The Untold Truth Of Netflix's The Chef Show

In June 2019, Netflix debuted The Chef Show, focusing on director, writer, actor, and screenwriter Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi as these food-loving friends undertake a culinary odyssey inspired by Favreau's 2014 film ChefThe show caught on with viewers, and a second season (Vol. 2) debuted later that year, with a third season following in February 2020. Throughout the series, Choi and Favreau are joined by celebrity friends in locations both far-flung and close to home, with an eclectic array of episodes bound together by an overarching philosophy. "Cooking is a journey," described Netflix's synopsis for the show. "And making a meal is about more than just food."

The Chef Show, the synopsis continued, set out on a mission to follow Choi and Favreau as they "experiment with their favorite recipes and techniques, baking, cooking, exploring and collaborating with some of the biggest names in the entertainment and culinary world."

Viewers have proven to have a big appetite for the series, yet there's still much for fans to learn about this fun foodie favorite. Prepare to dig in and discover the untold truth of The Chef Show.

The Chef Show originated from a Jon Favreau passion project

In 2014, Jon Favreau shifted his focus from directing blockbusters such as Iron Man and Cowboys and Aliens to directing and starring in a smaller, more personal movie called Chef, about a temperamental chef who loses everything but rediscovers his passion for cuisine when he buys a food truck. In order to ensure the level of authenticity Favreau sought for this passion project, he turned to Roy Choi, a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who interned at Eric Ripert's famed restaurant Le Bernadin before hitting the road to sell Korean barbecue tacos from his Kogi food truck. Favreau brought Choi onboard Chef as a consultant, launching a friendship that extended far beyond their experience on the film.

The duo reunited for The Chef Show, a food-centered Netflix docuseries. "During the production of Chef, I developed a much deeper understanding of the ways in which we express our emotions, share our cultures, and seek meaningful connections through the act of cooking and eating," said Favreau in a statement to Deadline in advance of the series' premiere. Reuniting with Choi for The Chef Show, he added, "gives me the perfect opportunity to get back in the kitchen and create some new memories."

Roy Choi didn't go easy on Jon Favreau while filming Chef

Jon Favreau had never met Roy Choi when he approached him about serving as a consultant on his 2014 film Chef. Bringing Choi onto the film proved to perhaps more than Favreau had bargained for when Choi laid down his rules, and the expectations he had for the director. "I told him, 'If I'm going to do this, we really need to honor the craft and the code of cooking,'" Choi told the Los Angeles Times.

While Favreau was used to being the taskmaster on his movies, Choi turned the tables on him. "You're not coming into my kitchen until you're trained," Choi told Favreau, who spent a couple of months learning the ropes from Choi, beginning with kitchen grunt work. "I had him work an eight-hour shift, just prepping," Choi told the Times. "You can't make a movie about a chef if you don't understand what it is to be a cook."

The Chef Show evolved in an organic way

The working relationship on Chef evolved into a behind-the-camera friendship for Jon Favreau and Roy Choi. After filming ended, the friendship continued yet changed fundamentally, as it no longer involved the two cooking together. This, Favreau told People, was because cooking "was his job and I was making movies." While Favreau was reprising his Iron Man role in the final two Avengers movies, he had the idea to "bring a camera crew and cook for some of the people that are working on that show, and some restaurants and some chefs in Atlanta. And then I took that footage and I started working on it like a documentary." 

As Favreau told Eater, he didn't know what he would eventually do with the footage. "We ended up doing enough episodes to actually deliver a season, and it turned into a Netflix show," he said. "They loved the authenticity of it, they loved the passion."

The Chef Show, Favreau explained, "became this thing that took on a shape through the editorial process, like a documentary. And now we have a format, but at first it was really [about] having fun cooking together and talking and sharing those experiences with friends."

Jon Favreau and Roy Choi recreated some Chef recipes on The Chef Show

When they were filming Chef, Roy Choi generated all the recipes that Favreau's character, Carl Casper, cooks in the film. Given that Choi created the dishes and then taught Favreau how to prepare them so he could do so convincingly onscreen, it shouldn't be surprising that they decided to recreate some of those recipes for The Chef Show.

In fact, Food & Wine detailed the Chef dishes recreated for The Chef Show, including the berries and cream Carl sells from his El Jefe food truck and the aglio e olio pasta that he lovingly creates for Molly, played in the film by Scarlett Johansson. According to Food & Wine, Choi shares some deep-dive Chef trivia in the episode, revealing the reason he had Favreau's character thinly slice the garlic instead of simply crushing it "was to show how much he cared about this pasta."

After they complete the dish — which they came to nickname "Scarlett's Pasta" — and plate it during the episode, Choi tells Favreau that the pasta is best eaten immediately after it's cooked. Otherwise, he explains, "the magic dies."

