As Netflix not only acquires a growing body of food-centered shows and movies but continues to augment this collection with its own original offerings, foodies and gourmands can binge to their heart's content. For those who are just beginning to dip their toes into the world of chefs, cooks, wild and wacky foods and dazzling techniques, it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. Many foodies have been watching TV cooking shows and cable creations for years, and are hungry for something new and inspiring—and Netflix has been paying a lot more attention lately.
The best part about the wide variety of food and cooking-related material on Netflix is that there's something for everybody. Home cooks who can barely handle boiling water can get the same level of enjoyment as budding chefs out of the better Netflix selections. From gorgeous visuals to thought-provoking looks at the processes we take for granted to the absurdity of pretentiousness in the culinary world, Netflix's food-themed lineup is stronger than ever this year. That doesn't mean there aren't a few turkeys mixed in—some shows fall far short of their promise. Before sitting down to binge indiscriminately, check out these 10 Binge-Worthy Netflix Shows And Movies About Food, And 10 Not Worth A Second Bite.
20 A Seat At The Chef's Table
If fans had any complaints with the first four seasons of The Chef's Table, it was that it might have lacked in diversity, so seasons five and six are the show's attempt to feature more women and people of color, as per Grub Street. Exquisitely fine dining and dazzling techniques are intermingled with the personalities of the chefs featured. Awe-inspiring cinematography kept viewers coming back even while they yearned for a less-elitist approach. The Chef's Table continues to travel across the globe, but stops along the way to connect with chefs who are themselves concerned with our loss of connection to our own food.
19 Chef's Table: France Isn't Fresh
This isn’t a bad series, but what we want from Chef's Table—diversity in gender and more people of color—just isn't happening here. Chef's Table: France is definitely a work of art, but representation matters just as much in the kitchens of high-profile restaurants as it does in any other arena, and people are starting to demand it. Chef's Table: France, created by Michael Gelb of Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, wisely listened to the chiding of critics in the more recent iterations of Chef's Table, as per The Atlantic.
18 We're Hooked On Cooked!
Although initial critical response to Michael Pollan's show Cooked was mixed, most critics have settled down on the side in favor of this complex look at our relationship to our food. Four episodes of Cooked were produced and ran in 2016. Foodies have since then consistently ranked Cooked highly amongst Netflix's food-centered shows. Based on his book of the same name, Cooked looks at our relationship to cooking throughout human history and what the current trends may mean for us, according to The Daily Beast. Pollan's ultimate aim is to get people to think about how food preparation has been—and could be again.
17 It Bugs Us More Than It Should
A chef and a researcher travel to parts of the world where insects are served as food, with the idea of not only exploring culinary diversity but also with an eye to future questions of sustainability and food security, according to The New York Times. Not for the squeamish US viewer who might not be ready to nosh on grubs, the show does do a good job of trying out a wide variety of buggy snacks and treats. While bugs may certainly be a big part of food security for the ever-expanding human population, the show itself doesn't successfully conclude whether their experiments would truly be suitable for commercial use.
16 The Final Table Is A Feast
Something darn near food perfection is going to happen when the world's best chefs come together to judge the world's best chefs. In The Final Table, chefs are paired off into teams and given themes to incorporate into their dishes, as per Eater. The worst teams have to prepare dishes for the judges, but the “final” twist is when the teams are broken off and must compete against each other. There are no cash prizes, trips or plum restaurant jobs for the winner—just the admiration of their peers and the judges. It puts an international spin on the cook-off show and awards a prize dearer than money—respect.
15 Eat Your Words Isn't Filling
Recently picked up by Netflix, Eat Your Words is supposed to turn food criticism back onto the critic by asking them to try to recreate the dishes they've complained about, according to Mashed. If they're able to make the dish, which is judged by a panel of experts, they receive a gift certificate. If they aren't successful in recreating the dish, they have to go online and write an apology to the restaurant. This show doesn't feel like justice served nearly as much as it feels like a shaming exercise. We'd like to think that chefs with some competency are secure enough that they don't need a written apology.
