Lessons from Netflix's Chefs Uncut Launch Event
March 5, 2024
Jeffrey Meese
This group of chefs not only captivates with their culinary innovations but also commands respect through their commitment to quality and strategic business acumen.
"There is no restaurant if the business doesn't work." - The consensus from the chefs on the balance between commerce and creativity.

Last evening, I had the privilege of attending the premiere of Southeast Asia's inaugural chef biopic series, "Chefs Uncut," which made its debut on Netflix this past Friday, March 1st. You can explore the series here.

Spanning six episodes, the series has been nearly half a decade in the making, celebrating the culinary geniuses of Southeast Asia. The event, hosted at 1880 venue on March 4th, featured a panel discussion with three of the featured chefs alongside Jon Lister, the producer and director behind the project. This discussion unveiled the intricate narratives and the creative prowess of these Singaporean culinary artists who embarked on this project well before its Netflix affiliation. Initially, Lister, then an emerging talent in the realm of content creation, forged the path for this series through dedication, strategic networking, and an innovative approach to pitching - his initial outreach to Chef Bjorn Shen humorously suggesting a casual meet-up for coffee or a beachside stroll. This unconventional approach may draw amusement, but its effectiveness is undeniable.

The panel included Chef Janice Wong, Chef LG Han, and Chef Bjorn Shen, who, along with Lister and the evening's host, Nikki Müller, delved into the genesis of "Chefs Uncut" and the meticulous process Lister undertook to weave a compelling narrative around some of the most esteemed chefs in Singapore.

The chefs unanimously lauded Lister's tenacity, genuine curiosity, and rigorous research, which enabled the telling of previously untold stories. The series, with its cinematic brilliance and regional depth, is poised to introduce global audiences to the culinary leaders of Southeast Asia.

While the culinary narrative is best left to Lister and Netflix, a particularly intriguing question arose during the audience Q&A session post-event. The panel was asked to reflect on the dichotomy between their creative passions and the pragmatic aspects of running a business. Chef Bjorn Shen, in his characteristic transparency, discusses the lessons learned from the unsuccessful venture Bird Bird in his episode. Chef Han, with his background in finance, recounted a pivotal moment three years into running Labyrinth when his father, an accountant, provided some crucial financial review and reworking that saved the restaurant from closure. Chef Janice Wong, known for 2am dessert bar, candidly acknowledged the necessity of a business-first approach to sustain and grow in the culinary industry. The consensus among the panelists was a delicate balance, with business acumen slightly outweighing culinary creativity, a split of 51% to 49%.

This group of chefs not only captivates with their culinary innovations but also commands respect through their commitment to quality and strategic business acumen. With diverse backgrounds ranging from finance to economics, and advanced degrees, they epitomize the fusion of creative passion and business savvy, setting a new standard in the culinary world.

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