The point of the Chef’s Fable event wasn’t about the food at all, but about the story of the chef. That’s what filmmaker David Gelb wanted to get across. That’s what Chef Niki Nakayama of n/naka fame wanted her fans to learn. The same went for Chef Magnus Nilsson. Magnus of acclaimed Swedish restaurant Fäviken said that cooking is a craft, it’s not an art.
Today’s society is primarily focused on the pictures of food which is the last thing on a chef’s mind. Niki also supported Magnus by saying that all of the chefs on the panel besides her (Massimo Bottura of Osteria Franciscan and acclaimed LA Times Food Bowl, Best New Restaurant first annual award recipient Roy Choi of (LOCOL, Kogi, The Line Hotel, POT, Commissary, Chego, A-Frame, Sunny Spot et:al ), believe that they are artisans not artists.
The difference being that artists can work on anything their hearts desire at any given moment in time. Chefs have to be consistent with a dish on a daily basis. They might create something new, but every cut and pluck must be the same. They want people to come back to their fine dining establishments just like a person would go back to a ma and pa Italian joint craving their favorite no-frills meatball.
The pow wow of these tastemakers took place at the arc deco Wiltern theatre in Koreatown Sunday night. Gelb, who made Jiro Dreams of Sushi and put these above chef’s front and center in his Netflix show, Chef’s Table, said the story comes first and the food always comes second.
He only spends a day shooting shots of food. Ninety nine percent of the filming time is spent learning and watching the chefs progress. That’s why Niki showed her vulnerable side in her episode. She said that when featured, she wanted the world to know her personal and professional life because they are interconnected 24/7.
Gelb said it took him over a week for Magnus to open up to him. Gelb wasn’t going to leave Sweden with just a few pretty shots of food. Magnus chuckled and said that’s how every Swede behaves, it takes a week at the very least for them to warm up to a newcomer.
Massimo pointed out that chefs are not rock stars. There aren’t sexy women, lots of money, and parties. His focus isn’t on any of that. It’s only on finding the best ingredients Italy offers and waiting patiently for those ingredients to become their best selves in order to be cooking ready.
Jon Favreau arrived at the panel towards the bitter end. He concurred with Gelb that the story of a chef is what gravitated him to making the film Chef in the first place. He loves the journey they go through: the entrepreneurial spirit and the large amounts of personal and professional obstacles they have to overcome. When making the movie he also agreed that one can’t always rely on only the cinematography when showing the life of a chef and their restaurant, there needs to always be a story.
Some of the humorous notes of the panel dealt with the perfect cracking of an egg and everyone’s favorite comfort food. Magnus was unbashful explaining that he still cracks an egg with two hands and his favorite comfort dish is his very own taco quiche which is found in his new cookbook. Chef’s Fable was the kick off event to the LA Times’ 31 day Food Bowl. For more information and a calendar of events please go to the LA TIMES FOOD BOWL official website.
Article guest written by Monis Rose from Restaurant Fiction.
Event photography provided as a courtesy by LA Times Food Bowl Photographer Dan Steinberg
Jonathan Gold and Amy Scattergood share a moment back stage before the LA Times Food Bowl Chef’s Fable panel discussion with Jon Favreau