What to watch, what to watch? It's all too easy to spend hours scrolling through Netflix trying to find a new show to binge on a weekday night. Often, the scrolling is what you do for entertainment, right up until you watch the entire series of Friends for the fiftieth time. If that's what you end up doing, then we're sad to say that you are missing out on some truly great food shows that are available to stream right now. Some of them are Netflix originals, and some of them are shows that have found a home on the streaming network. If you're looking for something to satisfy both your taste in food and good entertainment, then you have some wonderful options.
However, there are also some food shows that should be avoided. It's not even that these shows are all that bad. Some of them are just the same thing you've seen a hundred times before. If you want to make a fresh start with something bold, new, and exciting, there are plenty of innovative competitions shows and docuseries out there that not only focus on food but the cultures that produce it and the people who make it. These great shows look at cooking and food as more than just something to make us drool. They artfully explore the actual craft of cooking and give you an inside look at the world of gourmet food. These are 15 food shows to binge on Netflix right now (and 10 that you can feel free to skip).
25 Binge it: Samurai Gourmet
Samurai Gourmet is not a show about cooking, but it is a show that is about the love of good food. This purely relaxing journey through the cuisine of Japan follows Kasumi, a retired businessman who spends his day going for long walks and eating at restaurants. At times, he has visions of a samurai hero, who embarks on parallel culinary adventures. The show definitely has a slow pace, but for those obsessed with good looking food and low key vibes, Samurai Gourmet is a great watch.
24 Skip It: Lords and Ladles
Lords and Ladles is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for people who would like to watch a show where chefs cook food that looks good. The whole gist of the show is that hosts and chefs Derry Clarke, Paul Flynn, and Catherine Fluvio recreate meals from centuries past in the manors where they were served. The historical content might be interesting to some, but the truth is that seeing a whole pig's head boiled in a pot probably doesn't have the same appeal it did 300 years ago.
23 Binge it: Parts Unknown
The tragic loss of Anthony Bourdain was a huge blow to the culinary world. Everywhere Bourdain traveled, he found joy and adventure in the local cuisine. Luckily for fans of travel, food, and Bourdain's unique personality, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning series Parts Unkown is streaming on Netflix. Viewers can join Bourdain as he travels to places like Myanmar, Tokyo, Copenhagen, and even Detroit to sample local delicacies, meet the people, and take in the culture. Bourdain always celebrated the food he had the chance to enjoy, and he was always generous in highlighting the amazing people who cooked for him. It's a great way to spend a little more time with a one-of-a-kind food enthusiast.
22 Binge it: A Cook Abroad
Imagine sending a chef into completely uncharted territory and allowing them to discover new areas of cooking that they have never experienced. That's what the BBC program A Cook Abroad delivers, and you can now stream the whole thing on Netflix. The show offers a perspective that you don't often get on a cooking show, which is seeing a professional chef completely out of their element. They may not be entirely familiar with the local cuisine or culture, but it's the full-on immersion that makes this show worth watching.
21 Skip It: Last Call Food Brawl
Getting some late night food at a restaurant after a long night out is pretty satisfying, but watching chefs prepare it in a competition challenge doesn't really have the same appeal. That's why the cooking competition show Last Call Food Brawl falls so flat. While it's hard to deny that host Adam Gertler is enthusiastic about the food, it's just that the show is shot haphazardly and the food never really looks all that appealing. It doesn't really rise above the standard staples you expect in a late night setting.
20 Binge it: Mind of a Chef
Mind of a Chef is like a more hands-on version of Chef's Table. While that show artfully puts a distance between the viewer and the subject, Mind of a Chef dives right into the kitchen with the chefs, letting them act as the host of each episode. The show is also a little more practical and accessible than Chef's Table, in that the chefs actually show their techniques and share some lessons about cooking, letting the viewer really take part in the process. The show also has some stylistic flair, with animated sequences peppered in to shake things up.
19 Skip It: MeatEater
There are probably a lot of people out there who dig a show like MeatEater for its rough outdoorsy style and passion for hunting wild game. However, as far as food shows go, it's not really the greatest. After all, no one really wants to watch a group of people hunting down a deer, breaking it down, and eating literally every last bit of it for very long. That's what you get on Meat Eater, so if that's your thing, go for it. If you're more squeamish than that, avoid this show entirely.