The Chef Show has enlisted some big stars

Throughout his career as a director, Jon Favreau has worked with some pretty serious Hollywood heavyweights, ranging from Will Ferrell to Beyoncé. As a result, he's been able to entice a lot of his celebrity pals to lend their star power to The Chef Show, with guest stars including funnyman Seth Rogen, celebrity chef/Ugly Delicious star David Chang, director Robert Rodriguez, comedian Bill Burr, and Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name just a few.

Chatting with Variety, Favreau admitted that his Marvel movie pals have been "a family, for over a decade," and revealed that it was Paltrow who, inadvertently, brought him together with Choi in the first place. 

"My first time eating Kogi barbecue — the gourmet Korean taco truck Choi created — was because [Gwyneth] brought the Kogi trucks to the set of Iron Man," Favreau told Variety, revealing that she was a natural to appear on The Chef Show given how many meals he's shared with her over the years. "The first screening we did of Chef was at her house where we cooked with Gwyneth," he added.

Gwyneth Paltrow made an embarrassing confession on The Chef Show

Gwyneth Paltrow has had a long relationship with Jon Favreau, who's been her director in two Iron Man films and her co-star in numerous other Marvel movies, so it's not surprising that Paltrow was one of the first celebrity friends he lined up to appear in The Chef Show.

Paltrow's appearance, however, was memorable not just for the meal, but for her hilariously mortifying admission that she's been in so many Marvel movies she literally can't remember them all. During their conversation in the episode, Favreau casually mentions being with Paltrow in Atlanta while they were filming Spider-Man: Homecoming. "Spider-Man?" Paltrow says. "We weren't in Spider-Man." Favreau begs to differ. "Yes we were. You were in Spider-Man," he responds. "No," Paltrow insists. "I was in Avengers." Favreau then proceeds to detail the scene they were in, with Paltrow hilariously proclaiming, "That was Spider-Man? Oh my God!"

Paltrow addressed her gaffe during a subsequent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! "I just got confused," she admitted. "There's so many of these wonderful Marvel inter-connecting movies and I thought that it was an Avengers movie but it was not."

Why Roy Choi sees The Chef Show as a return to old-school cooking shows

Once the show established its format, Choi said in an interview with EaterThe Chef Show "was about going back to the essence of the original cooking-to-camera shows," citing such TV pioneers as Julia Child and Paul Prudhomme. The concept was brilliant in its simplicity. "Put on the camera, get some food, start cooking, invite some friends over, and let's see where it goes," explained Choi.

As Favreau told Eater, "...chefs are all teachers. You're being shown little things, you're picking up lessons all along the way. And being able to ask somebody who's an expert questions is such a valuable thing. I guess we figured if we liked it, other people might like it, too."

If Favreau sees Choi as a teacher, Choi sees Favreau as an A+ student when it comes to picking up kitchen techniques. "I have seen Jon go from not knowing anything in that specific criteria to being proficient at it in literally five minutes," Choi told People. "That is superhero level."

Jon Favreau and Roy Choi revealed their favorite moments from The Chef Show

Chatting about The Chef Show with Eater, Jon Favreau and Roy Choi were asked to single out their favorite moments from the show. For Choi, the first thing that popped into his mind was filming with barbecue guru Aaron Franklin at the inaugural Hot Luck Festival in Texas. According to Choi, "I got to access all of the [barbecue] smokers — so, that's like riding in someone's car."

For his top pick, Favreau settled on an episode in which he worked in one of Choi's kitchens. Not only did he get to learn the intricacies of Korean cuisine, he totally geeked out when he met one of his food idols in that episode, celebrity chef David Chang of Netflix's Ugly Delicious

As Favreau explained, "to be working in one of Roy's kitchens cooking Korean food and have David Chang come in and they both taste my cooking, and think that it tasted good? To me, that was a moment that I'll never forget."

TV critics showered The Chef Show with love

After the series made its debut, reviews for The Chef Show were glowing, bordering on ecstatic. Forbes went out on a limb to describe The Chef Show as "the most insanely watchable and enjoyable food series Netflix has offered," declaring stars Jon Favreau and Roy Choi to be "one of the most compelling duos on television." Collider declared the show to be "an absolute delight," describing the stars' chemistry as "infectious."

As the London Evening Standard pointed out, The Chef Show "doesn't feel indulgent," adding that "it's entertaining to feel like you are part of their culinary adventure." A review from Uproxx doled out even more accolades, praising the series for being "fun, light, and hunger-inducing," while also inspiring "a fair bit of friendship envy, as the most common takeaway is, 'But I want to hang with these guys!'"

