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5 Career Lessons From Netflix’s Chef’s Table

You don’t have to be an executive chef to learn something from Netflix’s original series Chef’s Table. In fact, you don’t even need to be a part of the restaurant industry to appreciate it.
Chef's Table
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Each episode profiles a different chef and tracks their career. Each chef is different, but each is intensely passionate and skilled. Their focus and attention to detail frequently borders on astonishing. In the end, the final results simply take your breath away. Still, Chef’s Table isn’t a show about cooking.

“It’s really a show about people,” David Gelb, the show’s creator told Eater. “We don’t give explanations on how to cook things.”

If you work creatively, or even just really hard, you’ll likely identify with some of the professionals profiled in the series. There are many potential career lessons embedded in the fabric of the series. These takeaways could be applied to any professional career.

1. Get an education.

Each and every one of the chefs profiled spent years training before they became the professionals they are today. They made an effort to study under someone they’d determined to be truly excellent. Most worked under multiple mentors for years and years before breaking out on their own. Although they went on to build their own unique styles and careers, they speak of their education with fondness and gratitude. They recognize they would not be where they are today without their training.

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2. Have courage.

You don’t become a break-out star in any profession without having the courage to do things a little differently. These chefs courageously break new ground with their work. They believe in themselves, and they take risks. Often, the public takes a while to recognize their talent. But, the chefs persist. Ultimately, they’re rewarded for having the courage to do things a little differently, but that approval often doesn’t come right away.

3. Prove the haters wrong.

People are often challenged when they try to do things a little differently. Often, these chefs’ courageous breaks from tradition upset the mainstream. But, instead of being defeated by these rejections, they become all the more motivated.

“In Japanese, there is this word called kuyashii, which is when somebody puts you down or says you can’t do something, and you have this burning desire to prove them wrong. Earlier in this career I felt a lot of motivation from that,” Los Angeles-based chef Niki Nakayama said in season 1, episode 4. “Having been in a kitchen where it was all men, I had to prove myself in order to be considered equal to their work.”

4. Trust your team.

Many of these chefs have incredible networks of support that they count on both in and out of the kitchen. Many have a partner at home, be it a spouse, a sibling or a friend, who helps make it possible for them to focus so much on their work. And, the same networks of support and teamwork exist inside the kitchen.

“Watching the chefs working and delegating … some of them have very complex kitchens and they have to train and trust these people,” creator David Gelb told Eater, “My big lesson was to build a team of people that you trust and actually trust them and let them do what they do. I can’t give enough credit to my team and my editors. It’s a very liberating feeling. Nobody makes it on their own.”

'My big lesson was to build a team of people that you trust and actually trust them and let them do what they do.' -David GelbClick To Tweet

5. Focus.

The chefs work with almost breathtaking focus. They understand the benefits of working from within flow state. They’re usually experts at it. And, this is inspiring in and of itself.

“Cooking is the one thing I feel I can completely trust what I’m doing,” Niki Nakayama said in her episode. “When I’m plating a dish, my mind is completely shut off. It’s all based on feeling. This has to be here. This has to be here. This feels right here. This looks right here. I think it’s similar to that meditative state that people can get to where they’re not listening to their minds anymore, but it’s just that moment.”

These chefs absolutely love what they do. Their passion fuels them. How else could they give so much of their time and energy to the work?

Tell Us What You Think

What have you learned from watching Chef’s Table? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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BarnabyBa Dorfman

Great post..I love those shows and these parallels are very insightful!

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