PBS sent me advanced copies of the first two episodes of their new show “A Chef’s Life” to preview. The show follows Chef Vivian Howard, a former New York City chef who moved back to her hometown in North Carolina with her husband to open a farm-to-fork restaurant, The Chef & the Farmer, in an area where the concept is still relatively novel.
I like this show. Many television shows centered around food, cooking and chefs make the world of restaurants look glamorous. Not “A Chef’s Life.” It’s a realistic look at the hard work and sacrifices that need to be made in order to run a restaurant that serves seasonal, quality dishes.
In the opening few minutes of episode one, Chef Vivian says that in theory, farm-to-fork is “a beautiful thing.” In reality, however, “it can be really challenging.” Changing the menu each week or even each day based on what is available from the local farmers is quite a bit of work. Her restaurant works with farmers within 30 miles to provide the produce and proteins they serve.
Each episode focuses on a specific ingredient. The first episode focuses on corn. Chef Vivian’s challenge is to “sprinkle the corn all over the menu but not make it look redundant.” Since the show focuses her personal life, too, we get to see her putting up corn with her family. An assembly line of kids and adults shuck, blanch, shock, cut and bag corn to be frozen to be used throughout the year.
Back at the restaurant, we see the challenges of training a staff to work in a type of restaurant they’re unfamiliar with, creating dishes based around seasonal ingredients, and a husband and wife team with newborn twins working together day in and day out. At the end of the episode, there’s a tragedy that was obviously not expected but leaves viewers with a bit of a cliffhanger.
You can catch “A Chef’s Life” on your local PBS station or you can catch full episodes online. The first episode is up and ready to watch. Episode 2, which focuses on strawberries and continues to show the realistic, unglamorous but rewarding personal and culinary journey of Chef Vivian and her family, should be up after it airs on PBS.
Catch a quick glimpse of the show in this teaser trailer.