Netflix has a curiously large selection of BBC titles available for instant play on the site. I've been taking advantage of this lately by watching entirely too many episodes of All Creatures Great and Small in one sitting. A while ago, though, the site suggested Chef!, and since Netflix has gotten pretty good at suggesting stuff I'll actually like (Veggietales movies aside), I gave it a shot.
Running from 1993 to 1996, Chef! starred Jamaican-British comedian Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock, the head chef of an English restaurant that specialized in French cuisine (this was something of a joke in and of itself, apparently). Blackstock, who reminds me of a slightly less profane and much wittier Gordon Ramsay, embodied the cliche of the arrogant master chef who runs his kitchen like a battalion and cares about nothing but food.
Aside from the wit, I particularly loved that Blackstock, a black chef, could be referred to as the greatest chef in England—nay, the world—without anyone batting an eye at his blackness. He had a black wife and worked in a mostly white environment, yet the humor rarely ever hung upon his "otherness." There were more jokes that hinged on his Jamaican heritage—and his lack of familiarity with it—than his skin color. Like many children of immigrants, he completely assimilated into the world he grew up in. Perhaps this resonated with me because my mother is Jamaican, and while I probably know more about Jamaican cooking than Blackstock, I'm relatively far removed from the culture.
Anyway, perhaps I'm spoiled by American television, but I think it's a bit wondrous that a show about an arrogant black chef is not very much about him being black, it's about him being an arrogant chef. Case in point: watch Blackstock eviscerate this customer who wants salt for his food:
*The title of this post comes from an episode where Blackstock spends days trying to perfect a salmon mousse and does just that.