Duncan Thum Q&A: ‘Chef’s Table’ composer
“It’s not a show about cooking, per se,” declares “Chef’s Table” composer Duncan Thum during our recent webcam chat (watch above). “It’s very much, I’d say, a show about the artist’s journey.” Thum earned his second consecutive Emmy nomination for his work on this Netflix documentary series, which takes viewers inside the lives and kitchens of some of the world’s most renowned chefs.
Thum competes for the episode centering on Grant Achatz, whose Chicago restaurant Alinea ranks among the nation’s top-rated eateries. “He is a boundary-breaker,” says Thum of the chef, known for his experimental, artistic cuisines. “He bends rules and he goes out of his way to try and do something different, but I think there’s an end purpose that is a lot more exciting in that he’s trying to tell a story. It’s like a theatrical experience.”
He readily admits that scoring this episode, “was a challenge.” After a few failed attempts that left the music feeling, “formal and elegiac,” the composer decided to, “try and use music to really enhance the emotionality of this, and the theater, and the surprise and the wonder.”
Achatz’s life-threatening battle with cancer left him unable to taste for months, almost ending his promising career. “Grant’s story is so fascinating because he actually continues to cook without being able to taste,” Thum revealed, “and he spends a lot of time trying to impart those lessons that he’s learned and those experiences to his team.” Once his vital sense finally returns, “it’s this fantastic sort of mid-life reawakening.” For Thum, “that was something that I found very inspiring, and I wanted to write music that took you on that same emotional journey.”