Real cooking, please!
June 6, 2012 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find videos of chefs cooking (not performing) and/or a real, working restaurant kitchen.

I watch a fair number of cooking shows and I'm tired of seeing their edited, story-lined version of what happens in a professional kitchen. Can you help me find videos that show what it's like in an actual working kitchen before (planning, prep, testing, etc.) and during service? I'd appreciate more videos like this one about the El Bulli laboratory, which observe the chefs without (seeming, at least) to make them perform for the camera.
posted by underthehat to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
There is an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain goes back to cook in his old restaurant during an actual service. Probably more edited than you'd like, but better than most.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 8:46 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also maybe check out the various Gordon Ramsay reality series? Hell's Kitchen is pretty edited and narrative-ized, and the game/elimination aspect makes the whole thing a lot less realistic than what it would actually be like to cook in a restaurant kitchen. But still, it's a million times more reflective of a restaurant cooking experience than the usual cooking show format.

I find Kitchen Nightmares, especially the British version which is available streaming on Netflix, to be a little less structured, though I think there's less actual footage of service. They concentrate more on the prep, menu development, food handling, dealing with staff, and other less intensive "the restaurant is open and we are cooking the people some food" parts of the process. But there is the service part, too.

Also keep in mind that the usual cooking show format, a la Julia Child or Rachel Ray, is not really oriented towards the restaurant kitchen experience. It's for home cooks to learn new recipes and techniques. Which is not in any way the same thing as what chefs or line cooks do. It's not "edited" to sanitize out all the chef-ish parts, it's formatted for what home cooks are going to want to see in order to pick up the recipe, cooking technique, what have you. The lines have been blurred a little due to the rise of the celebrity chef. But it's not a problem with too much editing, it's more just that a cooking show isn't meant to be about restaurant line cooks.
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 AM on June 6, 2012

I've worked in a good number of restaurants, and that El Bulli video bears next-to-no resemblance to a working restaurant.

I actually had the same thought as Sara C. above: The only show that I've seen what could pass as a working kitchen before is Kitchen Nightmares.
posted by General Malaise at 9:26 AM on June 6, 2012

Agreed on the Gordon Ramsay stuff. His Ramsay's Best Restaurant UK series is on Netflix streaming, and features a lot of the same structure as Kitchen Nightmares- packing the house to see how service holds up- only without the trainwreck aspect, if you want to see how restaurants pull it off successfully.
posted by mkultra at 9:31 AM on June 6, 2012

I really like the "Great Chef's" series from the 1980-90's. They are shot in the chef's own restaurant kitchens and even though these are basically cooking demos, the chef's/cooks are the real deal.
posted by Mr.Me at 10:08 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ditto on the Gordon Ramsey shows, particularly the British versions if you can. I find them better done and he's less cursey/shouty/assholey on them. (I do believe that on the US Hell's Kitchen show they deliberately cast idiots just to make sure Ramsey has reason to yell every week.)

Also Top Chef. Again the contest element skews things away from reality, but these are definitely real cooks - I've been to a few of their restaurants now - and they do talk about the thinking that goes into what they're cooking. Each season also has a "Restaurant Wars" challenge where they split into teams and create a one-night restaurant, and are judged on the full experience - the concept, the food, the service, the front of house presentation, etc.
posted by dnash at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2012

If you have access to a university library or a good city library, you should try to find Dr. Michael Herzefeld's "Roman Restaurant Rhythms." He showed the film in a class I took and it's basically four Roman kitchens where he sat in the corner, with a camera, and just filmed them cooking with no interruption and, if I recall, no editing.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:54 PM on June 6, 2012

Cooking With Dog you tube series, is excellent for learning to cook Japanese food. Oh, and no dogs are cooked, harmed or injured in any way.
posted by snaparapans at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2012

Also if you liked El Buli maybe the Harvard Science and Cooking Lectures are something you would enjoy. Thread previously on Meta-Filter here also Cooking Issues thread on Me-Fi here
posted by snaparapans at 4:31 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I also remember remember the documentary A Matter of Taste about Chef Paul Liebrandt having a lot of these scenes. It's on HBO On Demand. Also, The El Bulli documentary Cooking in Progress is on Netflix. Finally, these are a little more edited, but some cooking shows include real scenes filmed in the chefs kitchens particularly Avec Eric and to a lesser extent Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie and Mexico - One Plate at a Time.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2012

« Older Tool for making nut milk.   |   Weetzie Bat Fans--Theme Party Ideas? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.