'I want to show food as art'

Director David Gelb's Netflix documentary series Chef's Table is an extension of his 2011's Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

US film-maker David Gelb's documentary TV series Chef's Table is well-received around the world.

Inspiration can come any time, anywhere.

For US film-maker David Gelb, it hit him while enjoying an omakase tasting menu at the three Michelin-starred sushi eatery Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo about seven years ago.

And the hit 2011 documentary feature film Jiro Dreams Of Sushi was born.

Gelb originally wanted to make a documentary on sushi chefs around the world, but when he met Sukiyabashi Jiro's ageing owner Jiro Ono and learnt about his quest to perfect the art of sushi-making, he decided to focus on Mr Ono.

SKILFUL: Sushi master Jiro Ono and his team. His restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro was featured in hit documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi.

Gelb, 32, who recently revisited the restaurant during a trip to Tokyo, told The New Paper in a phone interview from Los Angeles he was happy to know that Mr Ono, 90, is "still doing very well".

Meeting Mr Ono and seeing how each piece of sushi was painstakingly made changed Gelb's approach to sushi. He is now more picky in the Japanese restaurants he patronises.

Due to the film's international success, Gelb was also able to go on and produce Chef's Table, a six-episode documentary TV series that follows a similar format.

Each episode features a renowned chef's motivations, challenges, successes and failures, and focuses on "the people behind the restaurants".

The first two seasons are streaming on digital network Netflix, which has already picked up two more seasons.

Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco was featured in Season 2 of Chef's Table. 

These are the chefs featured in the second season: Alex Atala (D. O. M. in Sao Paulo, Brazil), Ana Ros (Hisa Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, US), Enrique Olvera (Pujol in Mexico City, Mexico), Gaggan Anand (Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand) and Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next, and The Aviary in Chicago, US).

Choosing subjects was not hard as "there are so many celebrated chefs around the world", but getting them to commit to 10 days of filming was a challenge.

Gelb said: "Many of them were very apprehensive, but thankfully, because of Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, they know what we want to achieve, so it helped open doors."

He added: "Like in Jiro (Dreams Of Sushi), I wanted to show food as an art. Many people think sushi is just fish and rice. There's more to that. Same for the other chefs' food.

"I wanted to treat food and chefs with dignity. So I made sure that the way it is shot is also artistic."


The overwhelming reception of Jiro Dreams Of Sushi has boosted Sukiyabashi Jiro's profile.

The restaurants featured in Chef's Table enjoyed the same effect. Gelb said Japanese chef Niki Nakayama of n/naka in Los Angeles had to change her reservation system after she was featured in the first season.

"She used to take reservations on her own mobile phone but after her episode was aired, she couldn't handle it that way any more because of the number of phone calls," he said.

Indian chef Gaggan Anand (L) preparing a meal in his progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok.

Indian chef Gaggan Anand from Season 2 told him his progressive Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok saw "an increase of 5,000-plus followers on its Facebook page, and it received 400 calls about reservations after his restaurant was featured".

Gelb, a foodie who loves Asian food, hopes to explore Japanese cuisine in future episodes.

"I also love Chinese food, especially xiao long bao, so I would like to visit China and feature some of the chefs there too."

"I wanted to treat food and chefs with dignity. So I made sure that the way it is shot is also artistic."

- Film-maker David Gelb

Hand, foot and mouth disease: What you need to know

5 things to know about HFMD

CAREFUL: A child getting her mouth checked.

Singapore faces what may soon be a record number of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) outbreaks.

So far, 18,241 cases of HFMD have been reported this year - the highest number of HFMD cases recorded in the first half of any year since 2012.

This figure is also over 10,000 cases more than the median over the past five years.

Here are five things you need to know:


HFMD is most common among babies and children under the age of five. However, it is possible for older children and adults to contract HFMD as well. The illness tends to be more severe in adults.

People who have had HFMD develop an immunity to the particular strain of HFMD that infected them. However, they can still contract other strains of the disease.


HFMD is transmitted through contact with an infected person's nose and throat secretions (such as phlegm and mucus), blister fluid or faeces.


Symptoms include fever, sore throat, fatigue and a decreased appetite. Ulcers and blisters will develop in the mouth and on the hands and feet a few days after infection.


HFMD can damage the brain, lungs or heart, though such complications are rare. In most cases, the greatest danger is dehydration, as ulcers make it painful to drink.


There is no specific cure for HFMD and the body is equipped to fight the infection on its own. Those who are infected can take medicine for fever or pain and must keep themselves rested and hydrated.



Here are five things you can do:


  • Avoid close physical contact, such as kissing and hugging, with those infected with HFMD.
  • Do not share food or cutlery with others if you suspect one of you is infected.
  • Keep your children at home if they are sick. The current outbreak is due in part to parents who send sick children to childcare centres, putting other children in danger.
  • Wash your hands often. Use antibacterial soap, such as Betadine Skin Cleanser, which has been proven to kill 99.99 per cent of the leading strains of HFMD.
  • Eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains to improve your immunity.



Number of cases of HFMD reported so far this year.

Vending machines promote local literature

Book vending machine.

Singapore's first book vending machines might not have produced spectacular sales.

But their owner, local bookseller BooksActually, maintains that they are a great success.

Around 60 items, including books, CDs and films by local creators, were purchased from the two machines during their first weekend of operation, netting BooksActually about $800 in revenue.

