These days, there are two major types of food documentaries. On one hand, you have films that portray the beautiful side of food or the people that create specific foods. You’ve got gorgeous meals being devoured both by the people on screen and by your eyes. They make you want more — and better — food. After watching, the first thought that crosses your mind is either a) I wonder where in town I can get that or b) when can I sign up for culinary school and do that?
On the other hand, there are food docs that expose the dark side of something of the food industry. Horrible farming practices, the negative impact of fast food — whatever it is, it makes you feel gross. You leave feeling horrified and wanting to eat only greens that you grew yourself for the next month (unless you fall into the camp where, upon watching Super Size Me!, you immediately went out to McDonald’s).
We’ve rounded up the best food documentaries that are currently streaming on Netflix. Next time you want to queue up some visual sustenance, add these to your list.
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 is overweight, there might be a problem. When that fact is compounded by the number of people on prescription drugs for degenerative diseases and the number of surgeries for a variety of maladies is climbing every day, 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-percent 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.
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