The allure of food needs no explaining — it’s food for Pete’s sake, it’s instantly appetizing. If you think the peak of food-centric programming is all about just following recipes and watching, with utter jealousy, the chef taste their creation after all the trouble of preparing it, then you’re highly mistaken. Which is why we felt the need to create this Netflix For Foodies roster. It’s by no means a definitive list. But it’s a start.
Through this Netflix For Foodies list, we hope to shed light on shows, movies, and documentaries you may have missed. These are no simple cooking shows, mind you. Most of them show the intricacy of preparing food. The art of cooking is a concept that often gets laughed at. What’s so artsy about food? Well, as it turns out, a lot.
Food is one of the most common resources we come face-to-face everyday, yet few even bother to look beyond its primary purpose. These shows unravel curtains, showing us food in the context of culture, art, business, health, and family. The idea that cooking can be a spiritual endeavor may sound ridiculous, but if you so much as watch just one episode from any one of these programs, you’ll understand the deeper intricacies of preparing meals.
Food spans culture, language, race. It is the common denominator that binds all humans, and yet, it’s one of the most diverse things that exist. These shows present the history behind how food came to be, the people with ideas on where the food industry could go next, and what it really means to be fed. Like any great meal, this Netflix For Foodies list has everything to satisfy your palate.
There’s spice. There’s a hint of zingy documentaries that look deeper within the institutions responsible for distributing our number one health resource. These show will make you salivate. Teach you a thing or two. But hopefully they also give you a brand-new perspective on food.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories
There should be little surprise that Japan is as exemplary as making TV shows as it is making movies. After all, this country is the definitive hotspot for some of the best animated series in existence. Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a different kind of beast. Firstly, it’s a quaint little show about a small town diner and the people who frequent it.
With each person who sits down, we are given a chance to glimpse briefly at their stories. It’s the kind of omnibus show that’s supposed to feel cheesy and tacked-on, yet it’s absolutely far from those things. Through delicate portraitures of human experience, the folly of relationships, and the things we do and say, Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories crafts half-hour episodes that are just as delectable as the food the titular diner serves to its loyal customers.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories is a show that runs the whole gamut of human emotions: regret, disdain, and most important of all, reconciliation. Though it’s not a perfect show, it remains one of the most painfully honest depictions of human connection at a time when it seems hardest to make such lasting relationships with people. But perhaps the most amazing aspect of this show is its silence. This show is never drowning in noise, never soaking in melodrama. Instead, in revels in the quietude of exhales, the delicate peace of two characters wanting to say something but being eaten by fear to pursue any meaningful action. The whole fourth season of the show is streaming now. It was originally released in 2011 under a different network.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Tan Men, Corn Dog, Hot Pot for One, Ham Cutlet
Director: Joji Matsuoka and Nobuhiro Yamashita – Screenplay: Katsuhiko Manabe, Kôsuke Mukai, Kensaku Kojima, and more – Cast: Kaoru Kobayashi, Reiko Kataoka, Kôen Kondô – Run Time: 30 mins per episode
A true gastronomic celebration of the world’s little-known cuisine, Street Food takes us out of the confines of the fine dining kitchen and takes us out into the, well, streets, to discover some of this world’s overlooked culinary gems. The shows sojourns across Asia, satisfying our palettes with incredible food along the way.
More than just a showcase of snacks, Street Food is also a celebration of culture, of history, and most of all, of people. It’s about food, sure, but more importantly, it’s about the people that make those food, and why. We go to Bangkok, Thailand. Then Osaka, Japan. And even Cebu City, Philippines, far from the Southeast Asian’s Manila hubbub.
Suffice it to say that there’s heaps to discover within these episodes, and if not for the food, watch Street Food for the sheer joy of exploring what this world has to offer. In its lens, food is not just about eating. It’s also about experimentation, heritage, sometimes even politics, and of course, romance. Yes, Street Food, in essence, is an entreaty to look at our food not just something that’ll fuel us up. Not even a concept.
