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'Mind of a Chef' Cooks Up Innovation
October 5, 2013  | By Gabriela Tamariz

If there’s one job in the world we can agree is worth the delayed flights, long layovers and blistering hangovers, it belongs to Anthony Bourdain. But he quickly changed my mind when he introduced us to another: that of Momofuku genius David Chang, in PBS’s The Mind of a Chef.

Combining the best of food, science and art, The Mind of a Chef won a James Beard Award for Best Television Program this year. It’s clever and insatiably delicious and it’s back this fall on Saturday nights, with new hosts and new flavors to make your stomach growl with hunger for the 22-minute-long episodes. (Check local listings.)

Narrator and executive producer Anthony Bourdain introduced us to David Chang in season 1, which is available for binge-consumption on Netflix. Chang is a young and charismatic host with a distinctive sense of humor. He successfully combines innovation with tradition as a versatile chef.  He takes old-school practices that he’s picked up across the globe and modernizes them to perfection.

Chang does unimaginable things with food. In Episode 1, "Noodle," he blends cooked instant ramen, milk and eggs into a gloppy consistency before squeezing out small gnocchi pieces—traditionally a potato pasta—with a pastry bag. And yes, I’m talking about cheap, 10-for-$1.99, instant ramen. The same kind of instant ramen that Walter White and Elliott Schwartz lived on when they started Gray Matter (see season 1 of AMC’s Breaking Bad). Chang achieved the unimaginable and turned the cheap college diet staple into an impressive and appetizing meal. He even seasoned it to perfection. GBD: golden, brown and delicious.

Yakitori and high-end sushi in Japan, pork bushi in Spain: Chang explored dishes from his past and found the sweet side of rotten food.  The young chef even hung out with world’s top chef, Rene Redzepi. He insists, however, that some of the best restaurants in the world are located in train stations and metro stations.

In season 2, we follow Chef Sean Brock (right) from McCrady’s and Husk Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, for episodes 1-8. Chang certainly is missed, but Brock indulges in regional cuisines of the South that will make your mouth water and your palms sweaty.

“I am the opposite of bored,” says Brock after ingesting extra hot, “suicidal chicken” from Prince’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN. “I think I’m hallucinating.”

The Mind of a Chef is more than just a cooking show. Beware of the exotic ingredients, the unsuspecting delivery of food education and the sudden urge to start innovating in your kitchen. It will forever change the way you look at food.

The remainder of season 2 will follow Chef April Bloomfield, co-owner of The Spotted Pig, The Breslin Bar & Dining Room, The John Dory Oyster Bar and Salvation Taco in New York City.

Season 2, Episode 1, already is available on PBS.org. Additional episodes will be available online on Nov. 1. On broadcast TV, the show airs on different days and at different times, depending on your local station. Many broadcast it on Saturdays, so be on the lookout.

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Good news, TVWW readers: David’s new book from Doubleday, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific is now available in paperback for under $15. Doubleday says: “Darwin had his theory of evolution, and David Bianculli has his. Bianculli's theory has to do with the concept of quality television: what it is and, crucially, how it got that way."

"The Platinum Age of Television is an effusive guidebook that plots the path from the 1950s’ Golden Age to today’s era of quality TV. For instance, animation evolved from Rocky and His Friends to South Park; variety shows moved from The Ed Sullivan Show to Saturday Night Live; and family sitcoms grew from I Love Lucy to Modern Family. Interviews with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Matt Groening, Larry David, Amy Schumer are high points... Bianculli has written a highly readable history." —The Washington Post


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