15 Must-Watch Netflix Food Shows
I don’t know about you but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the constant lockdowns and stay at home orders I’ve been faced with over the last year, it’s this, MOB: there are A LOT of food shows out there. I dread to think how many hours I spent watching old re-runs of Top Chef, Richer Cottage and Chopped in my bedroom when I should have spent them finally reading Anna Karenina or learning French on DuoLingo instead. But you know what, MOB? I don’t have any regrets. Not one.
Comfort eating and comfort watching a litany of cooking competitions and food-related docuseries was one of the few things that provided me with solace and made me feel “normal” when the world around me was anything but. And, seeing as it looks like there really is a never-ending fountain of food content out there, I thought I’d help you out by throwing some tasty recommendations your way. Think of this like a primer of the very best Netflix food shows – the crème de la crème of the easy-to-digest programming you can watch after that familiar red logo takes over your telly and makes that “dun-dun'' sound.
It is, however, worth noting that we’ve limited this guide to only include Netflix’s original programming and food shows. The stuff they’ve either produced themselves or, at least, put money behind or something. I don’t know actually how television production works. But if you’re wondering “where the hell is Parts Unknown and Come Dine With Me?!” – that’s why.
David Chang’s Ugly Delicious is a food show that’ll leave you just as hungry for buckets of perfectly craggy fried chicken as it’ll make you hungry for nuggets of knowledge. Each episode of this food/travel/cooking show hybrid focuses on a single dish or concept, exploring how it’s made in different regions and how it evolved to become what it is today. Starry guests like Padma Lakshmi and the New Yorker’s Helen Rosner even pop up along the way to share their sage food wisdom. A must-watch if you want to get granular about how we eat and drink.
Made by the same folks who made Chef’s Table, Street Food is a food show that’s less about high thread table clothes and high-end dining rooms and more about the high of eating a piping-hot seekh kebab on the bonnet of the nearest car you can find. Championing the often unsung chefs and hawkers who play a vital role in the street eating habits of myriad cities around the glove, Street Food is a refreshing watch. Volume one involves a tour of Asia that takes in everything from wanton noodles sold by the bucketful in Bangkok to crisp portions of Filipino lechon while Volume two shifts its focus to the food of Latin America. Both are worth your time.
You’ll know exactly what to expect from Chef’s Table the moment that Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ kicks into gear in the intro. As the first-ever Netflix documentary series, Chef’s Table has set a precedent for high-quality food programming on the streaming service through its gorgeous production. Each episode focuses on a specific chef, exploring and questioning their approach to cooking while telling the story of how they got to where they are today. Some episodes will leave you a blubbering mess while others might motivate you to get out there and start pursuing your dreams. One thing that every episode of this seminal food show is guaranteed to make you, however, is very, very hungry. The Chef’s Table France and Chef’s Table Barbecue spinoffs are also worth exploring.
The Chef Show
I consider Chef to be one of the best food films ever made, so you shouldn’t be all that surprised to learn that I think The Chef Show – which is director Favreau’s spiritual sequel to his 2014 movie – is equally brilliant. Presented by Jon Favreau and chef Roy Choi, The Chef Show is a cooking show with a super laidback Californian stoner vibe. It’s utterly relaxing to watch and guests range from food celebrities like Wolfgang Puck to film stars like Seth Rogen and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The American Barbecue Showdown
While us Brits tend to keep our culinary competitions limited to the cosy realm of scones and sponges, the yanks really go the whole hog by producing racks of ribs and slabs of barbecued brisket in the heat of battle. The American Barbecue Showdown is Ameria’s answer to The Great British Bake Off and, while competitors might be dealing with more deceased animal carcasses than you’d find in the Bake Off tent, the two share a similar sense of wholesomeness. It’s impossible not to be endeared listening to someone explain the minutiae of what makes something Texas barbecue with such bright-eyed enthusiasm. Especially when they provide that heartfelt explanation while wielding a cleaver the size of a Macbook Air.
Ever had to turn off a cooking show because the people on it are so talented that they make you feel bad about your own limited kitchen skills? Well, we’ve got just the show for you, MOB. Every episode of Nailed It! revolves around a group of amateur home bakers competing to replicate super complicated cakes and bakes that are way out of their skillset. The results are often horrifying and hilarious in equal measure.