Food, after all, is perhaps the only permanent relationship we’ll have in this lifetime. As such, it makes sense not only to see it as a biological utility, but as its own world. A world teeming with richly layered stories, intermingling of cultures, and people coming together in search of new tastes. This is a deft, visceral window into the culinary worlds we often flinch at. But try it and you might be surprised. The entire first season is streaming now.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: All of them
Creator: David Gelb, Brian McGinn – Cast: Daniel Lee Gray, Philip Hersh, Chawadee Nualkhair – Run Time: Around 30 mins per episode
Feed the Beast
This crime drama might be sitting with a 23% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes, but we promise it’s a worthwhile watch, still. Adapted from an original series in Denmark called Bankerot, the show is about Tommy Moran and Dion Patras, two friends on the brink of losing everything. Tommy and Dion are like brothers, and although each have their own share of downswings, these two dream one day of being able to open an upscale Greek restaurant.
Together, they set off an insane endeavor as they navigate the cut-throat restaurant world of New York, not to mention its criminal underbelly, filled to the brim with corrupt officials, petty thieves, and hostile mobsters.
It’s clear Feed the Beast isn’t a show that’s exclusively about food. Rather, it’s about chasing a dream face-to-face the grueling, almost unforgiving pursuit of opening up a place in New York City, the place of endless opportunity. In essence, it’s about chasing your dreams and the hangups and missteps you make toward that journey.
Truth be told, this is no Mad Men or Breaking Bad. It appears AMC’s golden days of television are now far behind it, but Feed the Beast is still something you should see. For the performances alone, this is a 10-episode run. David Schwimmer, particularly, shines as his character, amazingly absent of any imprint from his Friends days.
The screenplay reclines too comfortably on tropes for most of the show’s run, and truth be told, the writers could have polished their drafts a bit more before hitting record. What a shame, though, considering Clyde Phillips got this thing off the ground, and he made phenomenal hits like Nurse Jackie and Dexter.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Father of the Year, Screw You, Randy, Secret Sauce, Be My Baby, Fire
Director: Steve Shill, Jon S. Bair, Dan Attias, and more – Screenplay: Clyde Phillips, David Babcock, Liz Sagal, and more – Cast: – Run Time: 46 mins per episode
It’s no wonder why Chef’s Table is often considered by many critics as being the peak of cooking shows — this is as great as food porn is ever going to get. That’s mostly a fair assessment. After all, Chef’s Table, when it premiered in 2015, redefined the format of showing food onscreen, taking delicate finesse and care to show dishes like you would cars. As a result, the food, more than looking utterly scrumptious, also at times seems nearly artificial, as if varnished to shine in front of the lens.
This is, however, a minor blemish for a show that has its heart in the right place. More than being about food, Chef’s Table is about the grueling work required to push the culinary envelope. The show, put simply, takes a look not just at famous restaurants all over the globe, but also peeks at the life of the people responsible for running them. We look at high-profile chefs like Massimo Bottura, Niki Nakayama, Magnus Nilsson, and many others, exploring their history in an attempt to cobble up a rough-hewn pathology of what made them the kind of chefs they are at present.
As a result, Chef’s Table duly elevates the conversation from being just about food and makes it also about life. Food, after all, is the most crucial component of life, and it only makes sense to look at what kind of lives the best cooks have led to end up reinventing the wheel. Suffice it to say that Chef’s Table is also a careful exploration of the origins of creativity. It cares not just about the food but also the often grueling process involved before a dish is served.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Massimo Bottura, Francis Mallmann, Niki Nakayama, Ben Shewry
Director: Brian McGinn, Clay Jeter, David Gelb, and more – Run Time: 50 mins per episode
The Layover is a travel and cooking show hosted by the late Anthony Bourdain. He really needs no introduction. As a host, he invaded our TV sets, held us by the collar, and coaxed us to special and unique places we didn’t even know existed. But as a lover of food, place, life, Bourdain transcended the genre by integrating food into all aspects of life: communication, culture, art, history, and more — and as such, The Layover became a meditation on the quirks of life.
