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LindaK

PBS "Mind of a Chef" – Season 1, David Chang

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Attention fans of David Chang. He's featured in Season 1 of a new show on PBS that premieres Friday, Nov. 9: Mind of a Chef. Produced and narrated by Anthony Bourdain.

Looks like there will be multiple episodes in Japan and Spain, along with guests such as Harold McGee, Juan Mari Arzak, Ferran Adrià, Rene Redzepi, and Wylie Dufresne.



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It aired on our local PBS station yesterday. It was interesting. If you only relied on critics of Chang, you would have built a vision of a dragon in your mind. But the more I've seen him on various shows I think he's pretty likeable--and practical when it comes to his creativity. In the show you'll see how he takes a traditional Japanese ingredient and makes it into what some would call "modernist." It isn't. It's just practical, rational thinking of how you can use an ingredient in different ways.

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In the show you'll see how he takes a traditional Japanese ingredient and makes it into what some would call "modernist." It isn't. It's just practical, rational thinking of how you can use an ingredient in different ways.

That's exactly what "modernist cuisine" is to me. Looking at new and/or better ways to do things with food. Something that's been going on as long as there's been food but at a point in time when information and criticism are easily shared and thus requiring a special label to help it stand out in discussions. At some point somebody decided to stick their chunk of bronto-steak on a stick and hold it over the fire. A few said "hey, let's check that out". A few said "that's not how it's done, I refuse to accept it". And there was the inevitable group that actively rallied against it and said that we never should have cut that chunk of bronto-steak off of the animal in the first place... "What happened to simply gathering around and burying our faces in the carcass?". The tricks and gags of "molecular gastronomy" demonstrated what some of these new ways of thinking could accomplish but the ideas behind a lot of it had valid uses in cooking in general thus creating the need to seperate the whimsy (molecular gastronomy) from the techniques (modernist cuisine) so that we could use those techniques without everybody expecting dessert to look like a fried egg or their sauce to arrive in little drops in a caviar tin. Many look down their nose at that sort of thing now but it was a valid stage in the evolution of cooking and will leave it's mark on how things are done in the future.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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In the show you'll see how he takes a traditional Japanese ingredient and makes it into what some would call "modernist." It isn't. It's just practical, rational thinking of how you can use an ingredient in different ways.

That's exactly what "modernist cuisine" is to me. Looking at new and/or better ways to do things with food. Something that's been going on as long as there's been food but at a point in time when information and criticism are easily shared and thus requiring a special label to help it stand out in discussions. At some point somebody decided to stick their chunk of bronto-steak on a stick and hold it over the fire. A few said "hey, let's check that out". A few said "that's not how it's done, I refuse to accept it". And there was the inevitable group that actively rallied against it and said that we never should have cut that chunk of bronto-steak off of the animal in the first place... "What happened to simply gathering around and burying our faces in the carcass?". The tricks and gags of "molecular gastronomy" demonstrated what some of these new ways of thinking could accomplish but the ideas behind a lot of it had valid uses in cooking in general thus creating the need to seperate the whimsy (molecular gastronomy) from the techniques (modernist cuisine) so that we could use those techniques without everybody expecting dessert to look like a fried egg or their sauce to arrive in little drops in a caviar tin. Many look down their nose at that sort of thing now but it was a valid stage in the evolution of cooking and will leave it's mark on how things are done in the future.

I actually agree with you, and when people watch the show and see what Chef Chang does with dried ramen noodles, you'll see what I mean by "practical, rational thinking." "Modernist" doesn't have to necessarily be dishes spiked with natural agents and avant-garde presentations. It can be the result of a natural evolution of cuisine that introduces new, and sometimes controversial, treatments of ingredients. I've often associated the Modernist movement in cuisine to the Abstract Expressionist artists. They introduced highly controversial techniques that at the time shocked many traditionalists of the art world. Yet as time moved forward, their imprint on technique and their school of thought left an indelible impression on many forms of art. Just a thought to consider as you watch this new series, "The Mind of a Chef."

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Weirdly, my local Chicago PBS station is burning off the first four episodes in the middle of the night Friday. Bit of a problem for non DVR owners.

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As I suspected we won't be seeing it on PBS either. Philistines!

I'll get it some other way. If someone finds a weblink please chime in...

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I'm very fortunate that we have 3 different PBS stations up here in Eastern, Washington. We have the local PBS station, then the "Create" Channel which is basically old PBS shows from the past and then we get access to the Idaho PBS station. Dappled into the mix is some programming from the Canadian PBS station in Calgary. This show will bring in a new perspective on how Chefs think and I hope it will be quite successful.

