It takes a real cynic to not fall under the spell of Chef’s Table, the Netflix documentary series that features some of the world’s most famous chefs. Creator David Gelb was the man behind Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the riveting documentary film that turned 85-year-old Jiro Ono from three-Michelin-star sushi maestro into the stuff of folklore and legend. Thanks to Gelb’s storytelling prowess, Chef’s Table transcends its genre as well. It’s not just about food or the globally acclaimed chefs extraordinaire and their world-class restaurants; more importantly, the series is inspiring because it’s about artistry and revolutionary concepts about how and what we eat. Chef’s Table doesn’t just make you examine what you know about food, it changes how you think about life — and that’s the magic of it.
Once you’re done with the Chef’s Table bingefest, you may find yourself hankering for more. Don’t put down the remote yet. From the thought-provoking to the entertaining, here’s a list of the best food-related shows to line up on your Netflix list.
Michael Pollan’s four-part Netflix series is the on-screen version of his bestselling book of the same name. Through the four elements of fire, water, air and earth, Cooked is an enlightening exploration of the history of food preparation and how cooking traditions enable humans to forge meaningful connections with mother nature and our ingredients. Pollan is a compelling writer and he is no less charismatic on screen. Whether he’s dicing up onions for mirepoix while musing over the value of pot cooking or labouring over sourdough to perfect a loaf, it’s hard not to be sucked into some soul searching over what and how we are feeding ourselves in the modern world.
Documentaries on farming can be polarising and preachy, offering up shock value to push viewers towards veganism as the only solution. Sustainable, however, takes a level-headed approach in examining the value, possibilities and practicality of sustainable farming through a seventh-generation farmer, Marty Travis. By working with his local community of small farms and by building relationships with like-minded chefs, a farming model that is environmentally safe and economically viable was born. By now, it’s impossible to deny that the problems of industrial farming are many. Sustainable puts on the table the issues we have to think about, and some of the possible solutions.
Now that Lucky Peach magazine has announced its closure, fans of the irreverent food journal can seek solace in this offbeat documentary series. Narrated by Anthony Bourdain, The Mind of a Chef gets inside the head of Momofuku restaurant group founder, David Chang, and in later seasons, features chefs like Magnus Nilsson and April Bloomfield as well. There is no formula to the show; it’s a mix of cooking, travel, food science, culture and history — which is why it can sometimes be unhinged and so fun to watch.
Based on the bestselling Japanese manga Shinya Shokudo, the show is set in a tiny, nondescript diner in the back alley of bustling Tokyo. There’s no kaiseki, no refined Japanese dining to drool over. Rather, you’ll see a roundup of regular menu items like tan men, omu rice and pork miso soup set — humble staples that will make you long to duck into an intimate diner for a spot of homely supper. The owner, who is known as the Master, is that quiet but essential character you can’t take your eyes off, and the one that a multitude of characters find themselves confiding in and musing over late-night thoughts with. More than just sustenance, food at Midnight Diner is conduit for nostalgia, memories and a fantastic array of the stories that make us human.
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