The show, which premiered back in 2011, has a particularly special format, following Bourdain as he figures out what a traveler can do in a place within just 24 or, at most, 48 hours. Each episode starts with him landing at the destination, with the clock starting the countdown until the time he departs the city. As a seasoned traveler, Bourdain meets with locals and explores the locales.
As always, Bourdain goes to great lengths to avoid the tourist’s way of traveling. He enlists locals to tell him places tourists often overlook or downright choose not to visit. As a result, Bourdain crafts a particularly unique definition of place. Traveling, for him it seems, isn’t about amassing as much experience as you can, which is odd considering that’s exactly the premise of this show. Where The Layover shines the most is when it underscores the importance of place as not the place itself but the sense of it. Imbued within any space is a rich tapestry of all sorts of things, and Bourdain tries to extract all that and explores what it means to occupy even if only temporarily.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Singapore, New York, Miami, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Dublin, Taipei, New Orleans
Director: Tom Vitale, Claudia Woloshin, Anna Chai, and more – Screenplay: Anthony Bourdain – Cast: Anthony Bourdain, Stephanie Izard, David Buwichen – Run Time: around 45 mins per episode
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
Another one of Bourdain’s programs in this list (see The Layover elsewhere in this article), Parts Unknown, like its host, really needs to introduction. Perhaps the most recognized travel show on TV, this show fronts the noted chef as he explores the culinary rituals of little-known areas all over the globe.
Really, Parts Unknown is about exploration. The title makes that clear immediately. Bourdain has always been interested in unknown gems or rarely visited areas. Which probably explains why this show is so multi-dimensional: by avoiding famous and already widely covered places, it avoids feeling like some sort of cheap advertorial for shallow travel tourism. Bourdain is more attuned to the little pockets within wherever locale he’s in, delicately attempting to balance his role as visitor and adventurer.
Chances are you’ve already glimpsed at an episode or two of Parts Unknown, and if not whole episodes just bits and bobs. To tell you the truth, we don’t really need to justify why you should start watching it. Just do it, as Nike says. Bourdain’s knack for connecting with people, his love of culture and history, and above all, his relentless curiosity to travel the world, leaps off the screen. It’s infectious and inspiring, and kind of makes you feel like you should start trotting the globe as soon as possible, too. There are a lot of seasons to burn through, but if you don’t want to binge-watch them all, check out some of our recommendations below.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Colombia, Quebec, Libya, Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Las Vegas, Russia, Thailand, Korea, Scotland, Madagascar
Director: Tom Vitale, Michael Steed, Sally Freeman, and more – Screenplay: Anthony Bourdain – Cast: Anthony Bourdain, José Andrés, Joe Coleman – Run Time: 1h per episode
Great British Bake Off
The Great British Bake Off, sometimes called simply Bake Off or GBBO, is, as the name suggests, a British cooking show in which a group of amateur bakers compete against each other in a series of rounds. A contestant gets eliminated in each round, and the winner is selected from those who manage to reach the finals.
As with other cooking shows, Great British Bake Off is a compelling watch. But here, unlike on other shows, the competition isn’t portrayed with enormous amounts of drama. Instead, there’s something cheerful about the way in which this shows handles rivalry, and it’s incessantly entertaining. Whereas most cooking shows front hostility, chaos, and vile contestants as the driving force of each episode, Great British Bake Off is all about enjoying the process. After all, this show is about baking, which is one of the most wholesome activities you can engage in.
Beyond just making viewers laugh, Great British Bake Off has become an integral part of British culture and is often credited with rekindling interest in baking throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Many of its contestants, we’re happy to say, went on to kickstart baking careers of their own after their episodes wrapped up. The BAFTA Award-winning show has spun off a number of specials and related programs, including a celebrity charity series like Stand Up To Cancer. Its format, too, has been borrowed by two other BBC Two shows, including The Great British Sewing Bee and The Great Pottery Throw Down. If baking is you thing, this will be immense fun.
