Pastry chef Milton Abel II has a CV that easily puts him in the alumni of the world’s best restaurants – French Laundry, Per Se, Noma… When he found his passion for cooking, he went all-in, nothing was going to stop him from reaching the very pinnacle of achievement.
It’s something he inherited from his father Milton Abel Sr. a jazz musician who rose the highest peaks in the world of music. From Kansas City, he played with the greats, was asked to sing at Charlie Parker’s funeral and was inducted to the Jazz Hall of Fame.
In the pursuit of excellence, in order to learn from the very best, Milton Abel II left New York in order to take up a role with French Laundry, under the tutelage of Thomas Keller. That meant leaving everything he knew. But as his star was on the rise, his father’s was beginning to wane.
In Ben Proudfoot’s short documentary 'That’s My Jazz', Milton Abel II, talks about his memories of growing up on the stage in smoky jazz clubs with his father. He recounts his journey in cooking and finding a real passion for the craft and art of fine dining, and his rise to the best restaurants in the world.
However, much as Abel achieved his dreams, he reflects on a life that could have been lived differently. As his father grew frailer, Abel was absent, working the demanding hours of a high-end restaurant. When he himself became a father, he remembered the values instilled in him by his loving father and took a step back from restaurant duties in order to be present with his family.
Something all chefs can relate to is the challenges of finding a work-life balance. Excellence is all well and good, but some things in life are more important. This is a touching and well crafter 15 minute documentary that is well worth your time.
"That's My Jazz" was directed by Ben Proudfoot and produced by Breakwater Studios (https://breakwaterstudios.com). It is part of The Atlantic Selects, an online showcase of short documentaries from independent filmmakers, curated by The Atlantic.