18 Binge it: Cooked
If the average show about food doesn't delve deep enough for you, then you should really consider watching all four episodes of Michale Pollan's Cooked. Based on his best-selling book, each episode explores a different aspect of cooking throughout human history. The show does not make a point of having the camera linger longingly on the food (although it is beautifully shot). Instead, it trends more toward an explanation of why food is the way it is and how people can take back those early traditions by cooking more for themselves.
17 Binge it: Million Pound Menu
If you're looking for a program that somehow combines the investing savvy of Shark Tank with modern food culture, then look no further than Million Pound Menu. This BBC Two show, available to stream on Netflix, pits restauranteurs against each other in a competition to impress wealthy investors who will give their eateries a financial boost if they are thoroughly impressed. This show is a great look at not just working in a restaurant, but the business as a whole. It also includes some truly creative eateries including fast-casual Cuban and a seafood restaurant that exclusively uses sustainable products.
16 Skip It: Nailed It!
Nailed It! is a show about failure. Based on the trend of people posting their own failed desserts online with the ironic affirmation, Nailed It! has three amateur chefs competing to create complicated desserts that often end up falling short. While this is the kind of show that revels in normal people attempting something out of their depth, there is not much value in it. While it delivers on laughs, it falls short on providing any advice or lessons about baking. Nailed It! may satisfy your brain's sweet tooth, but eventually, you're going to want something a little more substantial.
15 Binge it: Rotten
This one is a departure from the rest of the list, but it's an important show to watch if you want to know where your food comes from and the cost of what goes into it. Rotten explores some of the worst aspects of the massive food industry, diving head first into subjects like factory farming, fraudulent seafood, and even the massive garlic lobby. Yes, that's right. Apparently, even garlic has a dark side to it. The series often plays like Netflix's best true crime docuseries and is an eye-opening look into the often illegal practices that go on in the system of mass food production.
14 Binge it: Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman is not the kind of show you see in North America. The program from Japan combines a fictional narrative with real food spots in Japan. This sort of fiction/non-fiction blend might be jarring to some people, but it's a refreshing way to explore the dessert culture of Japan while also getting wrapped in the comedy of the characters. Kantaro, the show's namesake, is a typical office worker, except for the fact that his love of desserts often finds him diverted to a real eatery in Japan to taste their sweet dishes.
13 Skip It: Sugar Rush
Since about 2014, baking competition shows have popped up in huge numbers. As fun as a competition show can be sometimes, there's not a lot to differentiate these programs from one another. Sugar Rush is yet another baking competition to throw on the pile. Teams of pastry chefs compete to see who can make the best cake, cupcake, or other confection. The show is judged by Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo, lending it an air of authenticity, but it's really just another baking competition that gets lost in the sheer volume of shows that are just like it.
12 Binge it: The Big Family Cooking Showdown
Not all cooking competition shows are created equally. The best ones are the shows that add a little twist on the format, but keep it just familiar enough to keep viewers coming back. In The Big Family Cooking Showdown, the twist is that each competing team is made up of three family members. This gives the show an added air of authenticity, as cooking is often a tradition passed down through generations. Recipes are given to children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. This show uses those traditions to make something new from familiar ingredients.
11 Binge it: Somebody Feed Phil
Philip Rosenthal, the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, is not an expert on anything: not on cooking, not on history, and not on the cultures of other countries. So why is it so endearing to watch this goofball travel to different places and try the local cuisine on Somebody Feed Phil? It might be because a lot of us would probably be in the same situation. Most of us aren't experts on anything, let alone the food of other cultures, so getting to see someone go in with a fresh, funny, and entirely unknowing take on food is actually kind of refreshing. Phil is an enthusiastic host and his jubilance at good food is infectious.
10 Skip It: Zumbo's Just Desserts
Earlier we mentioned the show Sugar Rush being just another baking competition show in a sea of baking competition shows. Well, Zumbo's Just Desserts is no different. The show even features Adriano Zumbo, one of the judges from Sugar Rush. If that doesn't make the show feel like a carbon copy, then perhaps the realization that the format is once again bakers competing against each other will. While Zumbo's desserts are imbued with his unique personality, making this show slightly different from the average baking competition, it still hits all the familiar beats, making it no different than anything else to the average viewer.