14 Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat; Good
Based on Samin Nosrat's book of the same name, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat has garnered an instant and devoted following who appreciate Nosrat's imperfectly human approach to cooking and the ingredients that go into lovingly-made food. Critics praise Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for its diverse and realistic focus on who really does the cooking, and Nosrat explained that she intentionally brings in women—especially older women—because they are the ones who are most often cooking in the home and for their families, according to The Washington Post. Nosrat's show doesn't just showcase foods and processes—it also freely dispenses practical tips for viewers at home.
13 Eating Animals Left Us Hungry
Netflix has a hefty share of food documentaries on offer for anyone ready to wander down the rabbit-hole. Eating Animals is based on the 2010 book of the same name, and delves into the lives of the animals we consume before they get to those neat little packages in the store, as per The Washington Post. What makes this film really difficult to digest are the inaccuracies that are sometimes just as jarring as the graphic images. If food activists and proponents of plant-based diets want to get the truth out to the wider public, the message must focus on facts and science without resorting to scare tactics like pus-filled milk.
12 What's With What's With Wheat?
When director Justin Brown set out to produce a documentary showcasing the drastic changes we've seen in global health since the implementation of a wheat-hearty diet, it's unlikely he knew the kind of positive feedback that was headed his way. What's With Wheat stunned viewers the old-fashioned way: via education. As it turns out, we don't allow wheat to ferment before producing a food product from it these days. And fermentation is key to digestion. Further, many folks are concerned that it's not gluten or wheat people are becoming intolerant to in droves, but rather glyphosate—AKA Round-Up—that is sprayed on wheat crops. There are many studies that point to this pesticide as a probable cause for all the illness we're seeing, and MIT scientists like Stephanie Seneff share their work via sources like the Journal of Interdisciplinary Toxicology that boast such data. The jury is still out and more research is needed, but Netflix really got people talking with this piece—and perhaps going Paleo, too.
11 The Magic Pill Is Tough To Swallow
Although still available on Netflix, The Magic Pill has ignited a storm of controversy since its release, most notably angering the Australia Medical Association, who blasted celebrity chef Pete Evans—the brains behind the movie, according to Daily Mail. The biggest quibble that doctors and other critics have with the film is that it confidently promises that very serious diseases and chronic problems can be reversed in as little as five to eight weeks by following the Paleo meal plan. Evans even claimed that autism could be reversed by going Paleo, which angered many since it has not been borne out in research.
10 So Ugly Delicious We Can't Look Away
We know that Ugly Delicious will get a second season—now we're just waiting with bated breath for the episodes to land. David Chang's critically acclaimed show is an examination of comfort foods and what they can tell us about ourselves culturally, according to Eater. While some felt that the show could have been more inclusive and overlooked important elements, Chang responded back with his wish that the show gets additional seasons in order to more fully explore diversity—and it looks like we'll get a chance to return to the table for seconds. Fans hope to see more Ugly Delicious by the summer of 2019.
9 What The Health Did We Watch
Food documentaries that warn us about our poor eating habits in Western countries—and particularly in the US—are a growing genre, and many get a lot of things right about how we're harming ourselves. What the Health, however, obscures the message of health by overworking weak data for some correlations, and underplaying the role of other health risks, like excessive sugar in the diet, according to Time. While many experts do recognize the health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet, a number of dietitians and researchers were unhappy with the misplaced emphasis and stretched data, feeling like it detracted from what the film did actually get right.
8 Fascinated By Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
Tucked away in a subway station in bustling Tokyo is a three-star Michelin restaurant that is so tiny, it only seats ten—but it serves arguably the best sushi on earth, served by the greatest sushi chef on earth. Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows Jiro Ono, who was 85 years old when the film was released in 2011, according to Magnolia Pictures. Although the film's been out for seven years, it continues to be a foodie favorite, just as the chef's Sukiyabashi Jiro continues to be a foodie destination. The film does more than pay homage to Jiro's sushi mastery; it also delves into his life story, and how his passion affected his family.