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This is going to be one of the more influential food and cooking programs we've seen in many years. I just caught the second episode where Chef Chang speaks to the influence of the Spanish and the Modernist movement. It really puts into clear perspective for the outside world how the movement didn't simply create new dishes or techniques, but discovered new ways to treat ingredients which, in turn, opened our minds to unlimited possibilities.

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I was able to record the first 4 shows last night. My PBS seems to have the show on FRi. PM and Sat. PM.

this is a very interesting show if you can find it to see.

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Just watched episode #1 and was blown away. I happen to be very fond of noodles- ramen in particular; and the Shin Ramyun on my kitchen shelf has me thinking. Got all the ingredients to make those gnocci...

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This first episode has me hooked but a little confused. I liked it a lot, but am not sure of its broad appeal. It's sort of like Lucky Peach, only in video format.

Loved the ramen tour in Japan but especially loved Chang in the kitchen. Give him a package of instant ramen and he produces gnocci. Brilliant.

I can't figure out what the show aspires to be. Cooking? Travel? It begins with a voice-over by Bourdain: “This season we go inside the kitchen, the world, and the mind of chef David Chang. This show is a chance to explore that mind in all its tangled glory." Yet there is not even a bit of introduction to Chang, whether his bio, his restaurants, etc. There's an assumption that the viewer knows enough to plunge into the show without needing context or recipes. Fine for some of us, but I hope it doesn't discourage a broader viewership.



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This first episode has me hooked but a little confused. I liked it a lot, but am not sure of its broad appeal. It's sort of like Lucky Peach, only in video format.

Loved the ramen tour in Japan but especially loved Chang in the kitchen. Give him a package of instant ramen and he produces gnocci. Brilliant.

I can't figure out what the show aspires to be. Cooking? Travel? It begins with a voice-over by Bourdain: “This season we go inside the kitchen, the world, and the mind of chef David Chang. This show is a chance to explore that mind in all its tangled glory." Yet there is not even a bit of introduction to Chang, whether his bio, his restaurants, etc. There's an assumption that the viewer knows enough to plunge into the show without needing context or recipes. Fine for some of us, but I hope it doesn't discourage a broader viewership.

Linda you're exactly right. I'm intrigued by the show and by Chef Chang, but I know the gig so to speak. While the PBS viewer of cooking shows is more focused than the audience that watches Guy Fieri on Food Network, even those devoted PBS fans may watch that first episode and say, "why would I make spaghettie carbonara with ramen noodles? Where's the spaghetti?" I'm going to be fascinated by this developing journey, but the general audience may not really get it.

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I was thinking about the psychological aspect and revealing Chang's Mind and thought processes. It's like peeling back the layers of an onion. I expect by the end of season one we will be well acquainted with Chang. I like the idea of instead of trying to accomplish this feat in one episode they'll take an entire season and move on to the next. And the next may be radically different.


Edited by radtek (log)

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Thoroughly enjoyed the first episode. I find Peter Meehan a little annoying. In other videos/interviews/etc. I've seen he always seems to be hanging around Chang but rarely contributes anything interesting. I hope he isn't featured all season... or if he is then I hope he contributes something and becomes more than the object Chang talks to.

In any case I enjoyed it and I like the direction it is heading in.

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I've already got my bottle of kansui. Always wondered what the bicarbonate water was used for. Now I know!

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This first episode has me hooked but a little confused. I liked it a lot, but am not sure of its broad appeal. It's sort of like Lucky Peach, only in video format.

I've only seen the first two episodes (Noodle, Pig) but I think you hit the nail on the head, it's exactly like Lucky Peach. While I am a happy subscriber to Lucky Peach, I'm not sure that what works for a quirky and literary food quarterly makes sense for episodic television.

I think the idea is that each episode covers a food, technique, or experience that influenced Chang but the execution is a bit baffling and disjointed. The "Noodle" episode was relatively straightforward in using ramen noodles as an organizing structure for an eccentric mix of shorts. The second episode "Pig," however, almost felt like a completely different series by primarily focusing on Chang's demo at the gastronomica(?) convention in Spain and dropping some of the quirkier elements of Noodle.

I really do like the concept and creative potential of this show, but I think it could use a bit of tightening. For example, in Noodle I could've done with a lot less of Meehan not finishing a bowl of noodles (apparently some kind of inside joke between Chang and Meehan) while more interesting subjects - the masked ramen maker! -- were rushed.

Minor gripes aside, I love the fact that someone is trying to go in a different direction with food programming and I hope the show proves popular.

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I'm betting, as someone said previously, that this was supposed to be the content for the Lucky Peach iPad app.

I like the ramen episode..though would have preferred more details on recipes for various ramens...but i guess that isn't the point.

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All four episodes are on youtube now as well, for those outside the US that can't see it on the link posted above.