Ms Qingyi Kiu, a spokesman for BooksActually, said the figures were low compared to sales from traditional platforms, such as BooksActually's online and physical stores.

"We're looking really to raise awareness and create excitement around Singaporean literature and creatives, not to boost sales," Ms Kiu told The New Paper yesterday.

"And we're humbled by all the attention (the machines are) getting."

The machines first began operation last Friday,with one set up at the National Museum of Singapore and the other at the Singapore Visitor Centre. A third vending machine will be installed later this month at Goodman Arts Centre.

Since their installation, the machines have received a fair amount of media attention, including overseas news sites such as Mashable and The Reading Room.

They have also caused a stir on social media - the publicity announcement on BooksActually's Facebook page has over a thousand likes.

"We're thankful for all the features. With all the attention the book vending machines are getting, the interest in the store and Singaporean literature in general should spike," said Ms Kiu.

The machines' novelty may be the major selling point for now, but BooksActually hopes the hype will soon be about the books themselves.

Each machine features up to 20 titles by Singaporean writers and artists, including novels, DVDs and anthologies of poetry and short stories.

Popular titles include children's mystery series Sherlock Sam by Adan Jimenez and Felicia Low-Jimenez, and Alvin Pang's What Gives Us Our Names.

Prices on the vending machines are the same as those stated on the BooksActually's website, and the machines give change in coins.

Mr Ryan Low, 22, a university student, says he was not disappointed.

"I feel like the selection was carefully done and the books in there all seemed fantastic. There was even a small panel that flashed summaries and reviews of the books in the machine," he told TNP.

"I feel like the selection was carefully done and the books in there all seemed fantastic. There was even a small panel that flashed summaries and reviews of the books in the machine."

- Mr Ryan Low, a 22-year-old undergrad, on the vending machine

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Expect women's singles fireworks at Wimbledon

Muguruza's confident, Williams' out for revenge and SW19 is set to rock

The French Open final between Serena Williams and Garbine Muguruza was a great showcase for women's tennis.

Skill, power, finesse, grace and fight were all on display as two fearless players engaged in a battle worthy of a final at Roland Garros.

We saw a first-time Grand Slam champion emerge, a young player who is gaining confidence and is now able to win titles on the biggest stage.

We have seen four different winners in the last four Grand Slams and it shows the depth of talent in women's tennis.

What stood out for me in the French Open final was that Muguruza (left, with the trophy) showed so much poise and confidence. She was hardly intimidated.

The difference between the Wimbledon final last year, when the Spaniard lost to Williams, and the French Open final this year, was that this time Muguruza exuded calm.

Just 22, Muguruza (below) displayed confidence and showed off a belief that she could beat arguably the greatest player in the history of the women's game. It was as if she expected to win, and that's how a champion should be.

She went into the match telling herself she had to stay in the moment, be prepared and play with no regrets.

When I heard that, I said to myself: "She has a great mindset."

It's so important to have the right mental attitude at that level of the game. It is almost always the mental side of things that separates champions from everyone else.

For Williams (above right), the match analytics showed that her first-serve percentage - at only 49 per cent - was lower than it normally is.

When you have a high-serve percentage, you keep the pressure constantly on your opponent, and the low numbers could have had an impact on her performance.

Also, Muguruza converted 40 per cent of break points, while Serena managed only 25 per cent. In the biggest matches, it's really about who plays the big points better.

The result in Paris sets up a mouth-watering prospect at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is going to be very exciting - Muguruza, as a Grand Slam champion, will have the momentum. She was in the final last year and I'm sure she will be confident of taking that extra step this time around.

Williams is the reigning champion and I can imagine revenge is very much on her mind.

While Muguruza grew up on clay courts, Serena is great on grass.

At Wimbledon last year, the American won an average of 79 per cent of her first-serve points, had a 59 per cent average first-serve percentage, and racked up 80 aces, which was an all-time high for women.

If the world No. 1 goes into the tournament and her serve is on, then she will play a game that is unbeatable.

Williams and Muguruza have played in two of the last four Grand Slam finals and that's a high ratio, and it could continue to happen.

Muguruza has so much talent; she's really coming into her own and playing excellent tennis.

Williams has had several players challenge her over the years - from Martina Hingis and Lindsay Davenport in the late 1990s, to Jennifer Capriati, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters in the early 2000s.

In recent times, she's also taken on Victoria Azarenka and Li Na, and the fact that she's reached the last two Grand Slam finals suggests she is not slowing down.

A Williams-Muguruza rivalry could well develop, although we haven't seen the kind of storied contests like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, or Monica Seles and Stefanie Graf, in this era because of the depth of talent.

The two big guns will also have to be wary because so many rising stars are doing really well now.

We saw Shelby Rogers shine in Paris and she was in the WTA Rising Stars Invitational in Singapore only two years ago.

There will always be players emerging, and there's no doubt we will see more rising stars shine at Wimbledon, too.

The English summer, strawberries and cream, white attire, royalty in the box and tennis will soon descend on SW19.

I'd say expect fireworks at Wimbledon.

* Canadian Melissa Pine is a former NCAA player and a columnist for The New Paper. She is the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and also the tournament director of the WTA Finals. Held in Singapore from 2014 to 2018, the 10-day tennis extravaganza showcases the world's top-eight singles players and doubles teams competing for a grand prize of US$7 million ($9.6m). For more information on the event, visit www.wtafinals.com