The rise of food shows in the last two decades has brought in a wave of quality programming, particularly the last couple of years. Between all the varied styles — cooking, food travel, competitions, and renowned chefs making guest appearances — food content is only getting better and better.
Of late, Netflix has been a big influence in this sphere. The success of Chef’s Table broke new ground, not only in its aesthetic approach to food, but in the intimate way it showcased the great minds working within the highest level of food artistry today. Since then they’ve introduced other programs to a hugely positive response, some Originals and otherwise pre-existing shows available to stream.
What’s best about this recent surge of quality food series is that there’s something for everyone – whatever your palate, budget, or viewing preferences. So whether it’s Southern barbecue, Japanese ramen, French pastries, or Indian vindaloo that you’re into, it’s undoubtedly out there.
To give you a rundown, we’ve listed the best food shows on Netflix right now.
Food porn rating: Definitely don’t watch on an empty stomach. This one’s most enjoyable if you match your meal to the episode and eat along with it.
Hosted by chef David Chang of Momofuku fame, Ugly Delicious is the antithesis of fine dining and snooty food elitism. Each episode revolves around a type of food or a specific method of preparation, detailing its history, cultural significance, and innovative ways it’s progressed or been adapted — often courtesy of some of the world’s best chefs — and ultimately exploring what is it about these foods that we as humans collectively love so much.
Chang’s partner-in-crime is former Lucky Peach editor, Peter Meehan, who together with Chang created the now-defunct publication which helped bring food journalism into a new era. They’ve also worked together before on PBS’ Anthony Bourdain-produced The Mind of a Chef series.
There are a load of celebrities eating along with them, as well as superstar chefs including Noma’s René Redzepi and Osteria Francescana’s Massimo Bottura, as well as a ton of highly specialized cooks who simply make incredible food. So if you like your food delicious (and not particularly pretty) with a side of humor, quirkiness, and cultural relevance, then Ugly Delicious is for you. Suffice it to say it’s one of the best food shows on Netflix right now.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Food porn rating: This is a two-for-one food and travel porn show.
Undoubtedly the OG, the late, great Anthony Bourdain redefined what food programming could be. His previous show, No Reservations, made way for Parts Unknown, in which the former chef travelled the world seeking out not only authentic cuisine, but stories behind the local culture and people. The 11th season of Parts Unknown was airing at the time of his tragic passing.
The show’s format has helped it stand the test of time, where nothing is formulaic. It’s clear that each episode is well-researched, with genuine and interesting local guests who dish on everything about that location’s history, culture, politics, and more. It’s often said that Anthony Bourdain helped bring humanity together with his shows and that’s definitely not far from the truth.
Food porn rating: It depends on the episode. It’s more often creatively inspiring than cause for salivation but there are some serious hunger-inducing installments.
Chef’s Table is the show that best personifies the foodie scene’s historically exclusive high-dining experience. If you ever hear talk about whether a chef uses tweezers in the kitchen, well Chef’s Table is by and large a big-time tweezer offender. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. On the contrary, it’s helped to democratize the upper echelon of food appreciation.
The show succeeds in not only highlighting each masterful chef’s talents and the dining experiences at their respective restaurants, but by allowing them to tell their own story, it gives us a deeper appreciation of who they are, where they come from, and what they’ve overcome. It’s incredibly inspiring to watch and confirms why these individuals truly are the best in their trade. And while the earnest filmmaking style has been poked fun at more than once, Chef’s Table offers some of the best food cinematography out there, confirming why it’s one of the best food shows on Netflix.
Food porn rating: Unsurprisingly, Nailed It falls short here.
Nailed It is a bit of a train wreck but that’s what makes it not only fun to watch but appealing in a sea of stern and serious food content. The premise is that three amateur bakers are put to the challenge of recreating complex cakes and confections, ultimately butchering the job and resulting in some horrendous outcomes. Three judges give their two cents and award the best attempt.
As you might imagine, Nailed It can be a bit of a one-trick-pony – it’s fun for a little while but the laughs don’t really last the distance. Though it seems Netflix is well aware of that, keeping episodes to a digestible 35-minutes, six episodes per season, and employing gimmicky crossover programming such as having the cast of Queer Eye compete in the second season finale. The show definitely won’t make you think, but if you just wanna switch off and laugh at some terrible cooking for once, then Nailed It is worth a watch.
Somebody Feed Phil
Food porn rating: A mix of food and travel porn, the show moves quickly, not stopping on any one thing for too long.