With reviews like that, it shouldn't be surprising that The Chef Show has earned an enviable perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes, achieving a rare 100-percent rating on the review-aggregating website. 

Roy Choi was a shy kid before The Chef Show

Jon Favreau got his start as an actor, bursting onto the Hollywood scene alongside pal Vince Vaughn in their 1996 indie-film breakthrough Swingers. While Favreau has long been comfortable in front of the camera, the same cannot be said for Roy Choi. In an interview with Grub Street, Choi admitted he's definitely not the typical extrovert who everyone expected to wind up as a television star. 

However, said Choi, coming to television is something that's been brewing for a long time, but it's only recently that he felt ready to embrace the challenge. "I've been a shy kid for almost four decades now of my life," explained Choi, who also hosts solo series Broken Bread. "And I'm ready for the second chapter of my life. I've got a lot to share with the world. I just didn't know how I could share it. It just all came together in one year, and I'm not going to shy away from it anymore."

Choi credits Favreau with "exposing me to the entertainment world," admitting he'd been "approached by everyone under the sun to make a show" but the time wasn't right until The Chef Show came along.

Jon Favreau has watched each episode of The Chef Show many times

There's a reason why Jon Favreau has been responsible for such wildly successful box-office blockbusters as ElfIron Man and Disney's live-action remakes of The Jungle Book and The Lion King: he's painstakingly meticulous, a trait that he absolutely brought with him to The Chef Show. As Favreau told Grub Street, "I've watched all these episodes a dozen times in the process of making and defining the show. Every little thing, a lot of care went into it."

Favreau compares the process of creating The Chef Show to that of cooking a spectacular meal for friends. "It's just really nice to share," he explained. "It's like you cooked a meal you want to eat, and now you've invited people."

What he's trying to capture onscreen, he added, is to "show people who cook for real, and not try to present it any other way. And what it's like to be there by the side of someone who is really great at what they do and learning from them. I wanted to show what that was like."

The message Roy Choi wants viewers to take away from The Chef Show

One aspect of The Chef Show that sets it apart from other food-centered TV series is its warts-and-all approach. One episode, for example, follows Roy Choi and Jon Favreau making a batch of New Orleans beignets using a prepackaged mix from the Big Easy's famed Cafe du Monde. As Eater recounted, Choi bites into a beignet and realizes the mix was old, and tosses the whole batch in the trash. 

Moments like that, Choi told Uproxx, underline the central message he wants viewers to take away: Not everything in the kitchen is going to go perfectly, but it's all part of the experience. "​I'm sure there are a lot of things in food shows that don't turn out right but they either don't make it to the screen or maybe they'll make it in some sort of outtake or something," Choi explained. "But that just shows the character of the show right there. They're not really mistakes. It's about just not being perfect or messing up or putting to much water in or this or that. That's all just a part of cooking."

Roy Choi's cooking kit from The Chef Show contains some interesting stuff

When viewers see Roy Choi on The Chef Show, he's always equipped with a small-but-essential array of kitchen tools, and this is not by accident. In an interview with HypeBeast, Choi revealed the contents of the mobile cooking kit packed away in a nondescript backpack he carries with him at all times.

The kit includes a set of knives he splurged on for Chef, as well as a wooden spatula. "Food to me tastes better when cooked with a worn wood spoon or spatula," he explained. "I feel like it transfers soul — or maybe splinters!" Also on hand are an array of seasonings, including small bags of salt and pepper as well as three small seasoning tubs labeled "Spicy," "Cheesy" and "Sweety."

The most important item in the bag, however, is a special Chef Show coin that symbolizes his friendship with Jon Favreau. The platform Choi's been given by Netflix, he told HypeBeast, "has given me a new wind in life," the ability to be involved in "something honest and meaningful that inspires people to cook and change lives." The coin, he explained, reminds him to "never to lose sight of the truth."

Spider-Man's Tom Holland ate his first oyster on The Chef Show

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. weren't the only members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to appear on The Chef Show. One episode featured Spider-Man: Homecoming star Tom Holland. When Choi learned that Holland had never in his life eaten a raw oyster on the half-shell, he made it his mission to change that.

In the episode, The Chef Show's Jon Favreau and Roy Choi visit a seafood restaurant along with Holland, Avengers: Endgame co-director Anthony Russo and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige. After Holland selects his oyster, Choi fixes it up with some cocktail sauce and hands it over as someone instructs him to "slurp it down." Holland does just that, and then takes a moment to savor what he's just tasted, shaking his head approvingly. "That was really good," he says with a mouth full of oyster.

For Choi, introducing Spider-Man to the joy of raw oysters gave him some extra cred with a special someone. "I am forever a hero with my kid because I gave Tom Holland is first oyster ever, in his life," Choi joked to Variety. "That can never be done again by anyone."