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Series / A Chef's Life

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I'm Vivian, and I'm a chef. My husband Ben and I were working for some of the best chefs in New York City when my parents offered to help us open our own restaurant. Of course, there was a catch: we had to open this restaurant in eastern North Carolina, where I grew up and said I would never return. So this is my life — raising twins, living in the house I grew up in, and exploring the South, one ingredient at a time.
Opening narration of every episode.

A Chef's Life is a reality show/cooking show hybrid focusing on the staff of Kinston-based restaurant Chef and the Farmer, led by protagonist Vivian Howard. The show ran on PBS from 2013 to 2018.

The series centers on Vivian as she manages the restaurant while also raising a pair of fraternal twins in her childhood home in Kinston, North Carolina. Together with her family and staff, she and the restaurant weather all sorts of disasters, from the mild to the destructive, including a fire at the start of the first season which nearly killed the restaurant in its infancy.

Initial sponsors were the Lenoir County Committee of 100, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, Carolina Wild Muscadine Juice, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (Got to Be NC Wine).


Exploring the South, one trope at a time:

  • Cold Open: Every episode save the Grand Finale employed this.
  • Downer Beginning: You can't get a series premiere for a documentary about a chef more downer than her new restaurant burning down. The rest of the first season, particularly the next episode or so, concentrates on the rebuilding efforts for Chef and the Farmer.
  • Downer Ending: The aforementioned series premiere, "Sweet Corn and Expensive Tea", ends with a fire that all but incinerates the restaurant, leaving Vivian with no idea where to go from there.
  • Grand Finale: "The Final Harvest", an hour-long special celebrating the show and the staff of Chef and the Farmer.
  • Grumpy Bear: Ben Knight, also known as "Benny Bummer" due to how downcast he typically is compared to everyone else.
  • Murphy's Law: As Vivian lampshades in the Grand Finale, something always goes wrong in some fashion on the show.


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