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Between reality cooking competitions and instructional programs, there’s no shortage of fascinating, high-calibre food shows available. But food documentaries are truly reaching new heights as chefs, restaurateurs, and directors use the medium to explore a range of compelling issues around the world, all through the ubiquitous lens of food. And even if you’re not typically a documentary person, these films are so engaging in terms of both visuals and subject matter that they're guaranteed to draw you in - plus, food porn is universal. All of these Netflix food documentaries are well worth your time, and they're available to stream right now.
Following the seasons on a farm owned by a seventh-generation Illinois farmer, Sustainable shines a light on the beauty and necessity of sustainable farming and the downsides of industrial agriculture - but it doesn’t resort to fear-mongering. Instead, the film emphasises the benefits of sustainable farming for the land and our health - all through the lens of farmers and chefs who have made a commitment to sourcing local ingredients. The tone is hopeful rather than damning, and the beautiful cinematography alone makes it worth a watch.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat (2018)
Based on the best-selling cookbook of the same name, this four-part docu-series breaks cooking down into four key elements: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Author and chef Samin Nosrat travels the world to explore how these four simple characteristics play a role in every delicious meal-even if we don't realise it. Along the way, Nosrat gains insight from an Italian nonne who grinds pesto in a mortar and pestle, meets a fifth-generation soy sauce brewer, and even persuades her own mother to share the secret to making perfect tahdig (a crispy Persian rice dish). Throughout the docu-series, Nosrat's joyful energy and passion for food is infectious - you'll wish she was your best friend. This is a food documentary for anyone who delights in the flavour and fellowship of a good meal.
Cooking over fire is an ancient and universal practice, and this beautifully shot food documentary aims to showcase its rich history and global appeal. Australian director Matthew Salleh travels to 12 countries, from South Africa and Mongolia to the Syrian border, uncovering the multitudinous ways that different cultures grill meat - and what it all really means. "Every culture has a form of barbecue," explains the film's website. "It is the pride of nations. It brings the world together."
Although not strictly about food, Somm is sure to give you an appreciation for the power of the palate. The Netflix documentary shadows four sommeliers as they prepare for the Master Sommelier exam, a difficult, comprehensive test of one's knowledge of not only wine, but also beer, spirits, cocktails, and the hospitality industry. The pass rate: only 8 percent. The film highlights the intensity and pressure of preparing for the exam, but also gives you a greater understanding of the wine industry as a whole. And if watching this leaves you wanting more, then check out the follow-up doc also streaming on Netflix, Somm: Into the Bottle, which delves more into the fascinating history and marketing of wine.
"Will eating insects save our Earth?" That's the question posited by Bugs, a Netflix food documentary that follows chef Ben Reade and researcher Josh Evans as they visit bug-eating cultures around the world. During their journey, they explore the potential for insects as a mainstream food source in response to population growth and food shortages. The film aims to highlight the diversity of insects in terms of flavour and benefits, especially as they are loaded with protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients.
In Defense of Food (2015)
While only a few years old, In Defense of Food is already a classic as far as food documentaries go. Based on his popular 2018 book of the same name, journalist Michael Pollan traverses the globe - and supermarket aisles - to examine how industrially-produced food has altered our diet and the simplest way to eat healthy (without jumping on any fad diet). For Pollan, it all comes down to: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you've ever stressed about how to make healthy eating a regular habit rather than a test or a chore, this film will be an encouraging first step.