Welcome back to my Chef’s Table guide! Today, I finished up Volume 4, which means we’ll be moving on to Volume 3 tomorrow. Today’s episode follows chef Will Goldfarb on his journey from Paris to Spain to New York and last to Bali. Yesterday’s episode featured modernist pastry chef Jordi Roca, youngest of the three Roca brothers. You’ll also want to check out the episode on Spanish chef and El Bulli mastermind Albert Adrià, who features in Will Goldfarb’s story.
Let me be real honest for a moment and tell you outright that this wasn’t my favorite Chef’s Table episode… in fact, it may have been my least favorite. I didn’t particularly like the way Will Goldfarb came across on camera. He seemed extremely egoistic and mentally unstable and not very genuine. I’m not sure, maybe it’s just me. I’ll cover his story regardless, of course, because it is an interesting one.
Born and raised on Long Island, Will left New York for Paris after college and began training as a pastry chef. Following his stint in France, he applied repeatedly for a position at El Bulli, then among one of the best restaurants in the world. Eventually, his application was accepted, and he worked at El Bulli alongside Albert Adrià, another chef profiled by Chef’s Table. (I’ve linked the episode about Albert in the introduction to this one, above.)
That episode was one of my favorites, because it was clear that Albert was a true genius when it came to pastries — and other food. His creations were completely unico — unique — and paved the way for all modernist and avant garde cuisine to come. Though, of course, I haven’t tasted either of their desserts, I couldn’t help but compare Albert’s creations with Will’s. Let’s just say I prefer the look of the former’s.
After his stint at El Bulli, Will aimed to be “the best in the world.” Okay, the man has an ego. His ego took a bit of bruising back in New York, which apparently wasn’t quite ready for his modernist desserts. By then, he was really pushing the ticket. Combining dessert with things like blindfolds and even handcuffs, meant to induce sensory deprivation. Eesh. He was fired about three times in a row. One reviewer wrote that hiring him was the worst mistake of the past year in the culinary world.
I felt for Will at this point. But it didn’t seem like he was doing much to help himself. When he got the perfect job offer at last, he initially turned it down. His wife forced him to accept the job, at dessert bar Room4Dessert. In an astounding turnaround, his desserts began receiving great reviews. Not sure how this happened overnight. I guess New York City just came around to avant garde cuisine, or Room4Dessert drew the right open-minded reviewers.
Unfortunately, Will’s ego started getting in the way of his cooking, and the co-owners of Room4Dessert decided to shut the restaurant down.
Here I had to pause. How big does your ego have to be to precipitate the closure of your restaurant? Pretty big, I’d assume. Most chefs have an ego. Okay, all chefs have an ego. Everyone has an ego, especially high-profile New York chefs. But Will clearly had it worse than some. After Room4Dessert closed, he had another breakdown. His wife decided they had to leave New York City. So the family moved to Bali.
And Will got back in the kitchen, little by little. Eventually, he and his wife (whose name is Maria, by the way, not that this is mentioned in the episode) reopened Room4Dessert in Bali. I suppose now foodies will flock to Bali to visit this little dessert bar, which features locally-grown and produced Bali chocolate and palm sugar meringue, among other things.
Yeah. I’m not sure why exactly Will Goldfarb doesn’t come across great in this episode. Maybe it’s just me. You’ll have to watch and let me know what you think. Or, if you’ve already watched, what did you think? I’d love for someone to tell me I’m crazy and that this guy is the most likable man in the world. It would set my heart at ease.
Will’s story does highlight the difference between cooking in New York and cooking somewhere like Bali. It also illustrates the toll pressure can take on chefs and their work. More than anything else, though, I think that it illustrates the importance of humility. Be humble. Be well.
Learn more about Room4Dessert here. I’ll be back with Volume 3, Episode 1 of Chef’s Table tomorrow.