Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series “Chef’s Table” premiered its barbecue series highlighting four accomplished chefs from the United States, Australia and Mexico. From famous Texan pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz to Rosalia Chay Chuc, a Mexican chef sharing traditional Mayan customs, this series takes viewers through their journey.
The first episode of “Chef’s Table: BBQ” featured 85-year-old Texan native, Tootsie Tomanetz. Tomanetz has barbecued in Texas for decades and has made a name for herself as a legendary pitmaster. What I enjoyed about her episode was how I got a glance at her life, from her upbringing to how she became well-known in her town.
Growing up at the end of the Depression, Tomanetz and her siblings grew up taking care of themselves. She tells Eater Austin, “It was my training, I guess, it gave me the fullness of knowing that I can handle quite a bit of stuff. I can take care of myself.” While assisting her husband’s medical needs, she worked as a custodian at Giddings High School to stay connected to the community and pay for her husband’s recovery. Tomanetz was very involved in her community even after the death of her husband and son. Despite the loneliness that she felt at the time, she still persevered and went back to her passion of barbecue. I enjoyed watching Tomanetz’s episode because listening to her story was heartwarming and her passion still radiates in her after years of being in the industry.
After watching each episode, I noticed that the chefs had their unique twist on barbecue. For instance, Tomanetz uses a handheld mop to base her cut of meat, which locals enjoy. The second episode highlights Lennox Hastie, an Australian chef known for cooking only on fire. I would describe Hastie’s cooking as more refined than the other chefs. His episode was followed by Rodney Scott, a South Carolina pitmaster and James Beard Award recipient.
Scott’s episode was also a favorite of mine. Scott began barbecuing at 11-years-old and worked with his family at their barbecue shop for 25 years. He expressed his gratitude to the show for allowing him to showcase his style of cooking, called whole hog barbecue. Whole hog barbecue is the oldest Southern form of barbecue in which pitmasters cook an entire whole hog over a wood-fired pit.
The final episode highlights Mexican chef, Rosalia Chay Chuc. Chuc’s cooking is highly influenced by generations of traditional Mayan culture. A dish called “cochinita pibil” is made for special occasions where families gather to prepare the dish together. This dish is cooked over a fire and is described as a religious, ancient moment in Mayan culture. Chuc harvests the ingredients herself and follows the recipe by feel rather than written instructions. Chuc’s episode fascinated me the most because there were many takeaways, from learning about her culture to seeing how meals are prepared in her home.
Growing up watching “Chopped,” “The Kitchen” and many other Food Network series, I am very fond of cooking shows. Though I never glanced at the cooking shows on Netflix before watching this series, I am now more open to watching what Netflix has in store. It might just replace the Food Network for me. “Chef’s Table: BBQ” was educational and enjoyable to watch. If you like learning about different cuisines and following an individual culinary journey, add this show to your “to-watch” list.