Essentially an updated version of PBS’s, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having, Somebody Feed Phil is a foodie travel show hosted by Everybody Loves Raymond creator, Phil Rosenthal. The format is familiar not only because it follows Anthony Bourdain’s tried-and-true travel style but because it features Netflix’s now ubiquitous food-focused aesthetic. Not to mention the same players across all of their programming, for example, Italian superstar chef, Massimo Bottura, has featured in no less than four Netflix Originals since his Chef’s Table debut, with Somebody Feed Phil the latest. Not that we’re complaining – Bottura’s joie de vivre is as delightful to watch as is his cooking, but it feels a little stale on Netflix’s part.
Like his sitcom, Phil himself will appeal to the masses, but for those with more discerning taste, especially regarding food and travel, it can fall short. With that said, the show serves as a whirlwind travel guide, highlighting key experiences in cities across the globe, from Venice to Bangkok. Its overall message to just get out there and enjoy the world is heartwarming, even when it feels like it’s your goofy dad telling you that.
Food porn rating: Less food, more history here, but the level of information is very detailed and interesting.
Based on Michael Pollan’s book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, this Netflix Original is concerned with soulful home cooking and the cultural significance behind food. The series is produced by renowned documentarian, Alex Gibney, ensuring quality filmmaking that resonates on a deeper level.
Separated into four episodes that each centers around the classical elements — fire, water, air, and earth — Cooked explores food from a historical, cultural and human perspective. The show posits a theory by Harvard primatologist Richard Wrangham that suggests that humans evolved from primates due to the invention of cooking our food. It’s certainly food for thought and where the show excels is that it offers intelligent discourse through an approachable and thoroughly enjoyable lens.
Food porn rating: Almost none. This is a cold, hard look at food and corruption within in the industry.
Rotten is essentially a true-crime thriller played out with food. The six-part documentary series focuses on a specific type of food in each episode—honey, peanuts, garlic, chicken, milk and cod—while uncovering the dirty truths that lay behind our consumption of these products. Unsurprisingly, it’s corruption in big businesses, both national and global, that is at the crux of everything.
The series is certainly not an enjoyable watch in the traditional foodie sense, but it’s an important one that undoubtedly gives a deeper appreciation of what goes on behind the scenes. The many personal stories which are featured are what makes the show so gripping. Rotten isn’t just about conspiracy theories in the industry, it humanizes the struggles by telling real stories from real people, often to tragic effect.
Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast
Food porn rating: It’s pretty high. What the show lacks in style it makes up for in delicious footage and variety of recipes.
The format of Jamie & Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast is reminiscent of daytime food programs you watched when you were sick at home, which is perhaps why it’s so comforting. It’s by no means a slick and cool show—in fact it frequently veers into naff territory when the hosts talk back with the rent-a-crowd—but the content is so solid it’s worth looking past the cringe moments.
Each episode is centered around a “menu,” comprising a recipe by Jamie that’s pre-filmed on location; a celebrity guest who cooks along with Jamie to a dish of their choice; a “food fight mission” which is basically their take on food activism, allowing the show to highlight various topics ranging from food waste to regional cuisines that are dying out; and a DIY food build by Jimmy, where he creates cooking equipment by being resourceful.
The celebrity segment is the show’s true gem, not just to see celebs cooking (and seeing who actually can and can’t) but because the research team does a great job of chasing down specific recipes that look as delicious as they are diverse. Everything from Usain Bolt’s Aunt Lily’s jerk pork to Kate Hudson cooking an authentic Goan vindaloo courtesy of Rego Urbano, one of the world’s best Goan chefs, are featured.
Zumbo’s Just Desserts
Food porn rating: For those with a sweet tooth, this is the ultimate.
Australian pâtissier, Adriano Zumbo, is highly regarded, having learned his craft domestically, and from Pierre Hermé in France, who was named the World’s Best Pastry Chef in 2016. Zumbo’s Just Desserts follows the now ubiquitous format where contestants compete against one another to be crowned best chef.
The show takes the Willy Wonka myth of a madman who’s a confectionary genius a little too far. It’s actually pretty cringeworthy and nausea-inducing to be honest. However once the baking begins, it truly is incredible to see the effort and skill that goes into creating the desserts, making the show worth it. For fans of Top Chef and the like, this is a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
A Cook Abroad
Food porn rating: As with all food travel programs, the food looks amazing when it’s on show but it’s often not the main focus.
Once again the food travel show format crops up. However, on A Cook Abroad, each episode is hosted by a different chef, with a few of them traveling to a region of the world that is tied to their ancestry. One short season of six episodes is the extent of the show, but considering how varied each episode feels, there’s a lot to take in.
A BBC show, it has that distinct slowed-down feeling, making it an easy and relaxing watch, while the tried-and-true format is made somewhat more interesting by the very personal journeys a few of the chefs undertake. And if you don’t vibe so well with one of the hosts, you can quickly move on to a new one in the next episode, making A Cook Abroad a good show to binge without it feeling repetitive.