Director: Andy Devonshire and Scott Tankard – Cast: Jo Brand, Tom Allen, Antony Amourdoux – Run Time: 1h per episode
Where does our food come from? Has demand usurped supply, thereby putting us near a food shortage of catastrophic levels sometime in the not-so-distant future? Can our economy and society sustain our needs for nutrition and fuel?
Those are the questions Sustainable tries to delve into, and what an apt title. Thought-provoking and eye-opening, the documentary investigates the sustainability, both economic and environmental, of America’s food institution. It shows the agricultural challenges we’re currently facing, like soil loss, water depletion, climate change, and pervasive pesticide use.
If you don’t like gloom and doom stories, skip this one. But if you’re like many who want to be more informed about where our resources actually come, how it’s made, and whether we’ll still be able to make it moving forward, this is a must-watch.
America, as we know, is facing a food crisis, as are most other countries. It is crucial that we know as early as know what’s causing such issues to surface, and what we can do as a civilization to help curb it. Sustainables weaves a compelling case that paints a picture of the nation’s health in contrast with the country’s food and farming system. It sounds the alarm on potential disaster if we don’t do something about our growing, perhaps even incessant, demand for food. Here, too, industry experts reveal the secrets behind the food industry, and the fact that some ill-acting agents want the imbalance to persist.
Sure, you don’t need to watch an alarmist documentary lest it bums you out on a Friday night. Still, now’s the best time as ever to learn something, especially if it’s something about as crucial as food.
Director: Matt Wechsler – Screenplay: Matt Wechsler – Cast: Marty Travis, Dan Barber, Rick Bayless – Run Time: 1h 32m
Released in 2017 and now streaming on Netflix, The Founder didn’t sit that well with critics. We do still think it’s worth a watch, however. McDonalds is now one of the biggest American iconographies in past or present and perhaps even future memory, and this film looks into the origins of the person responsible for it.
This savvy biopic paints a fine portrait of one of America’s smartest and influential businessmen, Ray Kroc. Before, he was just a struggling salesman from Illinois. When he met Mac and Dick McDonald, everything changed. The latter two were running a burger place in 1950s Southern California, and Kroc was impressed by their speedy system of food preparation and thought it would be a good idea to franchise the place.
The rest, as they say, is history. The film shows how Kroc was able to pull strings and wrestle with the brothers to get the company and create what’s now a billion-dollar industry and one of the most recognized places not just in American but also the entire globe.
If you’re worried that this film is much too about McDonalds’, stop because it isn’t. Rather, it’s actually a pretty inspired tale about the lengths one has to take to achieve something exceptional. At times it’s a little too timid when discussing Kroc’s nastiness, and most times it fails to actually address it. And there are, unfortunately, huge gaping holes that hurt the narrative badly. Still, you should watch it if purely for Michael Keaton’s performance alone, who plays his character with ominous gusto. He’s a bad guy with the classic American Dream, willing to trip anyone to get ahead of the game.
Director: John Lee Hancock – Screenplay: Robert Siegel – Cast: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch – Run Time: 1h 55m
Food Is A Four Letter Word, according to this show’s slogan. Ugly Delicious, which premiered on Netflix just last year, combines travel, cooking, history. Though it’s absent the charm and wit of Anthony Bourdain’s marvelous omnibus programs, it has its own little charm going for it.
Ugly Delicious, in essence, is a food documentary in which David, the host, travels with writers, chefs, artists, and even activists to break down cultural barriers through the use of food. It does a great deal of tackling misconceptions about food, and in turn the culture around it.
As a cooking show, this isn’t your typical cookie-cutter of a program. Whereas most would simply shrug certain things off, Ugly Delicious is unafraid to confront them, laying down its judgements as a way, sometimes, to address them. This makes it less palatable than some other cooking programs, needless to say, but it’s far more compelling because.
