The Best Food Shows on Netflix

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The Best Food Shows on Netflix

Television is one of the best ways to connect with the food world, whether you have no idea what you’re doing in the kitchen or could bust the competition on Chopped, and food lovers know that the next best thing than interacting with a meal is watching respected personalities delve into the edible universe. While the entire Food Network catalog isn’t available (if you miss watching original Iron Chef, try this YouTube collection), Netflix’s range spans from over-the-top reality competitions to some of the most beautiful food filmography around.

Stay in and spend a night (or an entire weekend) watching the 12 best food shows available on Netfilx. And sorry if your couch potato snack doesn’t do the onscreen delectables justice.

12. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

Creator/Star::Philip Rosenthal
Original Network: PBS
Here’s the premise: Nice Jewish boy from Queens travels the world and eats like a local. Or like a royal. Produced and hosted by “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal (look up “mensch” in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of him), the strength of “I’ll Have” rests as much on Rosenthal’s childlike excitement as it does on the food itself. Each episode includes a Skype call to his parents, and you get the feeling that his mother would feel better if he were home eating matzo ball soup than halfway around the world sampling a cow’s fourth stomach, but what can ya do? — Holly Leber

11. Street Food Around the World

Star: Ishai Golan
Original Networks:Fox Life, National Geographic Channel
In this international street food series, charming, wisecracking host Ishai Golan takes us around the world to 22 mouthwatering cities in two seasons. In each city, Golan has 24 hours to show us the best street eats. Whether it’s zucchini tamales and chile atole in Mexico City or tender doner kebab and cinnamony stuffed mussels in Istanbul, Golan shows us the predictable favorites and a few fun extras without going too far off the beaten path. Though his outlandish characterizations are questionable in taste at times (his Mexican impersonation, for instance), he draws us closer to the vibrant street culture of many countries as he voyages around making friends. His admissions of bumbling inadequacy when it comes to making or eating food ease viewers into the show, reassuring us that learning is often a slow and wondrous process in food culture. — Dakota Kim

10. Cutthroat Kitchen

Creator/Star: Alton Brown
Original Network: Food Network
Here’s a fun game to play: watch Cutthroat Kitchen with your friends and bet on who will win. Unlike most cooking competition shows, the winners of Cutthroat Kitchen are almost unpredictable. In Cutthroat Kitchen, four chefs start out with $25,000 each and spend their money sabotaging their competitors, such as by only allowing them to use an expresso machine to cook pasta, making them incorporate crickets in their dish, or forcing them to make their own pots and pans from aluminum foil. Cutthroat Kitchen is the show whose tag line is “Where sabotage is not only encouraged…it’s for sale.” It’s the show where Alton Brown finally turns evil. It’s not completely a food show where people care about the dishes that the chefs make, but it’s a food show about the struggles they went through to create the dishes, and that’s what makes it so great. — Lily Lou

9. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Creator: David Page
Star: Guy Fieri
Original Network: Food Network
Watching Guy Fieri’s Food Network adventure is just as much an anthropological study as it is an opportunity to see how where the world’s best junk food originates. Guy Fieri captivates in the same way as a tumor or YouTube videos of pimple porn — when he opens his mouth, you can’t look away. He is a conundrum. How can someone with enough taste to warrant a Food Network show launch such a terrible restaurant And how can such a person eat so much without exploding like a greasy pimple? Fieri’s oddities and frosted tips aside, he is living a junk food lover’s dream, driving around in a slick car and consuming dishes we fantasize about. As my sister says, he’s “the shithead that everybody wishes they could be.” Flavortown is more than a meme or even a hypothetical destination — it’s a state of mind. — Sarra Sedghi

8. Worst Cooks in America

Stars: Anne Burrell, Bobby Flay.
Original Network: Food Network
Worst Cooks in America is Chopped or Master Chef if you took all common sense and culinary skill and threw it out the window. The contestants are absolutely clueless in the kitchen and it’s up to the celebrity chef judges to determine who stays and who goes in this “culinary bootcamp”. Right now on Netflix, Seasons 3-5 are available which means the judges are grill king Bobby Flay and the crazy-haired Anne Burrell. The show may be about the worst cooks, but it’s definitely one of the best cooking shows on Netflix. Watch for lots of accidental fires and accidental finger cuts as these wannabe cooks get their butts kicked by Burrell and Flay. — Annie Black

