The allure of food documentaries can be attributed to a variety of elements. Whether you’ve secretly aspired to be a world-class chef or just like to imagine eating one of their fabulous meals, chances are you’re curious about what goes into the creation of their famous dishes. Beyond the glitter of celebrity chefdom, you may have always wondered what it was like to own your own food truck and serve a sample of your local flavor to passersby.
Perhaps you’re curious about how the food you eat relates to your health, or perhaps you’re curious about the health of the food you eat. Whether it’s a desire to know more about the food supply chain, the food industry, or just where eggs come from, there’s a food documentary for that too. Luckily, Netflix offers a wide variety of food documentaries to choose from, but be warned, binging them may give you the munchies!
10 STREET FOODS (2019)
Street food by its very nature, offers the adventurous food lover a taste of the local flavor wherever their adventures take them. Because street food is offered from food trucks, to outdoor grills, to rolling carts, it is the ultimate combination of experiencing the food and the life of the people that make it.
Street Foods, a new docu-series on Netflix, takes viewers into streets around the world to hear the stories of the local heroes that make their favorite dishes. Some have been making their delicious wares for 50 years, without ever having gone to culinary school. It teaches the importance of community, of flavor, and of keeping the tradition of outdoor eating alive.
9 SOMM (2012)
For those that appreciate the finer things in life (or are just curious about those that do), viewers can embark on an intimate journey of taste, style, and sophistication as they follow four sommeliers indulging their senses in a variety of amazing wines. As intoxicating a journey as it proves, it’s not without its challenges.
They will have to put their wine knowledge to the test as their course of study prepares them for the Master Sommelier Exam, a nearly impossible test of wine knowledge that includes questions about the geographical, historical, and industrial complexities of wine. Somm is a great way to learn about wine and improve your own tasting palate!
8 JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (2011)
While it might seem strange that international foodies seek out a sushi restaurant in a Tokyo subway station, but that’s just how good -and how famous- Jiro Ono’s sushi is. Now 93, he still operates his restaurant as head chef, refusing to turn it over to his middle-aged son because he doesn’t feel like he’s ready to run a business that charges $300 a plate.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi examines the life of a man who is both so single-minded and humble, that there isn’t ever a day that goes by when he doesn’t think about the art of making sushi, and how he can refine it. His belief that he still has so much to learn is what has driven him to create some of the best sushi in the world.
7 WHAT THE HEALTH (2017)
Food means a variety of different things to a lot of different people. It can mean good memories with loved ones. It can mean the art of presentation. It can mean hardwork and effort. It can mean the difference between life and death. The link between diet and disease is a strong one, and knowing the ramifications of everything we put in our bodies is important to understanding it.
What the Health looks at how what we eat alters the internal environment of our body chemistry, often resulting in harmful setbacks rather than healthy progress. It’s sobering to look at the billions of dollars that the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and food industry stand to make by our ignorance.
6 IN DEFENSE OF FOOD (2015)
Investigative journalist Michael Pollan’s scrutiny of the food industry and its affect on the American diet first came about via his essay in the New York Times in 2007 entitled Unhappy Meals. This prompted him to write the book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto the following year, which became the subject of this documentary series.
In Defense of Food takes a harsh look at how the food industry drives the Western diet, from marketing and advertising, to alarmism and scare tactics. He argues it’s conflicting claims about nutrition is responsible for the decline in America's overall health, and offers several solutions to counteract it.
5 COOKED (2016)
Once again, investigative journalist and foodie Michael Pollan takes a deep dive into diet and lifestyle, but this time he’s not just sticking to the West. He undergoes a globe-trotting adventure to several of the world’s most flavorful countries, exploring the culinary arts of a variety of individuals everywhere from India to Russia.
In Cooked, Pollan learns from chefs, bakers, and brewmasters the nuance of letting food add sustenance to your life as well as your body. With more of a focus on food prep, you’ll learn as much as he does about the passion of cooking meals that nourish body, mind, heart, and soul.
4 ROTTEN (2018)
Have you ever wondered how the eggs you cook for breakfast are collected? Or how your beef is processed? Rotten takes viewers on a serious investigation of the dark side of the food industry, from giant meat-processing plants, to airplane hangar sized warehouses full of chickens packed so tightly they can barely move.
Following the food chain supply from its source to market, viewers quickly see that supply cannot always meet demand. And that the commoditized nature of food means that to keep costs down and to inflate profits, certain corners must be cut. Cutting those corners can have serious consequences for everyone from disappearing farmers to their customers.
3 BARBECUE (2017)
What goes into making the most mouthwatering rack of baby back ribs? The most juicy hamburger? The most finger-lickin’ barbecued chicken? The secret is in the sauce, and the exceptional techniques of the grill masters that have turned barbecue into an art form. In Barbecue, viewers get to experience drool-worthy barbecue from all around the world.
Spend two hours sampling the barbecue from the Southern United States, South America, Korea, Africa, and more, each different place offering its own unique and specialized techniques to transform regional meat and vegetables into a savory barbecued feast. Barbecue is about more than food preparation; it’s about culture and community.
2 CHEF'S TABLE (2015)
From the producers that bring you Street Foods this year, their previous deep dive into the lifestyles and culture of chefs, Cooked, is not to be missed. Follow culinary masters from South Carolina to China as they pursue their dreams of mastering the craft of creating new gourmet food experiences.
Follow several chefs as they reveal to viewers their passion for not just plating the perfect gourmet meal, but the entire process that leads up to it. From making new recipes that have never been tried before, to locating new ingredients and creating new cooking methods to bring those recipes to life, they show you that innovation is the key to keeping cuisine exciting.
1 THE MIND OF A CHEF (2012)
The passing of visionary chef, writer, and world-traveler Anthony Bourdain makes this docuseries a little more poignant to view now, but perhaps even more important. The Mind of a Chef predates his Emmy-Award winning series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (also a terrific food-centric series on Netflix!), and celebrates the innovation and passion of chefs on a global scale.
Here, Bourdain adds his special combination of wit and insight as he dogs now-famous celebrity chefs around the world, studying how they go about creating some of their most renowned dishes. It’s an in depth look at the passion, hard work, and tenacity that goes into the often very personal experience of being a chef.