Instead of droning on aspects of competition and showiness, Ugly Delicious keeps a keen focus on the politics behind food. It belongs, as they say, to a new genre of food shows called “woke cooking,” serving up social consciousness alongside the array of delicious dishes that grace our TV screens. If you like your cooking shows typical and uncomplicated, you might probably want to just skip this one. However, if you ache for a refreshing spin on the age-old cooking format, this might just be your cup of tea. The entire first season is streaming now. A second is currently in development, although it’s not clear when it’ll air.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Pizza, Tacos, BBQ, Fried Rice, Stuffed
Director: Eddie Schmidt, Jason Zeldes, Laura Gabbert, and more – Cast: David Chang, Peter Meehan, Aziz Ansari – Run Time: around 50 mins per episode
Chances are you’ve heard of Nailed It! once or twice before. It’s the baking show for people who absolutely have no single clue about baking. Whoever thought of this premise is a genius since the resulting show is endlessly hilarious. It is, as they say, comedy gold.
In Nailed It, contestants try to nab the $10,000 grand prize by creating confections that resemble a given replica as much as possible. These replicas, as you might have already guessed, are masterpieces, featuring elaborate and always edible decorations, ornate and delectable layers of cake, and expertly designed flourishes. It is the job of the contestants to make their own cake and have it resemble the given example as close as possible.
On paper, that sounds like no sweat at all. But one episode in and you’ll immediately realize that baking isn’t as easy as it sounds. You get contestants who absolutely have no clue how to go their way around the kitchen. You also get some who miss crucial ingredients entirely, their resulting work picture-perfect atrocities saved only by them being on lavish pedestals.
Nailed It! is a good show because it reinvents the competitive aspect by completely removing it. The people vying for the top prize are amateurs, if not complete duds about the art of baking. It’s easy to ridicule them for being so, but Nailed It! captures their charming attempts, and the result is a show that while primarily catering to our funny bones, also creates a safe space where people, no matter their talent level, are free to goof off and experiment. It’s the most unpretentious cooking show in existence, and you should watch it if you need a good laugh.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Honestly? All of them
Director: – Cast: Nicole Byer, Jacques Torres, Sylvia Weinstock – Run Time: 35 mins per episode
The Final Table
If you love Top Chef and Chef’s Table’s very delectable way of presenting food, The Final Table will be right up your alley. In this show, twelve professional chefs, most of them Michelin-awarded, compete against each other by cooking cuisine on a per-country-per-episode basis. The first round of cooking is based on the judge’s chosen signature food from the country in focus, but the second challenge, wherein the bottom three dishes compete, must use a specific ingredient that’s relevant to the country’s culture.
The Final Table is, we have to admit, kind of a cookie-cutter cooking program. But there’s something still to be said about fronting specific cuisines and getting to witness how these dishes are made is something particularly compelling.
There’s also a sense of bewildering awe seeing these renowned and highly experienced chefs take on dishes, some of which they have no clue how to make. And just because a chef knows how to cook a dish doesn’t grant them a one-way ticket to victory. The Final Table, after all, is as much about experimentation as it is about expertise. The notion of one moment you think you have the upper hand then the next you find that someone has pulled it from under you is what keeps this series from getting stale. It’s like a more sensible variant of Top Chef, and the sets are far more fantastic, as well. The chefs, too, take on the role of celebrities, and each episode spotlights one and we get to know more about their history.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Mexico, India, USA. Japan, France
Director: Russell Norman – Cast: Andrew Knowlton, Mark Best, Shane Osborn – Run Time: around 56 mins per episode
Samurai Gourmet, a wee show from Japan released in 2017, is about a 60-year-old retired man who finds a new purpose in food. The highlight here is his imaginary samurai companion, who inspires him to march onward this new chapter of his life with the child-like gusto and verve.
Based on Masayuki Kusumi’s essay and the manga of the same name, Samurai Gourmet features the life of Takeshi Kasumi, who’s spent his entire waking days devoted to his day job. Now, as a retired man, he finds that there’s little else to do. In his aimlessness, he discovers the joys of daytime drinking and realize that he’s now free to do whatever he wants, and that includes eating and drinking whatever he can think of. This, in turn, awakens what’s been buried for a long time with him: an alternate samurai persona living a free life in Japan’s age of civil wars.
