivate them, and retain them. And the competition is fierce. I would say that directors of film of television have it easier, though, because once we finish a work it exists in perpetuity and is the same every time you play it. A chef has to perform at his or her highest level every single night. And if you have one bad night, it can totally destroy your business. I think being a chef is far more difficult.

 

Virgilio Martinez by Daniel Silva. From our new book Central
Virgilio Martinez by Daniel Silva. From our new book Central

How did Virgilio compare to the other chefs you've profiled in the series and who did he remind you of most? Virgilio Martinez is one of the most interesting and thoughtful chefs in the world, so it was a no brainer to include him. In some ways he reminds us of Alex Atala and Francis Mallmann in that he is an adventurer, and someone who takes all the elements of his homeland, even the altitudes in which the ingredients are found, into deep consideration in creating his menu.

 

Virgilio Martinez by Jimena Agois. From our new book Central
Virgilio Martinez by Jimena Agois. From our new book Central

What was he like to direct? We imagine it was quite collaborative In order to be a great chef you have to be able to communicate to rally your team and inspire them to follow your vision, and Virgilio is no exception. Virgilio and the episode director, the illustrious Clay Jeter, collaborated from the very beginning to figure out the best approach to tell the story together. From allowing us to invade his kitchen to going on adventures in the mountains together, Virgilio was with us the whole way and we are grateful for it.

 

Virgilio Martinez of Central in Lima, Peru. René Funk/ Netflix
Virgilio Martinez of Central in Lima, Peru. René Funk/ Netflix

What’s next for you after the Chefs’ Table series? We're excited to continue making Chef's Table and are currently in talks with Netflix about a future season. I've also been involved with virtual reality and have recently directed the first ever VR doc series, called The Possible which is about inventors of amazing machines and it is available on the VR app Within.

 

Central by Virgilio Martinez
Central by Virgilio Martinez

For more on Chef's Table go here. And you can find out more about this incredible chef’s cookery in his new book Central available in the Phaidon store.