Cooking shows on Netflix are as varied as they are popular. It is a genre that is as old as television. And with the last two decades skyrocketing the popularity of food television, we live a golden age of cooking on screen. Chefs are rock stars trying to change the world. Food and meal prep are hip. And going to out to eat is almost like going to a concert.
Best Cooking Shows on Netflix
With all this in mind, it is no surprise that we are blessed with a variety of different formats. From classic instructional shows, via frantic competitions, to chefs traveling the world. There is something for everyone. And never one to get shafted by the competition, cooking shows on Netflix include a top-notch library of food-based entertainment. Whatever your appetite requires, there is undoubtedly something to quench your culinary thirst.
Being first in line, it is only fitting to start discussing cooking shows on Netflix with their first original documentary series. Intended by its creator David Gelb to be a follow-up to his acclaimed documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the show uses similar ideas. Each episode follows the lives and kitchens of a single world-renowned chef. From their views on food, cooking, and life in general. We witness their passion put on the plate. Their unique approach distilled in the meals they serve.
With a cerebral, almost reverent style, Chef’s Table captures the beauty and obsession of world-class cooking. This show features the type of cuisine you will not find in just any home around the world. It is cooking that borders on artistic expression. Nourishing for the soul, more so than the body. And as such, Chef’s Table is not the most overtly entertaining of the cooking shows on Netflix. But it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and poetic.
Somebody Feed Phil
An unlikely protagonist for a food show, Somebody Feed Phil follows not a chef, but the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond Phil Rosenthal. That is not to say that Phil has no prior background in food. Somebody Feed Phil is the rebranding of his original food show I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. A show that won him a James Beard Award, the culinary equivalent of an Oscar or Pulitzer prize.
The show follows Phil Rosenthal as he travels around the world, sampling the culture, traditions, and food of his destinations. He brings the unique sense of humor only someone working his whole life in comedy television can provide. And his travels are as funny as they are savory. It is a well-worn culinary path, but with locations like Saigon, New Orleans, and Mexico City, it is hard not to get caught up in the sincere passion on screen. One of our favorite cooking shows on Netflix; the first season is now streaming.
The Big Family Cooking Showdown
The Big Family Cooking Showdown started off on the heels of the staggering success of The Great British Bake-Off. The series is a British team-competition cooking show, hosted by Bake Off winners Nadyia Hussain and Zoe Ball. But where the real fun comes in, are the competitors. As the title suggests, teams are made up of two competing families. And it should go without saying that seeing families interact under pressure should be reason enough to tune in.
With different challenges, such as cooking a meal for £10 or preparing a feast for the judges from their respective home kitchens, there is enough variety to go around. Luckily, Netflix picked up the show from the BBC for international distribution. And with currently one season to watch, you can finally answer the question of whether or not that family favorite of yours can stand the judgment of a professional chef.
Ugly Delicious is possibly the most unique cooking show on Netflix. “Ugly Delicious” describes food that does not meet the traditional aesthetic standards set by fine-dining tradition yet is delicious nonetheless. The term was coined by the shows co-creator, renowned and highly opinionated chef David Chang. The basic premise is simple. Each episode follows a different favorite dish, from tacos to pizza, and explores the history, challenges, and attitudes each dish inherits.
However, steeped in David Chang’s idiosyncracies and irrelevance, Ugly Delicious challenges what food television can be. It has been described as an extended-essay on what food means to culture, and how the dishes can paint the history of America. Its structure is free-flowing, free-associative and covers the entire globe. Explorations about the complicated racial connotations of fried chicken follow bursts of quirky nonsense. The show should not work, but it does so more than any of the other cooking shows on Netflix. Wholly unique, incredibly entertaining, eye-opening, and educational.
We have all seen these crazy, impossible looking cakes on the internet. You know, the ones that look like you need a degree in sculpting and architecture to make. And presumably, we have also seen the failed attempts to recreate these behemoths of baking. Inspired by this celebration of collective failure, Nailed It! is a competitive baking show about trying to make the impossible happen.
Featuring competitors with an unproven track record in baking, they compete for a $10,000 prize. The competition splits into two categories. Firstly, contenders pick one of three confectionaries to recreate. The second challenge, however, is the star of the show. Presented with a showstopper of a cake, the goal is to make a carbon copy. Naturally, the baking never turns out as it should. The finale becomes a competition in who can fail the least. It is a fun concept and one that celebrates failure in the kitchen. A relatable and charming addition to the growing roster of cooking shows on Netflix.
The Mind of a Chef
David Chang’s first foray into the world of television. The Mind of a Chef started as a spin-off to his quarterly magazine Lucky Peach. The magazine was initially begun to blur the lines between food journalism and cooks. The result was a collection of essays and articles that told stories from the perspective of culinary professionals. And in the same vein, Mind of Chef tries to capture the complicated thought processes professional chefs apply to their craft.
