The Final Table (Season 1, 2018)
Host: Andrew Knowlton
Global competitions should be the hook for Netflix in all kinds of competition simply because they have the opportunity and the resource to make them. It is why I was so excited to stary watching The Final Table. Well, and because I’m a foodie and love watching food related shows (which reminds me that I need to get back to Chef’s Table). The Final Table is just the debut season so there are some imperfections in execution overall but the concept itself is a good one. If there is enough popularity, it would be interesting to see how they can make certain changes to make it more polished to watch. Since I probably won’t find another place to write this, I think the host Andrew Knowlton does a great job and is a good fit for the show because he has the knowledge for it and the charisma to carry the show.
Just for a little basics, The Final Table starts off with teams of two cooks paired up by the chefs own choosing. They are all professional chefs in their own specialities and their different origins and backgrounds. Each episode is themed around one country. The first round consists of a national dish from said country set by the three ambassador judges, which usually includes two celebrities/public figures and one known critic from the specific country. The bottom three teams (until they reach the ending episodes) go into a final dish round where a legendary chef from the specified country will choose an ingredient known in that country to be the star of their next dish and the team considered the less refined for whatever reason will depart the competition. In the last finale, the Top 2 teams break up into individual competition again and the 4 competitors go head to head for the two rounds for the big finale.
Right away, the pros of this one is the country by country theme per episode. It helps people learn about other countries and their dishes and cultures as well as shows off some of their known celebrities. It seems like a pretty win win situation. At the same time, a few (if not more) of the chefs were on Chef’s Table so already associated with the show or known before so makes it more fun to watch in that regard. Some of the national dish choices are pretty surprising so its always nice for the unexpected and mystery element. That part of the structure works well and is well put together. Themed like that gives it a chance to hit a lot of other countries even after they get through all the countries associated with Netflix.
If we look at teams of two, that works pretty well also. It gives them a chance to learn from each other and encourages team work and adds the drama element. At the same time, it gives the chefs a chance to make a more elaborate dish and be strong in certain segments because of each of their different knowledge lending a hand to creating their version of the traditional dish or their knowledge of the ingredient and how to use it in their interpretation as well. If we look at the ambassadors and critics, I don’t have a lot of knowledge of a lot of foreign movies and such so obviously, I knew the USA celebrities the most and then some of them looked familiar and I knew some of the chefs because of Chef’s Table. I think that is part of the fun also as long as the judges themselves have knowledge in food and give constructive criticism.
So far, I’ve said a lot of pros of the show and it is a pretty good structure in its heart. However, I have this issue with how it changes from the teams to the individuals. Personally, if the final challenge was just the last team standing, that might be a little more reasonable. Or commit to it completely and do a half point of top 5 where we get to see the abilities of the individual chef for a few rounds to make it more engaging. At this point, its like a sudden drop to finish the show in a set amount of episodes where they drop a few teams in one shot to force a top 2 which gets siphoned into the finale which just automatically has three chefs removed. That part of the structure needs some work to see what sort of transition works better. If its too little episodes for the amount of teams, then cut 2 teams or something to make it work out. Whatever it is, that needs some work to not feel like the change comes and leaves too abruptly.
Overall, its a good idea and things work for the most part. There probably will be more polish to this if it gains its popularity. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing another season of The Final Table.