Zia Mandviwalla: Kiwi-Indian woman finds spotlight in Netflix series Chef’s Table


February 27, 2019

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A Kiwi-Indian woman and noted short filmmaker Zia Mandviwalla has become the first ever New Zealander to direct an episode of popular Netflix series Chef’s Table.


Chef’s Table, a popular Netflix series created by filmmaker David Gilb and Co-Producer Brian McGinn, profiles a world-renowned chef in each episode, with each chef sharing personal stories, inspirations and styles, as they prepare a dish.

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The episode directed by Zia portrays a renowned British-Indian Chef Asma Khan, who is incidentally, also the first ever British person to be featured in the popular series.

The episode that Zia had directed will become available on Netflix NZ from Friday, February 22.

Recently her episode was screened at the Berlin Film Festival in the Culinary Cinema Section on Feb 13, where she was present along with Asma and participated in a panel discussion at the festival with the creator and EP of Chef’s Table, David Gelb.

Chef’s Table

Chef’s Table series has successfully drawn audiences into the emotional landscape of chefs, and in the process, weaved food documentaries into the cultural landscape.

Each episode of the show follows a different world-renowned chef from all over the world, from Italy to Sweden, Argentina to Australia.

The show has been hugely popular for its ability to adorn and present food documentaries in an entirely different manner, except for some criticism for not being able to reflect upon diversity.

Following those conversations, the show’s producers had announced earlier in September 2018 that several people of colour, almost all of whom are women, would be subjects in Seasons 5 and 6.

Zia Mandviwalla

Zia was born in India and arrived in New Zealand in her teens and pursued a career as a writer, director and short filmmaker.

She has worked with SKY TV, KFC, Vodafone and other firms and has also directed three short films, including Night Shift, which won Best Short Film, Best Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Cinematography at the Show Me Shorts Film Festival NZ, alongside other awards.

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Asma Khan

Asma Khan is a London-based British Indian chef who was born in Rajasthan and moved to England and pursued PhD from King’s College, London in 1991, before continuing her passion in food and becoming a chef and restaurateur in her mid-40s.

A scene from the show on Asma Khan

Asma uses her food to understand her identity and heritage and unabashedly communicate to everyone around.

Her restaurant began as a supper club in her home, where she taught fellow women how to cook, before opening a pop-up kitchen in 2015. She then opened a restaurant, Darjeeling Express, in June 2017, which has quickly become a London favourite

The bonhomie between Zia and Asma

For Asma, the key to the Chef’s Table process was that the episode was directed by Zia, another woman of Indian-origin. Speaking to local media in London earlier Asma had explained the understanding between them and the respect and knowledge of particular cultural nuances, meant that a narrative could unfold that felt genuine and elicited a range of stories that otherwise may not have been heard.

“She did not ask me pointless questions about my husband and marriage, I did not need to explain what my mother meant to me, she got it.

“Zia was born in Mumbai, moved to Dubai and lives in New Zealand — I felt as someone who had moved countries herself, she understood me,” Asma was quoted as saying.

The episode directed by Zia and showcasing Asma will play out on Netflix NZ on Friday, February 22.