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‘The Final Table’ showcases culinary finesse

| Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Countries collide in Netflix’s newest addition to its collection of culinary coverage. “The Final Table” provides a glimpse into worldwide cuisine with a competitive edge. Twenty-four chefs from around the world team up in pairs to cook for a spot at the final table amongst nine legendary chefs from different countries.

A global cooking show calls for an arena to match, and “The Final Table” delivers. Twelve decked out cooking stations complete with stoves, ovens, refrigerators and much more sit in two rows across the stage. Judges watch chefs compete from a elevated ledge, getting a view of all the cooking action. Spotlights shine on the chefs as they work, and at the beginning of each episode, the teams stand stoically in the dark awaiting their next challenge. As soon as the dish and constraints are announced, each team scrambles to the large pantry stocked with every ingredient imaginable to craft their culinary masterpieces.

The first nine episodes challenge the chefs to create the national dish of a certain country, to be tasted and judged by three celebrities from that country. The three critics determine the best dish of the night, as well as the worst three dishes. The chef teams who have landed in the bottom three must cook again, this time with the challenge of incorporating and highlighting a certain ingredient chosen by the respective legendary chef that awaits the winner at the final table. The ingredient resembles the country around which the episode centers. From the bottom three, one pair of chefs gets eliminated once they have cooked their final plate.

It all starts in Mexico, where the 12 pairs take on the task of creating tacos that resonate with their Mexican origin while also showcasing each team’s style and strengths. In the second episode, paella stars as Spain’s national dish. An English breakfast faces the competitors in the third episode, and feijoada represents Brazil in episode four. In India, the star dish is Murgh Makhani, or buttered chicken; however, it must be prepared with a vegetarian substitute for the meat. The bottom three teams then have to construct a dish starring coconut to avoid being sent home. Once the competition reaches the United States, the remaining chefs put their spin on Thanksgiving dinner, and the bottom three prepare dishes featuring pumpkin for renowned chef Grant Achatz. In Italy, each team crafts a masterful dish of pasta.

Episodes eight and nine bring the heat as the competition narrows down in Japan and France, respectively. Japan challenges the last five teams with kaiseki, a multiple-course meal made with small portions. In France, the final four competing teams must cook hare a la royale, with the bottom three confronting a final ingredient challenge dictated by the egg. Two teams are eliminated at the end of the France episode. For the final episode, the four remaining chefs compete as individuals to create a plate that represents them, just as the nine legends who await them at the final table have done.

So much knowledge can be gained from this series in regard to cooking and culture. The nine national dishes tell stories about their home countries. Each competitor teaches viewers new nutrition facts as well as cooking methods. Overall, this series unites viewers with its all-encompassing global gastronomy.

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