This award-winning docuseries investigates the various corruptions that exist within our global food supply chains. Each lean, hour-long episode looks to “reveal unsavoury truths and expose hidden forces that shape what we eat” and all of them manage to do so in a terribly entertaining fashion. Topics range from peanut allergies to wine terrorism yet Rotten remains gripping viewing no matter what subject matter it tackles. Check this one out if you want to know more about where your food comes from. Like, where it actually comes from.
Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal is probably best-known for being the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond but, honestly, this feel-good food show should the reason he’s a household name. We’re not going to lie to you, MOB, you’ve probably seen dozens of food and travel shows of this nature. But, just because it’s familiar, don’t be fooled into thinking that this is one of those shows where a pretentious white man travels to a different country and tries to condense the nation’s culinary identity neatly within the confines of three square meals. Somebody Feed Phil is a lot less self-serious about its aims. Rosenthal is simply a fella who loves his food and it’s his aw-shucks eagerness to explore the world through his stomach that makes this show so endearing. Simply put: find somebody who looks at you the way Phil Rosenthal looks at pasta.
This docuseries devoted to Mexico’s favourite street food is going to make you unbelievably hungry, MOB. Every episode centres around a different style of taco (featuring the use of a first-person narrative from the perspective of the taco in question) to inform you all about the long, rich, little-known histories of each dish. Some styles, such as the pastor or burrito, you’ll already be familiar with but others like the canasto or guisado might just introduce to a world of tacos you never knew existed. Trust me, you’ll be wanting this recipe for our birria tacos as soon as you’re done watching Taco Chronicles.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
I don’t think there’s been a television show that’s altered the fundamental way that I think about food and flavour as much as Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Samin Nosrat’s programme might only have four episodes in total (each of which is dedicated to one of the titular keys of cooking) but every one of them is an absolute delight. Nosrat is as engaging as she is well-informed, and a breath of fresh air to watch whether she’s chowing down on gelato or helping her mum to make the perfect tahdig.
Michael Pollan’s Cooked explores how cooking transforms food, and shapes our world, by zeroing in on four of the different kinds of "transformations" that occur in cooking. In the ‘Fire’ episode, Pollan enlists the help of an Aussie pitmaster to find out how fire shaped human gastronomy; in ‘Water’, he does a deep dive into the history of the pot; ‘Air’ revolves around the ancient practice of breadmaking, and ‘Earth’ uncovers the vital role that microbes play in our food system. Cooked will be riveting for anyone with a scientific interest in food, yet it’s still worth a watch even if you’re the kind of person who’s eyes glaze over at the mere mention of the periodic table.
The Final Table
I’m a sucker for any cheesy American cooking competition and The Final Table is an exemplar of that genre. For ten action-packed episodes, teams of professionals chefs vie to impress a range of international judges and celebrities as they whip up iconic dishes from nine different nations. Each episode has a different challenge based on a country’s specific culinary traditions. Which – and I hope you’ll forgive me for the reach here – means this food show is entertaining AND highly educational.
Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
Working sort of like an Ugly Delicious B-sides album, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner is a food show with a simple premise: chef David Chang meets a non-chef celebrity in a large city and spends some time exploring that city through its food scene. This one doesn’t go too in-depth on the nitty-gritty of what makes a food culture tick but it is fun to watch thanks to the interactions between Chang and his various guests. The episode with Seth Rogen involves a lot of marijuana and a hedge maze. Go watch it. Now.
Best Leftovers Ever!
You know that cooking show concept that you pitched to your flatmates as you raided the fridge, searching for divine inspiration and something to delicious to eat, after a massive night out at Tiger Tiger? Yeah, well, Netflix has made that exact show. Best Leftovers Ever! is a cooking competition where three contestants are forced to put their culinary and creative skills to the test as they try to turn old leftovers into brand-new dishes in hopes of winning a $10,000 grand prize. A great watch for the “best before is just a suggestion” brigade.
You’ve seen The Great British Bake Off before, right? You know how it’s very slow-paced, sedate and calming to watch, right? Well, Sugar Rush is absolutely nothing like that. This chaotic baking show challenges teams of bakers to create a variety of cupcakes, confections, and cakes that not only have to taste great but also have to impress in the looks department. Every round is, essentially, like the GBBO showstopper round. Sure, there might be a tad too much fondant involved at times, but Sugar Rush is an easy watch for a lazy Sunday afternoon.