Quite an interesting show, a good insight to the mind of Chang (the man I now work for, haha), although it's a little jumpy in the way it's put together.


James.

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They lost me a bit with Episode 5: "Rotten and Episode 6: "Rene."

The foodstuffs in the "Rotten" episode weren't so much rotten as they are preseved ingredients or fruits beyond their prime. But if you listened to the descriptions of "putrid, foul and ooh, that is stinky," (while a semi-cartoonish woman made Kimchi), you would have thought the show would end with Chang in a backyard outhouse. Sure, smoked, dried, moldy fish may not be for some, but bleu cheese isn't either. I wished they would have focused more on the reasons "why" the Japanese preserve fish and what flavors it adds to dishes rather than act like some high school sophomores pulling a prank with sweaty gym shorts. I suppose I would have to taste it, but Chang's "Bagna Cauda" could have made sense to me--until he added walnuts to the sauce. I think it was walnuts and fish sauce. Hmmm.

I'm sure there will be fans drawn in by the whimsical genius of "Rene" Redzepi, but I came away with a sense that the dishes went to the edge of the cliff--and then fell off. Television doesn't give us the ultimate test of a dish, which is taste, but how many oddball garnishes and tiny little flowers picked off the marsh do you need to add before you stop?

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there seem to be 16 of these. My PBS has broadcast the first 6 then is taking a break. Thats a lot of Chang! here are the eps 107 - 116

Mind of a Chef.jpg

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Loved the first two episodes. We had to have ramen last night after watching it.

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these were great. please post the link to the remaining (6?--another poster indicates that there are a total of 16 chang episodes) when available. thanks!


Edited by chezcherie (log)

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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I'm sure there will be fans drawn in by the whimsical genius of "Rene" Redzepi, but I came away with a sense that the dishes went to the edge of the cliff--and then fell off. Television doesn't give us the ultimate test of a dish, which is taste, but how many oddball garnishes and tiny little flowers picked off the marsh do you need to add before you stop?

To speak to an earlier comment about how disjointed and loose the show is...that's pretty much Chang in a nutshell, so I don't predict that that aspect will go away. Also given the show's zero point zero production, the show's style will likely continue to be a loose connection of segments. I'm guessing that if it were really up to them, there'd be no continuity at all, but because this is for an audience...they'll make some practical concessions.

Specifically when talking about Rene...or any other forward thinking chef, the primary challenge will always be how to best communicate what you do. It's a challenge in any format, and especially in TV form since you don't have the luxury of the printed page to talk on and on about the intent and process of your dishes. For the Spain episode, the Arzaks didn't even address their cooking...and Elena was pretty much a non-entity. They just wanted to focus on "he's a cool and legendary guy who loves to eat good food in his amazing home town." Andoni's story was..."he's a wild and exacting guy, but makes even the craziest ideas appear natural to the diner." Simple messages for some rather complex people. And given the time allotted...it worked well.

Now we get to Rene...he has a whole episode, more time to focus, talk to Soren, forage, etc. And actually time to cook together...but sometimes allowing for more depth can also make communication an even larger challenge. A perfect example was the "garbage plate." The story is "here are some normally discarded items, thrown together on a plate to make something delicious and fun" and it all seems very casual...he has some "oddball garnishes" and the plate's done.

What's not said in the episode is that there is a tremendous amount of work and thought and development behind that dish...and nothing is casual about why things go on that plate, or how it got there. You get a hint of it when they have the segment with Soren and the vintage vegetables, you can imply several of the plants are foraged from the beach. But they don't talk about the fact that the milk skin is a very specific and rather difficult to execute recipe...that the wild thyme oil is a 3 day process that usually takes at least 4 people to make, that the watercress stems are picked just for their stems...even "just warm butter" is anything but. In any case, I mention this because, Rene in the media may seem like a "whimsical genius" but he's probably one of the most methodical, reasoned and sincere chefs I've ever encountered. And the end product is something that is more often than not, uniquely delicious. Plenty of chefs go overbard when it comes to adding complexity to a particular dish, I'd argue that Rene is not one of them....His plates' success often lies in the fact that it has been edited to its bare essence. Things are done out of necessity, not just because "he can."

The problem is that he's also a guy of a thousand profound ideas and he wants to share all of them with you...but he can't. He knows he can't...so he has to pick and choose what he says depending on the venue. Sometimes the message gets a little muddled, but I suppose that success is actually just getting people to think differently about their food.

"It took 5 hours to gather, 5 minutes to arrange on a plate, and it will take 30 seconds to consume" I think he knows that he can only say so much depending on who he's talking to...and he also knows that to the consumer, it doesn't matter that it took X amount of effort and Y amount of time to make something. All you get are those 30 seconds.

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