7 This Food Doc Is Rotten
Rotten is a dark and sometimes downright depressing examination of what really goes on in the highest tiers of the US and global food industry, as per NonFics. Parts of the series are very interesting in that they reveal the hidden world of who controls various aspects of the food industry, and other parts highlight truly heart-wrenching personal stories of people who have fallen ill or have seen their livelihoods take a hard hit due to the machinations of the most powerful in their respective industries, but Rotten struggles to tie the personal and the large-scale together convincingly.
6 Is Sustainable Attainable?
Food documentaries—especially those that examine the vast complex of agribusiness—are often controversial no matter what studies are cited. Sustainable has had its fair share of controversy as well but continues to rank highly with foodies and food advocates alike for its hopeful outlook despite the current realities. Ethics, business, environmental concerns, and food insecurity are all examined in light of current practices and with an eye to future possibilities, as per Sustainable Food Film. It's nearly impossible to create a documentary with an agenda that isn't problematic on some level, but Sustainable is still a must-watch.
5 Cooking On High Brought Us Low
It was bound to happen at some point as more and more states in the US wrestle with recreational and medicinal use of the herb that is still considered illegal by the feds, but Cooking on High—Netflix's foray into a stoned version of Chopped—has been universally panned, as per The Washington Post. There was so much potential for a show like this, but Cooking on High brings nothing to the table for either newbies or aficionados. Chefs are given a different strain or hybrid each week to incorporate into a recipe, but far too much commentary and not enough focus on technique makes this a total dud.
4 Delving Into The Mind Of A Chef
Originally a PBS show, The Mind of a Chef's first five seasons are available on Netflix, and it's hard not to get caught up in binge-watching this one. The late great Anthony Bourdain narrates the show, but The Mind of a Chef features other great chefs like David Chang and Gabrielle Hamilton and follows them both inside and outside the restaurant, according to The Mind Of A Chef. The show has won numerous awards and fans have definitely agreed. Each episode focuses on one particular chef and the drive and obsession it takes to create and continually innovate in the culinary world.
3 We Had Enough Of Insatiable
Despite the fact that just the show's trailer and premise sparked incredible outrage before the pilot ever aired, Insatiable has been renewed for another season, as per Vulture. While it's not a show about cooking or chefs, food is certainly a key element in the show, as the main character's life seemingly revolves around her size and eating habits, and the incredibly unhealthy relationship she has with food. Numerous critics cited concerns that the show promoted drastic and unhealthy eating tactics, and other advocacy groups found plenty of offensive material throughout the show. We weren't Insatiable for more of this show—we were nauseated.
2 Nailed It! Totally Nails It
A show designed to set up the, shall we say, less-gifted amateur chefs to spectacularly fail could have ended up too cringe-worthy, but Nailed It! isn't laughing at the contestants, but with them. Rather than enduring snarky commentary, insults and shaming, the contestants are fully aware that their skill level is nowhere near the task they're being asked to attempt, yet they good-naturedly muddle through anyhow, with hilarious and ultimately relatable results, according to The New Yorker. The contestants do what we—the average-joe home chef—do at home. They forget important ingredients and accidentally light things on fire. They ham-fist cake decorating, and we love every minute.
1 Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee Gassed Out
Jerry Seinfeld has been making Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee since 2012, but this latest season feels tired and honestly—a bit phoned in. In past seasons, Seinfeld hosted some pretty funny comedians for some idle chit-chat in a dazzling array of different cars, and even more talk over a diner meal, according to the Chicago Tribune. While not explicitly about food, it was more about the spirit of breaking bread (or, getting coffee). In the most recent season, there are far more awkward moments and empty spaces than witty repartee. Seinfeld isn't bringing his A-game, and neither are many of his guests. It could also be the ever-changing comedic tastes of the viewership. Whatever the reason, this season of Comedians falls flat.