7. The Great British Baking Show

Stars: Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc, Paul Hollywood, Sue Perkins
Original Networks: BBC, PBS
The Great British Baking Show (known across the pond by its proper name — “The Great British Bake-Off” — thanks, Pillsbury) is the most civilized reality show on God’s green Earth. Twelve talented home bakers set up camp in a gorgeously equipped tent that would make Martha swoon, and bake to challenges set by England’s Queen of Cakes, Mary Berry, and Paul Hollywood, whom I’m dubbing the Silver Fox of Sweets. The contestants are sweet as the tarts and biscuits they create: No sniping, no back-biting — leave that to the Americans. Heck, they even help each one another out sometimes! Sadly, co-hosts Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc have announced that they’ll depart the show as it moves from the BBC. Any replacement will have to bring the sauce as well as the trio. — Holly Leber

6. Cooked

cooked netflix.jpg
Creator: Michael Pollan
Star: Michael Pollan
Original Network: Netflix
Nobody has the time to cook anymore, right? Why would we waste precious minutes when we have such convenient prepared food options? In this four-part series, Michael Pollan makes a case for reprioritizing cooking in our fast-paced world. He looks closely at the history and science of its development—even arguing that cooking enabled human civilization to reach this level of advancement—and describes it with such wide-eyed enthusiasm that one can’t help but feel awed. Pollan relates each episode to one of the elements: fire, water, air (i.e. yeast and bread production), and earth (i.e. fermentation). He travels around the world studying various cultures’ cuisines, illustrating the diversity of miracles that comprise cooking. Cooked works better than a guilty resolution to inspire one to break out the frying pan. — Monica Hunter-Hart

5. Chef’s Table: France

Creator: David Gelb
Original Network: Netflix
Netflix leads the way into international programming, allowing a model that makes shows available with a simple internet connection, and going beyond by creating programming within those countries. Netflix France presents Chef’s Table: France to a global audience, digging in the dishes of this culinary rich country. French cuisine has had a paramount influence on food throughout the world, but Chef’s Table: France allows us to see how, in the globalized world we live in, other cultures are influencing French food in a most delectable way. The theme of the season is traditional French breaking free from the bounds of this reputation that is at times an imposing expectation, creating an appetizing and innovative mélange. — Madina Papadopoulos

4. Good Eats with Alton Brown

Creator/Star: Alton Brown
Original Network: Food Network
Alton Brown is the Bill Nye of food. In his 14-season Food Network show, Good Eats, Brown explores the why-is-the-sky-blue type of questions about food, like “where does pepper come from” and “what’s in my water.” His clever camera angles (inside of the oven or fridge, for example) and witty narration make the show so fun and interesting, it’s easy to forget that we are learning. For this edu-tational triumph the show was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Best TV Food Journalism award in 2000 and won a Peabody award in 2006; Brown himself received a James Beard award for Best TV Food Personality in 2011. Each 22-minute episode takes a while to digest. Each is stuffed with recipes, science, stories, characters, field trips and dry wit, wrapped up in a theme and sprinkled with fun facts. In the midst of all this silliness, Brown actually makes and eats the food on-camera — satisfying closure to each episode. — Nicholas Grizzle

