We are a bit obsessed with food here in Great Northern Larder. That means we watch a lot of food-related shows on Netflix. Here are 10 of our favourites. They have a lot in common. They are all about the enjoyment of food, not about your health or the evil in the food industry. They are mostly centred around chefs and commercial cooking. They are all beautiful to watch.
The Chef Show
Our favourite. Watch the star of the Chef movie, Jon Favreau and his friend Roy Choi recreate recipes from the movie, visit some great restaurants, and hang out with stars like Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. This movie wants for nothing when it comes to the exploration of the American food scene.
Somebody Feed Phil
Phil Rosenthal is possibly the most ridiculously likeable man on TV. He travels the world tasting local food and talking to everyone he meets. He manages to get everyone on side and then finishes each episode with a Skype call to his eccentric elderly parents in New York. It’s a simply lovely TV show. A slightly surreal moment is when the bubbly and energetic Phil meets the Happy Pear in Greystones and is left looking a little shell shocked as they take over the whole show.
One of our pet hates here in Great Northern Larder is when Americans claim ownership of BBQ food. If cooking over fire is how you define BBQ (it is) then its as old as civilisation. Barbecue takes a visually stunning look at fire cooking around the world.
If you think Gordon Ramsey is a bit narky then check out George. An old school French chef in the USA who shouts and bangs his way through each day’s service. After 40 years in the business, he is a little too old school and the restaurant is failing. A poignant look at a stubborn old cook!
Fire, Water, Air, and Earth – 4 elements of cooking explored in this documentary series written by Michael Pollan. There is no moralising and every scene is beautifully filmed.
This is cheesy and stuffed to the gills with operatic music and a narrator that is obsessed with numbers. “Spend 24 hours with 12,000 heads of lettuce, 4 tonnes of olive oil, 27 sous chefs, and 45 minutes of loud music”. That type of thing, but actually the numbers are astounding. The episode about the cruise ship is especially fascinating.
David Chang is a Korean Chef that seems happy eating raw chicken and then some. This is another beautifully filmed food program that explores the “ugly” side of food where ugly simply means unusual cuts of meat and methods of cooking that are not familiar to western audiences. Much more delicious than ugly – this is not played for shock value.
Anything starring Anthony Bourdain is going to be entertaining, sometimes cringy, very liberal and left-wing. He is a brilliant writer and a powerful communicator who was not afraid to travel to parts unknown. The fact that he died by his own hand adds an unwanted layer of pathos to these shows.
The Mind of a Chef
Bringing the last two shows together is “The Mind of a Chef” where Anthony Bourdain narrates full series about just one chef. Series 1 is inside the mind of David Chang and it really allows the chef the time and space to explore all his or her influences and to talk in length about their dishes.
A little different to the rest of our recommendations. It is all about food and yet has little to do with food. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon play characters called Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they travel the UK eating at half a dozen restaurants for the purposes of reviewing them for the Observer. We were not sure what to make of this. The two comedians seem simultaneously to be at ease and on each other’s nerves and over most meals they descend into competitive showbiz impersonations including a duelling Michael Caine. Not for everyone, but good fun.
Kantaro, The Sweet Tooth Salaryman
The above trailer is in Japanese. Watching it could be the best way to immerse yourself in this series in under a minute. The premise is that Kantaro is an office worker (those scenes are straight out of “The Office”) who enjoys eating as many sweets (desserts) as he can every time he has a spare minute (those scenes are straight out of an Anthony Bourdain doc!), and as he indulges he fantasizes about food and life and whatever else (those scenes are straight out of a dodgy manga show, Power Rangers, or Tellytubbies). Give it a go.
Have We Missed Any?
The obvious one we have left out is "Chef's Table" - arguably the daddy of them all. We might look at a top 10 episodes for that one. Are there any other shows on Netflix you would recommend? Please leave a comment below and we would appreciate a share on social media if you think our recommendations are worth sharing!