9 Binge it: Chef's Table: France
Chef's Table: France is a version of Netflix's premiere show about professional chefs and cooking as an art form (more on that later) that focuses solely on the chefs of France. These masters of the craft subverted the culinary traditions of their home country in big ways and Chef's Table: France lovingly puts their work on display. From Alain Passard, who took all meat and fish off of his restaurant's menu, to Alexandre Couillon, who made his small village a popular destination for gourmands, these chefs broke convention and took big risks. As Chef's Table: France demonstrates, those risks paid off.
8 Binge it: Salt Fat Acid Heat
Based on chef and food writer Samin Nosrat's book of the same name, Salt Fat Acid Heat explores the most basic elements that make food so delicious. Each episode is named after one of the elements and focuses on its place in cooking. Nosrat's enthusiasm is infectious and the show is shot beautifully. Along with delivering historical and scientific lessons about food, the show also offers simple recipes, some of which have only two ingredients. The show also goes to great lengths in highlighting how women, in particular, shaped the cuisine of their individual cultures.
7 Skip It: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell
Christine McConnell is immensely talented. Don't let that get lost in our recommendation to skip this show. Her spooky dessert creations are fun and often grandiose. Therein lies the problem with her show, The Curious Creations of Christine McConell, however. While the program has a cute, Pee-wee Herman-esque quality to it, being rife with puppets and surprise guests, the actual desserts McConnell makes could not be attempted by the average cook. It might be fun to watch McConnell in her element, but don't expect to learn anything from this show.
6 Binge it: GB Bake Off
Fans know it simply as Bake Off and it is one of the most endearing competition shows on television right now. The show is overtly positive, without all the "race against the clock, chance for failure" elements that American competition shows lean on so heavily. The whole thing is a rather pleasant affair, with talented people making great-looking desserts without being totally over-the-top about it. The judges are great and bring a lot of personality to the table, and they actually manage to be kind in their criticisms. Bake Off is essentially the show that all baking competitions should strive to be.
5 Skip It: Battlefish
There are plenty of shows out there about people doing incredibly dangerous jobs and Battlefish is just another one. The show, which follows the world of tuna fishing, is not really any different than Deadliest Catch. The only difference is that the stakes always seem to be much lower on Battlefish. Whereas the crab fishermen on Deadliest Catch are working in the frigid cold and choppy ocean waters, the fishermen on Battlefish are working in the comparatively warm climate of the Pacific Northwest. Unless you like piles of slippery fish on the deck of a boat, you can skip this one.
4 Binge it: Ugly Delicious
Whereas some food shows dive into the subject with grace and manners, Ugly Delicious chooses not to put on airs. Instead, host David Chang (who is also head chef at the famous Momofuku restaurant) dives face first into a different type of food in each episode, often bringing his strong opinions with him. The show makes outrageous claims, like how the best pizza is found in Japan, but it always finds a way to back them up. It really is the small moments that make the show great though, like Chang grocery shopping with his mom or eating yakitori so good it practically moves him to tears. There's also a great segment that calls out the MSG myth.
3 Skip It: Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is an enigmatic little show about a small diner in Tokyo that opens at, well, midnight. The rule of this diner is that the chef will make anything a patron wants as long as they bring their own ingredients. The show is a nice little anthology program that tells the stories of the diner's customers, but when it comes to the food, viewers may be left wanting. The creations of the chef are lovingly shot, even in the low light of late-night diner, but some viewers who are looking for a food program may be left wanting.
2 Binge it: Chef's Table
If other cooking shows are a steak dinner, then Chef's Table is a deconstructed steak tartare served on a chilled Himalayan salt slab with fresh quail egg. Chef's Table is a show that not only puts an emphasis on food but the minds that create the larger than life dishes served in the best restaurants in the world. Everything about the show, from the cinematography to the lovingly framed shots of the food, transcends the average show about food, creating something that is more than just a show about food. Chef's Table is a show about passion.
1 Skip It: The Final Table
The Final Table is Netflix's latest attempt at a cooking competition show and everything about it is a complete mess. There is a kernel of a good show in The Final Table somewhere, but it's hard to pick it out among all of the far too fast-paced editing, the convoluted rules, and the endless but empty commentary. The focus never really settles on the food, and the rules of the show never seem clear. Everything is loud, big, and results in complete sensory overload.