3. Chopped

Creators: Linda Lea, Dave Noll, Michael Krupat
Star: Ted Allen
Original Network: Food Network
Chopped isn’t typically the kind of TV show I gravitate toward, but I got hooked on it during a work trip when initially it serviced as background noise. The premise of mystery ingredients that have no reason to ever work their way into a recipe or onto the plate is an interesting one. It forces the creativity of the competitors to come out in a tight timeline. I sometimes get stressed as I can see they have 2:32 on the clock and the bread pudding is still in the oven. Will it set? And what if they forget to add in the beef jerky as a garnish? Whoever assembles the ingredient baskets is both twisted, nefarious, and out for a good time. Alton Brown’s impish smiles make me think he might have a hand in the decision-making. The combinations of ingredients can be baffling, but what’s even more jaw drop inducing is how the competing chefs can make use of them, concocting dishes that will never see the light beyond the stage and still sound oddly appealing. Where else will you see Rocky Mountain “oysters” be plated and palatable? Once, I carried on a twitter conversation with writer Roxane Gay about Chopped for writers and what that might entail. We agreed the punctuation mark could only be used once and as garnish! Chopped offers the kind of binge-watching that offers a challenge and then wraps up only to be repeated with a new obstacle and participants. In other words, even though formulaic, it’s indispensable and good television. — Annelies Zijderveld

2. Chef’s Table

chefs table blurb.jpg
Creator: David Gelb
Original Network: Netflix
Documentarian David Gelb came to prominence with his 2011 food documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi. In 2016, Netflix released his documentary series, Chef’s Table, that follows ground breaking chefs from around the world in their quest to create food that is not just plentiful but meaningful. The cinematography is a visual delight, with colors and rhythm that evoke the poetry of the various dishes. Each episode focuses on a different chef, starting with Osteria Francescana’s Massimo Bottura in Modena, Italy, then taking its viewers to different kitchens from Argentina to Australia, and everything in between. The series cuts deep into the layers of cooking, delving into the poetry and inspiration in each chef’s mind. — Madina Papadopoulos

1. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

parts unknown.jpg
Creator/Star:Anthony Bourdain
Original Network: CNN
Before chef Anthony Bourdain—or Tony, as he’s known to friends—visited the war-ravaged
Beirut, the isolated Tehran, and the cultural mecca of Miami with his Emmy-winning CNN Parts Unknown, he hosted travel-food shows No Reservations and The Layover. But those shows lacked the vigor—and earnestness—of Parts, which is a much more fully-realized series. The show premiered on April 14, 2013, and on September 25 it will begin its eighth season. What separates this iteration from Reservations and the like is Bourdain doesn’t just focus on the food and hanging out with celebrities—each episode takes a deep dive into the city’s past, present, and future, sometimes with shocking results. For instance, when he visits his teenage home of Provincetown, Massachusetts (s04e08), he waxes poetic about starting his career as a cook. Sure, he visits a few seafood restaurants in town, but when he fills a long segment on Western Mass.’s heroin epidemic, he attends a meeting with recovering addicts and admits to the group how he succumbed to addiction so many years ago. The sobering moment reminds viewers food isn’t everything.

However, his shows also brim with thoughtful, educational, and comical voice overs. In the third episode of season four, he takes us to the Bronx, or as he calls it “The never visited borough in New York City.” He extols how it’s “overlooked,” and that “The Bronx is a magical place.”

Besides eating the neighborhood’s ethnic dishes, he meets with hip-hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc, and interviews 1970s subway car graffiti artists. In winter of 2014 he headed to Russia (s03e06) not only for deconstructed borscht but also to speak politics with former deputy prime minister and physicist Boris Nemtsov, right before the Sochi Olympics Winter Games began. (Sadly, the outspoken Nemtsov was assassinated a year after the episode was taped, in 2015). Education factors heavily into the shows. Bourdain informs viewers all is not lost in “one of the most beautiful cities in America”: post-apocalyptic Detroit (s02e09), and eats coneys to prove it; through chef Yasuda in Tokyo (s02e08), Bourdain learns how rice is the most important ingredient in sushi. Famous musicians and actors sometimes come along for the ride. In Miami (s05e03), he eats healthy with Iggy Pop, and not so healthy with Questlove; in the final episode of the following season, he dines with the loveable Bill Murray at Husk, in Charleston, South Carolina (s06e09). Tony’s appeal lies in how he’s the anti-Guy Fieri. He is a world-weary bon vivant who doesn’t want to just talk to small business owners about their greasy pork sandwiches (though, he may do that sometimes). Essentially, he wants to expound how big the world is, yet how murky it is, all the while refracting it through a prism of delicious, regional vittles—and the fine people who make them. — Garin Pirnia

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