Over the years, Netflix has realised how far food porn can go.
In 2016 the streaming giants renewed Chef’s Table, the immaculately crafted docu-series which makes the hyper-filtered food photography of Instagram look like child’s play, for three additional seasons. If that doesn’t sound like much of a big deal, consider the fact that they waited until after Stranger Things 2 had been fervently devoured by the show’s hardcore fanbase before signing it up for part three.
As a result, we’ve seen more and more food-based telly popping up on Netflix UK, and they’ve even started expanding their own original output in the realm, with 2016’s fantastic four-parter Cooked, and the upcoming travelogue Somebody Feed Phil.
No matter how formulaic the genre has become (a jaunty bit of classical music, some swooping shots of pristinely presented dishes and a mildly dramatic backstory tend to do the trick) there is always joy to be found. Whether you watch them for inspiration, entertainment or as a sedative before sleep time (just me?), there’s a lot to be gained from delving into this immense catalogue delectable television.
Check out our guide to the best food based TV programmes and documentaries on Netflix UK below.
A Year in Champagne
A French-language documentary about the production of legit Champagne (only the ones made from grapes harvested in the French region are considered such). There’s little doubting that our host, renowned wine importer Martine Sourenier, has an unparalleled dedication to his subject: at one point, he calls the bubbly drink “erotic”. Tres bien.
Jiro dreams of sushi
Before there was Chef’s Table, there was Jiro Dreams of Sushi, David Gelb’s heartwarming documentary about an 85-year old Japanese sushi chef who runs a 10-seater, $280 a plate, 3 Michelin-starred restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Watch on Netflix
Jiro Dreams of Sushi director David Gelb’s expands the same formula into a TV series about amazing food and the people that make it. Each episode takes a dive into the career of a particularly impressive chef, and, as always, the meals take centre stage. Watch on Netflix
Food writer Michael Pollan gets deeply sentimental about the art of cooking in this four-part Netflix original series. Renowned documentarian Alex Gibney (who lifted the lid on Scientology in his award-winning film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) directs the first episode, as Pollan takes us through all the ways in which humans mastered the elements to bring delicious home-cooked meals to the table. Watch on Netflix
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations / A Cook’s Tour / The Layover
Anthony Bourdain, the gruff, tattooed chef who popularised the foodie travelogue show format, travels the world sampling local culture and cuisine. For an idea of the tone see the episode titles, such as No Reservations season 1, episode 1: “France: Why the French don’t suck”. Watch on Netflix
The Mind of a Chef
Buoyed by the success of his various food shows, Anthony Bourdain hopped on board of The Mind of a Chef, a series which explores the philosophy and beliefs of a different chef each season, as executive producer. No-nonsense restauranteur David Chang serves as host, and, every now and then, brings a fun, food-loving celeb like Aziz Ansari along for the ride, as seen in the clip above. Watch on Netflix
Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal, former producer of hit US sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, hops into Anthony Bourdain’s large cowboy boots, and embarks on his own trip around the globe sampling culinary delights. Watch on Netflix from Friday 12th January
This documentary follows would-be Master Sommeliers as they take on the extremely difficult exams that will seal their fate as pretentious nobodies or members of an elite, supremely pretentious club. At present there are 236 Master Sommeliers in the world, and, it won’t surprise you to hear that most of them are men. Watch them get catty with one another here.
The Birth of Sake
This documentary will make you sad to think of the amount of saké that is blithely consumed by drunks in hip Asian restaurants around the world. As it turns out, the stuff takes 6 months (!) to make, and involves a group of men being holed away form their families for months at a time, working constantly to produce the rice wine. Next time you have a glass, you’ll savour it. Watch on Netflix
The search for General Tso
Tracking the origin of America’s favourite Chinese take-away dish: General Tso’s Chicken. As it turns out, it’s not China: no one there has a clue what it is. So, who was General Tso? It’s the greatest food-related mystery since “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” Watch on Netflix