When it comes to cooking shows it’s hard to find a more bloated, over saturated market to try and break into. Netflix’s elimination-based cooking series The Final Table is certainly a valiant effort but in trying to be as globally appealing as possible, it’s unlikely to be received well by the masses. Showcasing popular dishes and star-studded chefs from around the world, The Final Table blends the best elements of MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, resulting in something half baked and lacking finesse.
The show begins with an introduction to the highly stylised cooking arena, complete with a dark backdrop lit by bright white lights. 10 teams from around the world compete together in pairs to tackle some of the best loved cuisines from around the world. From Spanish paella to an English Breakfast, each team is given an hour to come up with a showstopping plate by putting their own unique, fine-dining spin on these household names.
After cooking their dishes, they present these to three different judges each episode, two of which have no critical culinary experience, along with an actual food critic. The bottom three chosen by the judges then go on to cook again for a highly esteemed chef from the themed country of the week, with the loser going home and the other two allowed to progress to the next round.
Much like other competitions of its kind, this continues until only a handful of teams remain with the final challenge split across two episodes for added dramatic effect. As the competition heats up, a little more drama comes to the forefront as the pressure mounts but for the most part, The Final Table is a relatively chilled cooking series, removing a lot of the superficial drama and tiresome bickering that seems to dominate a lot of these sorts of shows.
It’s partly the reason The Great British Bake Off has always done as well as it has but unlike that show, The Final Table’s decision to include highly esteemed chefs rather than your average Joe is likely to be something that alienates those after something a little more homely. The various chefs remain incredibly composed and relaxed, even in the face of harsh criticism, and at times seeing a chef smiling nonchalantly while their food is being ripped apart is a little off-putting.
The Final Table does manage to nail some of its components and the idea of reinventing beloved dishes from around the world is a good one but the various elements never quite seem to work harmoniously together. The quick cuts and close-up editing makes it difficult to see the process that goes into making these dishes and the fine-dining experience is something many people may not know much of, making it difficult to judge the presentation and cooking from the comfort of your sofa.
The biggest problem with The Final Table, and the reason the show fails to be a better title than it is, comes from the judging. Every episode two celebrities join a food critic to pick apart expensively produced fine dining dishes with no basis of critical consensus whatsoever. Examples of this involve a Mexican boxer lamenting the lack of chilli in every dish while a catwalk model doesn’t like the specific flavour of rice. While this criticism may be valid, it never feels genuine or well thought out given the level of quality these chefs have, many of which with Michelin stars next to their name.
There may be those who find some enjoyment in The Final Table and the show does manage to include a lot of familiar components evident in other cooking shows. Unfortunately, the show fails to distinguish itself as a unique proposition and despite its best attempts, makes it difficult to look past The Final Table as a professional imitation of Masterchef. With a better host, more esteemed judges and more emphasis on the overall cooking process, The Final Table could be a hit for Netflix but in its current state, this feels half baked and under-cooked.