Food cinematography is no longer defined by static cameras pointed at an aproned Martha Stewart chopping vegetables, or pulling pies out of ovens, on daytime television. The crew behind Netflix’s Chef’s Table share some insights into how they masterfully redefined the genre of food documentaries.
No zoom lenses.
“Traditionally in documentaries and television, a zoom lens saves you a lot of time, because, with one lens on the camera, you can have a variety of different shots. The compromise is that the optics are not quite as beautiful. With the prime lens, what you’re choosing is a specific focal length. If we were trying to shoot this conversation and we wanted to go from a tight shot of you to a wide shot of the room, you can do that on a zoom lens, but for us, that is stopping to swap a new lens in. The lens is specifically engineered to give you the best of that length.”
No food stylists.
“A lot of people ask, ‘How do you shoot the food?’ Like, ‘Who’s your food stylist?’ Well, our food stylists are the best chefs in the world. They know what they want their food to look like and they’re pretty specific about it. We just light and shoot it in a way that brings out what’s already there and what the chefs are doing.”
It’s not just the lens that creates the focus.
“I think it’s a question of focus. We’re really interested in narrative. It’s not necessarily based around events — it’s around people’s personal stories and personal journeys. It’s set in the world of food but about people and we’re not really concerned with telling the audience how they cook. It’s really more about why they cook.”