How Chef’s Table Can Relate to Animation

When browsing Netflix to search for a new program to help me focus while I animate, I unconsciously stopped my mouse on “Chef’s Table”. I remember thinking ‘here we go, another one of those cooking shows, no thank you’. Then, as Netflix does when your mouse stops on a program, the trailer starts playing.

The first thing I hear is Will Goldfarb’s voice: “When I was in Paris for pastry school, they were pretty clear this was a bad career choice”. I can already relate. Then, this series of so aesthetically pleasing dishes to the rythm of “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. And I am hypnotized.

I start watching it and quickly realize it is a series of documentaries about exceptional chefs. Not always famous chefs or cooks, but people that fought and became food artists.

The title sequence of Volume 4 pastry is by far the most aesthetically pleasing in terms of visuals and music.

It transported me into a world, a world of art, where people, like us, start from the bottom and build their way up. They fight, they face failures, disappointments, bad reviews,… but they go on, they strive to constantly be better and satisfy the client, please him/her.

The lessons I got from this show is first of all that we all start somewhere, with a love for something. For them it’s food, for me it is drawing.

Then they start from the bottom and work their way up like animators. First we in between, and hope to be a lead animator or director later on. To reach this dream, we all have an inspiration to take us along the journey. My dream has always been Disney for instance.

Another thing I could relate to in this series is that you need to leave your ego at the door. You have to listen to feedback, take it in to make your work better. In season 3, Jeong Kwan says it beautifully:

“Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.” — Jeong Kwan

Moreover, this series talks about transcendence. Food is a basic need. Cooks could just want to give you something to fill you up without caring about taste or appearance. However, they strive to excel, to give the customer an experience they will not forget. This is also my aim for animation. To deliver something so beautiful and touching, the viewer will not forget it.

The more you watch the series, the more you discover individuals, stories behind their dish and all the long process, the attention to detail it took to this particular point. When animating, we always start from a particular story or anecdote and build on from there. We start this very long design process, a process similar to one of a Chef.

Finally, this show is all about teamwork and the people that push and help you getting to reach your goal. In a kitchen, having a crew helping you develop your idea, giving you out of the box feedback, all this knowledge reunited can only help improve your initial recipe. In animation, each person is part of the final process, each helping each other be better.

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