Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “There is no sincerer love than the love of food”. For any keen foodie, it’s easy to get on board with that sentiment.
To help nurture that culinary appreciation, Netflix has a range of beautifully filmed documentaries available to stream. At the time of writing, each of the documentaries featured below is available on Netflix in the U.S.
Each film on this list offers something much different to the ubiquitous celebrity chef cooking shows, or serialized cooking competitions, that are on each evening.
These are shows that tell the stories of the best chefs and restaurants in the world. They showcase the craftsmanship that goes into each meal cooked. And they illuminate the sheer passion that people can have for food (and drink) in all its forms.
In short, they are documentaries that any true foodie should set aside some time for.
1. Chef’s Table
When director David Gelb takes on a project, you know it’s going to be a story well-told. And that’s exactly what we get with both seasons of Chef’s Table (and the new Chef’s Table: France). Each episode in these six-part series follows the life and work of a single, immensely talented and ambitious chef.
From the three Michelin star Massimo Bottura re-engineering Italian classics, to Francis Mallman celebrating cooking with open fires on isolated islands. This is a stunning look into the lives of men and women who live for the food they cook.
2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Another David Gelb documentary, the critically acclaimed Jiro Dreams of Sushi arguably sets the benchmark for what food documentaries should be.
This show that tells the story of 91-year-old Jiro Ono, chef and owner of a ten-seater, three-Michelin-star Sushi restaurant in Tokyo. This is a chef whose perfectionism borders on insanity, and whose life’s work consists solely in creating the best sushi on the planet.
Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, Noma is known for being the world’s most celebrated restaurant. This is a candid look at what daily life is like in a kitchen producing such an incredible standard of food.
The documentary may seem like an extended advertisement for the restaurant, but the level of food porn is unmatched, showing us why Noma is one of the leading forces behind Scandinavia’s food revival.
Today, talented chefs are one of the only widely-appreciated artisans left. And The Birth of Saké shows exactly why this is the case.
The 144-year-old Tedorigawa Brewery based in Northern Japan is home to a dying breed of craftsmanship. This is where saké-makers live for six months each year, hand-crafting a world-class spirit. Thankfully The Birth of Saké captures these artisanal production methods before they are lost forever.
5. Crafting a Nation
While many industries have been struggling to turn a profit, the American craft beer industry is booming. And with so many new breweries opening each year, it’s fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at the people and motivations behind these companies.
Rather than an appreciation and examination of beer itself, Crafting a Nation mostly tells the story — idea to launch — of Black Shirt Beer Co. (among others) along with their trials and successes along the way.
6. Three Stars
“Three stars” refers to the highest rating a restaurant can receive from the Michelin Guide. This is an award many chefs obsess over receiving. What we see in Three Stars is an insight into what it takes to both hold onto your three stars, and what it takes for chefs to climb the ranks to those illustrious heights.
With exclusive interviews with the chefs, and interesting glimpses into the kitchens, we can see the dedication needed in both fine-dining, and more reasonably-priced, restaurants to be recognized worthy of those stars.
7. Steak Revolution
Essentially, Steak Revolution is a “worldwide journey looking for the best steak in the world”. It sounds a bit too niche for an absorbing documentary, but it works surprisingly well.
Examining everything that’s needed to create the best steak possible, from the well-being of the cattle, to the skill of the butcher, this is a surprisingly entertaining, highly informative documentary that’ll leave any carnivore’s mouth watering.
Another beautifully directed documentary, Cooked is a four-part series that examines cooking from four different perspectives: fire, water, air, and earth. The show looks at food not just as a meal to be savored, but as an anthropologic force that can help us better understand the history of society.
Yes, it can be a little preachy at times, but there are some fantastic pieces of information about the history and chemistry of food that’ll keep you hooked throughout.
The original Somm (also available on Netflix) follows four budding sommeliers as they study for the infamous Master Sommelier exam. That’s definitely worth a watch, but the follow-up, Somm: Into the Bottle is arguably a better watch for keen foodies.
This is a documentary that delves deep into the art of winemaking, from the beautiful vineyards, to the eccentric personalities that inhabit this world. Expect to come away with a renewed appreciation and understanding of this often-misunderstood drink.
10. For Grace
Curtis Duffy is a masterchef looking to open one of the best restaurants in the U.S., if not the world. His obsession with excellence, along with his fascinating backstory is the focus of this 91-minute documentary.
As Duffy struggles to open his restaurant, it becomes clear what sacrifices someone needs to make when they have such grand ambitions driving them.
Which Food Documentary Will You Watch First?
These documentaries represent a real shift away from the most popular cooking shows. While those populist offerings set out to entertain, these documentaries offer a behind-the-scenes look at the people so passionate about their food and drink that it takes over their lives.
Food CAN be entertaining, especially when it’s being eaten. But it’s also fascinating to discover the skill, passion, and craftsmanship that can be found throughout the food and drink industry.
Which of these documentaries do you plan to watch on Netflix? Which other Netflix documentaries for foodies would you recommend to your fellow readers? If you’re making a return visit after watching some of the documentaries, what did you learn from them? Please let us know in the comments below!