Each season follows either a single chef or a pair of chefs in their daily lives and obsessions. Driven by the interests and belief of its subjects, the show covers a wide array of topics. From their influences to sharing recipes they deem essential. Hence, it is half portrait and half cooking show. Also, this makes each season a departure from its predecessor. The show even won a James Beard award for outstanding culinary programming.
One of the most popular cooking shows on Netflix; five seasons are currently streaming, with a sixth one on its way.
There are chefs, and then there are chefs. Most of them stay in the kitchen, others become celebrities. At the same time, not every food television host has extensive restaurant experience. In this landscape, Eric Ripert is a remarkable case. Not only is he a chef; he is one of the best chefs in the world. And his flagship restaurant La Bernadin has been ranked among the best restaurants in the world. It holds three Michelin Stars.
He appeared as a guest star on many food shows before getting his show. As such, similar to much other personality-driven food entertainment, the show is based around Ripert’s interests. Where it differs, however, is his personality. Avec Eric is neither flashy nor loud. It is a calm show. Attention to detail, the beauty of simplicity. The same principles that guide his cooking give Avec Eric a different pace and atmosphere. Easily one of the most mature cooking shows on Netflix.
Zumbo’s Just Desserts
This is another cooking competition created in the aftermath of The Great British Bake-off, but this time hailing from Australia. Hosted by the titular Adriano Zumbo among others, Zumbo’s Just Desserts is an elimination-style bake-off. Twelve candidates battle it out over a prize of 100,000 Australian dollars and the honor of having their winning desert sold in Zumbo’s shop. Each week one contestant has to go until only the last one is standing.
The show was a big success in its home country, and Netflix purchased the international distribution rights. So, if you like everything baked and sweet, then out of all the cooking shows on Netflix, Just Desserts is for you. Not only will the 12 episodes entertain you, but they will also make you question just how essential vegetables are to your diet. Dangerously delicious.
Deep Fried Masters
We have seen our fair share of baking competitions over the years. Desserts are delicious after all. However, they are not the only way you can increase your waistline. What would the world of gaining weight be without that oh so delicious form of cooking: deep frying. French fries, onion rings, fried chicken. It is impossible to prepare food that way and have it not taste good.
Knowing this, Deep Fried Masters celebrates the inventiveness of the frying arts. Traveling from one state fair to the next, the show features eight competitors trying to impress a panel of state fair frying legends. Scoring is based on categories such as skill and inventiveness, plus it includes creations like the fried margarita. Brilliantly honest, Deep Fried Masters knows full well how silly it is. It is refreshing in an ironic way, considering its subject.
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
With the recent death of Anthony Bourdain, the world of food television has lost one of its best and most enduring stars. Bourdain was a phenomenon in his own right. He was consistently honest, opinionated, curious and passionate. Always himself, he struck a chord with audiences. Because of this, his show has created countless imitators. Though none of them were able to reach the level of sincerity Bourdain did.
Parts Unknown is the third iteration of the format tailored made for Bourdain’s personality. Consequently, Bourdain travels around the world to “eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice.” As a result, the people on screen open up about the lives they live. They talk about the hardships of their everyday life and the joys of their family. Episodes ranged from drunkenly rambunctious to heartbreaking and truthful. Also, it covered locations previously ignored by American television and as a result, brought the world and its inhabitants a little closer. Bourdain searched for the common ground in all of us and the influence he had on culture should never be underestimated.
What Makes the Best?
When considering which cooking shows on Netflix are the best, the question always boils down to what we like to watch ourselves. But more than anything, the pleasure of watching something that feels original transcends. With that in mind, here are the shows we consider the absolute best cooking shows on Netflix:
It does not often happen that we are confronted with shows that are truly unique. Ugly Delicious is one of those unique shows. Political without being boring. Weird without being unapproachable. Intensely personal, yet somehow utterly universal. For that reason, it shows the meaning food has to us. And as a result, it serves as an example of what food television might be ten years down the line.
Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
Even without the tragic events of recent weeks, Parts Unknown remains the gold standard of the travel-food hybrid format that has become so popular. Bourdain was a master in being unpretentious in front of the camera. His openness gave us some great television moments. Similarly, it also invited the viewer to come closer into a world that felt challenging before. Therefore, every episode felt original in its own way. And if you have not seen the show yet, now might be the best time to start.
Cooking can be a daunting activity. Even when you only cook for yourself, there is always the risk that you end up ruining dinner. And with so many shows pretending that cooking is as comfortable as pie, it is refreshing to see a show celebrating failure. Almost all of us get inspired now and then. But we get pulled back by reality. As such, the show is not only funny in its results; it is also very relatable.