We need food documentaries in our lives. Why? Because in just about 90 minutes, you are given the chance to take in the world’s best and most beautiful foods, artfully crafted by the best chefs on the planet without ever leaving your couch (or bed or wherever you do your bingeing.) Okay, you might never actually get to taste what you see — and it’s a sad fact that Smell-O-Vision technology is as yet unavailable — but think of it this way: seeing these dishes might serve as a clarion call for adventure.
Are some of these documentaries more palatable than others? Of course. Who really wants to see an animal in pain? But those documentaries that show the down and dirty? They’re important, too. They do just as much educating as the fancy and pretty meal docs.
Every time we watch a food documentary, it inevitably makes us hungry for more (and also hungry for whatever food we’ve just spent 90-plus minutes learning about unless it’s about factory farming). And while there are plenty of food docs out there to keep us occupied for days, not all of them are a) all that great and b) on Netflix.
To aid in your food doc binge-watching, we’ve gone and collected the best food documentaries that are streaming on Netflix right now.
For an area of the world more known for political strife, Israel has, over the last few decades, gone from having a cuisine that no one knew or talked about to being one of the standouts in the global culinary scene. To find out how that happened, James Beard award-winning chef and author Michael Solomonov (you might remember him from his Jerusalem hummus recipe) travels to Israel to explore the sorts of foods that propelled such a momentous push for a cuisine of its own as well as the people who make those foods. For many, Israeli cuisine may not rank high on their lists of must-have foods, but after watching this doc we can bet you’ll be shifting your list around quite a bit.
The name says it all. This documentary look at what makes the combination of meat and fire so delicious. Told in 13 different languages from across the globe, Barbecue highlights the fact that barbecue is more than just a meal — it’s a way of bringing people together. The documentary argues that barbecue, no matter where you are on the planet, unites in ways that not many other styles of food can. (If you’re looking for more in the fire + meat category, we also recommend Todo Sobre el Asado, which looks at Argentinian barbecue.)
When it comes to food documentaries, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a classic. You don’t have to like sushi to appreciate this film, which chronicles the life and work of Jiro, a subway station sushi chef who has been called a national treasure in Japan. This doc is as much about sushi as it is the lifelong pursuit of greatness. What does it mean to be perfect? Is it possible to reach perfection? How does that journey change one’s life? Jiro Dreams of Sushi is so engrossing that, before you know it, it’s over and you’re wanting to watch it again.
When two out of every three people are overweight, there might be a problem. When that fact is compounded by the number of people on prescription drugs for degenerative diseases and a climbing number of surgeries for a variety of maladies, you — like the team behind Forks Over Knives — might think that something needs to be done. This documentary explores one possibility for changing the above statistics: Switching from an animal-based to a plant-based diet (and cutting out processed foods). By following a variety of people who are trying this avenue, Forks Over Knives delves into what is and what could be the future of humanity. You may be 100% against vegetarianism and think the idea is a bunch of BS, but you should still give this doc a look.
Do you know where your food comes from? You might be able to take a stab at some things — you can feel confident, for example, that that sourdough roll was, in fact, baked by the guy in the frock at the farmer’s market — but what about the majority of the foods that populate the shelves of grocery stores. Moreover, do you know the entities behind those foods? Food, Inc. explores how huge corporations have taken over just about every aspect of food production, as well as the ramifications of that. If you want to be horrified by the state of food production in the world, this is the doc for you.
If you don’t consider yourself a foodie, you might not know who Jeremiah Tower is. Tower, an American chef, is credited with being one of the people to change how people view dining. Not only is he seen as one of the fathers of “California Cuisine,” but has had an impact on food genres across the globe in his many decades of chef-dom. Produced by Anthony Bourdain, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent is a, ahem, magnificent look at a chef that everyone should be acquainted with if they love food.
Craving something a little shorter? Here are the best food-related series streaming on Netflix right now. In search of something more adventurous? Check out our list of the top travel documentaries or action movies. If you like all kinds of docs, we’ve got you covered. And our brother site, Digital Trends, also has an overall guide on the best movies and shows.