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Chef’s Table: BBQ Review 2020 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew Online
Stars: David Gelb
Opening Shot: Shots of Giddings High School in Texas, where an older woman does her work as a custodian.
The Gist: That older woman is Tootsie Tomanetz, an 85-year-old widow and grandmother who takes care of the school during the week. But on Saturday morning, she wakes up at 1 AM and does the job she’s better-known for: She’s the pitmaster at Snow’s BBQ in Kingston, TX.
Tootsie didn’t start out wanting to be a BBQ expert; she learned the trade when her husband White opened a meat market and restaurant in Giddings and asked her for help. Over the 20 years they ran the meat market together, she learned all the tricks of how to smoke brisket, sausage, ribs, chicken, and turkey breast, to the point where the market became a very popular place in town. But they sold the market after her husband had a stroke. In 2003, she was asked to help open a new BBQ joint in nearby Kingston, and she’s been shoveling wood coals into the massive smokers ever since.
In 2008, Texas Monthly named the then-little-known Snow’s as the best BBQ joint in the state, a massive honor given how many BBQ joints there are in Texas. Tootsie became a celebrity of sorts, but she had to deal with two personal blows right in a row: The death of her husband and the death of her son Hershey.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Chef’s Table takes a point of view that’s unique compared to the many cooking shows out there. Yes, we see the food, but the show is more about the chef and his or her life than anything else. So there’s not a lot of shows that can it can be compared to.
Our Take: As we stated in the section above, what we appreciate about Chef’s Table is that the episodes are less about drooling over the food — though we wish we were on line at Snow’s BBQ right about now, especially if COVID never existed — but really getting to know the people making that food. As we found out during the first episode, Tootsie’s life is about more than just the fact that she shovels coals into her smokers, hard and sweaty work for anyone, much less an 85 year-old.
But the series reiterates the notion that she does the work to keep her young and to keep her engaged, and that something like BBQ brings people together, even if they’re visiting on a BBQ road trip. There’s a reason that people have no problem eating brisket at 8 in the morning, and that’s the communal experience involved with slowing down, enjoying a meal with others, and even having a good time on line, waiting for Snow’s to open (the free beer and raffles the owner runs help in that regard).
Too many food shows parachute into their locations, ask the locals a few questions and then show loving shots of the food, but don’t take as much time as they should to understand the culture behind the food or the lives of the people who have dedicated themselves to making it. Chef’s Table takes that time, and its new four-episode BBQ season carries on the tradition the original show and its international offshoots have been carrying on over the past five years.
Parting Shot: Tootsie doesn’t use a thermometer to judge how hot her smoker is; she just uses her hand. It’s one of the instinctual things she does to make her meat taste the way it does. So we see her putting her hand on the smoker to judge the temperature in the final scene.
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