Unlike Food Network cooking shows, Netflix food shows tend toward travel and story-telling. In these shows we learn not only about new foods, but we learn of the culture behind them and the people that make them. Here’s a list of the best shows on Netflix that center around food (in no particular order).
Somebody Feed Phil
Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal travels the world, meeting so many wonderful people along the way. Phil is delightful to watch, his childlike enthusiasm for food, flavor and life always bring joy when watching this show. Many food shows are hosted by Chefs, who know exactly what food is presented to them. Phil has an extremely relatable quality — he’s just a guy who likes to eat, not a professionally trained Chef. While we can’t get out an explore the world, we can watch Phil navigate different countries, cultures and meet new people with unending joy and optimism.
The heart of a city lies with its people, its community. How they connect, gather, communicate. What they value, what traditions have withstood the test of time, of trial and trauma. Somebody Feed Phil dives headfirst into the community, often sharing the missions of local non-profit organizations, connecting with the city’s future generations and allowing us to discover the heart of each place travelled.
Somehow, this show, that focuses on one man traveling the world, trying different foods, restores faith. Through forging connections with the people of each city, their lives, their stories, Somebody Feed Phil reminds us all that no matter how different our lives may seem, we are all people, who, at the end of the day, care about putting forth the best for ourselves, our families and our communities. In his exceedingly lovable way, Phil connects us to places we may never visit and the people who call those places home.
This is high class food, served in restaurants that book a year in advance, with Michelin stars and James Beard awards. This is food reinvented. This is the peak of food as art. And though high class technique and fine dining run through the vein of these restaurants, where the show never compromises is in its soul.
Each episode centers around one chef, picking deep into their life, their backstory, what motivates them, their triumphs and their failures.Here we truly are allowed a window into what drives these chefs to be the best of the best, the arduous hours that reaching that height requires. True, some may say this show borders on idolization of these chefs. And perhaps it does. But that quality is what makes this show so fascinating, so captivating. The depth of exploration into each of these chef’s lives, we find incredible stories of perseverance, innovation and even the elusive, teetering on the edge of insanity quality found in inventors and experimenters of a bygone era. Everything about Chef’s Table, the production quality, music, cinematography make this show spell-bounding and enriching. Chef’s Table is not a show you watch, it’s a show you experience.
Subsequent off-shoots of Chef’s Table focus on chefs that are peak in their industries: pastry and BBQ. Both iterations maintain the integrity of the original series, focusing on the best of the best, providing a rare inside look into the minds of the greatest culinary creators of our day.
The Chef Show
LA chef Roy Choi and producer, writer, director Jon Favreau team up to cook a variety of different dishes. Having worked together on the film, Chef, Choi and Favreau take on friendly teacher and student roles, Choi patiently teaching Favreau not only how to make the dishes, but the processes behind how the dish is made. In this show, we all live vicariously through Favreau, whose so eager to learn everything from casual master chef Roy Choi. Plus, they go hang out with Christina Tosi, Wolfgang Puck, etc. It’s fantastic.
Roy Choi can be called the pioneer of the modern food truck. He started his truck Kogi BBQ Taco Truck in downtown LA. He was one of the first to utilize social media (thank you Twitter) to post the food truck’s location around Los Angeles. Hungry followers could see where the truck was at immediately, and would flock to it. He now owns 6 restaurants and has published a fascinating autobiography/cookbook hybrid LA Son. Roy Choi is a true LA original, combining the delicious power of Mexican street food with his Korean heritage. One of my favorite qualities about Roy Choi though, is how patient and humble he is in the kitchen.
Chef Show possesses an inherently playful nature, lacking the formality of fine dining while holding up the standards of making, quite simply, really good food. From oysters to the pinnacle of grilled cheese, Choi and Favreau present a new kind of cooking show. One thats centered around friendship and culinary discovery.
Street Food: Asia & Street Food: Latin America
While they are two separate shows, Street Food: Asia and Street Food: Latin America center around the same central them (you guessed it): street food. Embracing the region’s cultural backbone, this show hones in on street food vendors, many of whom have never been formally trained as chef, but instead are dedicated to carrying on the traditions of their culture by serving traditional street food every day of the year.
This is the food of the people. And the street vendors who survive are the ones who make the food that people most connect to and love mot deeply, enough to come back day after day for the same delicious dish. For the adventurous traveler, seeking out and trying traditional street food is a quintessential part of any journey. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and it’s the product of the organic culinary landscape that surrounds it — no imports, no tricks, just decades upon decades of tradition, handed down through generations. The Street Food shows give us unique insight into how these street foods are made and the hard-working, dedicated, passionate hands that make them.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Based on Samin Nosrat’s book of the same title, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is a limited series, only a mere four episodes that explores the building blocks of any good dish. While the show itself is brief, its value is irreplaceable. Nosrat is at once incredibly knowledgable and infinitely teachable, allowing us to learn from her own deep breadth of experience while simultaneously discovering new culinary territory right alongside her.
The premise behind the book, and the theme of the show, is that when you can master these four elements (salt, fat, acid and heat) you can utilize them in a balance to make anything delicious, with or without a recipe. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is the culmination of decades of experience, and provides a philosophy on how to approach any dish in the kitchen. Going above and beyond a typical cooking tutorial show, Nosrat sets out to educate us on the role that certain foods play in your cooking, what happens when they interact in the right environments and how food can transform by your method of preparation. Overall, it’s an incredible inside look on how the mind of a chef works, and how to understand food beyond following a cut-and-dry recipe.
I respect why the show was only four episodes–it’s concise, following the structure of her book–but I am left wanting more. Though another Netflix show isn’t in the cards at this time, Nosrat is currently producing a podcast called Home Cooking, set to teach us everyday folk how to cook at home.