Leave it to Japan, of course, to come up with the wackiest premises we’ve ever encountered. This is not unusual for the country. Though despite its comedic underpinnings, there’s something really charming and poignant about a show about earning a new purpose in your latter years. How odd is it that a show where a man sits down and has a meal can bring so much joy? Well, we’ll add that to the many mysteries of life.
Samurai Gourmet is touching, deftly rendered, though at times bordering on bland. But it never is stale or pointless — the greatest art in the world aren’t. Watch it if you’re tired of drama and want something that while mild is still heartwarming.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Mid-Day Beer at a Restaurant, Mackerel in the Morning, Bento Lunch on Set, Pasta the Samurai Way
Director: Mamoru Hoshi and Michihito Fujii – Screenplay: Yoshihiro Taguchi and Kiyoto Wada – Cast: Naoto Takenaka, Tetsuji Tamayama, Honami Suzuki – Run Time: around 20 mins per episode
The Mind Of A Chef
The Mind of a Chef is a television series that premiered on CBS that premiered in 2012. Executive produced by Anthony Bourdain, it’s no wonder why this program has earned itself a place among the ranks of the most compelling cooking shows there is.
The travel-cooking program explores the link between food, art, history, nature, and science, which is all to say it goes deeper beyond just food and actually explores its more in-depth underpinnings. In a way, The Mind Of A Chef is sort of like an educational program about the processes responsible for making food the way it is. It weaves a fine story that portrays not just the science behind food but also the alchemy. And, as the title swiftly suggests, the show also delves into the people responsible for pushing the envelope when it comes to culinary arts. It explores how a chef might think given a certain situation, and what triggers them to come up with new ideas, experiment, and innovate.
If you’re particularly interested in the psychology behind food, this might just be your ticket to a good time. If you prefer your cooking shows to be more traditional and competition-heavy, this is probably not going to work for you. Still, if you think you’re even the least bit compelled to explore aspects of food you’ve never before thought were related to the craft, then this might open your eyes to new ideas and perspectives. To be clear, it’s far from being a masterful show. But it’s entertaining and informative.
Episodes That Deserve Special Mention: Genesis, Family, Unexpected, Classics, Multiverse
Director: Michael Steed, Claudia Woloshin, Alex Braverman – Cast: Anthony Bourdain, David Chang, Sean Brock – Run Time: around 24 mins per episode
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Salt Fat Acid Heat, as it’s ingeniously called, is a show that’s very, very different from most cooking programs in that it’s obsessed not just with the whole meal but the many ingredients that make up that dish.
Samin Nosrat’s best-selling, James Beard Award-winning book, the show is part cooking show and part meditation on the essential elements of what makes a meal exactly good. The four-part series may be too short for your taste, but we promise you, it’s one of the most topnotch binge-watch sessions you’ll ever have. The author Samin Nosrat travels to home kitchens of Italy, the southern islands of Japan, and the scorching climate of the Yucatán to dive deep into the core principles of what makes food utterly irresistible. More importantly, it also teaches us how to incorporate those elements into our own cooking. It shows that there shouldn’t be grueling hours spent inside the kitchen just to prepare a delicious meal. Sometimes, all it takes is a heart hungry to experiment and learn.
This show isn’t just about food alone, by the way. It’s also adept integrating the concepts of preparation into questions of culture, history, and of course, identity. It celebrates food without canonizing it. It highlights the importance of cooking without catering just to the elite. And best of all, it ignores class when it comes to the kitchen. Here, whomever you might be, you can cook. It is an utterly beautiful series about experience, tradition, and the women and people of color, masters of their own kitchens, often unseen, around the globe.
Episodes That Deserve special Mention: All of them, of course
Director: Caroline Suh – Cast: Samin Nosrat – Run Time: around 45 mins per episode