We’ve written about “The 10 Best Food Documentaries on Netflix” (and that’s a fantastic post), but we wanted to take it one step further. Because many of the latest food documentaries (or docuseries as Netflix calls it) are so engaging, enlightening and inspirational that they must be changing the way we think about food.
So what do some of the top Netflix food docuseries have to say about today’s food culture? How are they addressing changes taking place to the industry—and to what extent are they the cause behind changes in food culture?
1. Chef’s Table
In this incredible multi-series, Chef’s Table travels to the farthest reaches and most remote places on earth to interview the chefs behind the world’s best restaurants. Many of these chefs find inspiration and ingredients from their immediate natural surroundings and bring that to life in their dishes. Hunting and gathering ingredients from their local, yet remote and often inhospitable locations is a challenge in and of itself. And what happens in the world’s best restaurants makes waves across the global food scene, eventually making its way into cookbooks and even home cooking.
For example, season one features Dan Barber, an award-winning chef, farmer and revolutionary in the food scene, helping make the farm-to-table movement the phenomenon that it is today. Barber’s farm, Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns, supplies his award-winning restaurant, Blue Hill in Manhattan with seasonal, local and organic produce. He reminds the audience to think about where food comes from and encourages us to grow our own food for not only sustainability but also flavour and freshness.
This four-part docuseries is based on the best-selling book, Cooked, by Michael Pollan. The book’s author and host of the docuseries believes that we’ve lost touch with how our food got to our plates. All of the mass-produced, pre-packaged, genetically-modified and frozen foods we eat makes it hard to track where our food came from.
“When we learn to cook is when we truly became human,” says Pollan. If we can get back to the basics of hunting, gathering and, specifically to this show, cooking our own food, we take back our power as human beings. Pollan dedicates an episode to fire, water, air and earth—all of the necessary ingredients of life to cook our own food. With farmers markets increasingly selling local produce, inspirational cookbooks hitting the shelves and fantastic local restaurants opening their doors, we’re seeing supply and demand in action as the trend of making conscious food decisions takes off.
3. Ugly Delicious
Equal parts serious and silly, the award-winning chef David Chang takes us on a cultural food tour in his Netflix docuseries Ugly Delicious. Going against the minimalist, perfectly-plated dishes of other top chefs, Chang stabs a fork into uglier, often fast-food style dishes that are secretly delicious. Take comfort food, for instance. Chang talks about how comfort food isn’t beautifully plated but is so tasty and reminds us of good old home cooking. It’s not only about the flavours and ingredients that go into the dishes, but also the love, care, culture and family stories and history that goes into them.
Cultural fusion plays a leading role in this docuseries, as Chang discusses where different foods come from and how to respect the history and culture behind each dish while fusing the flavours together. This trend of learning and acknowledging the cultural history behind food goes far beyond food trends and showcases people’s increased willingness to understand, and hopefully respect and be sensitive to, other cultures and histories.
“If you eat food, this is an issue you need to worry about,” explains the Netflix original docuseries, Rotten. This series dives deep into the global food industry and unearths some hard-hitting truths behind our supply chain. Many have joked that this docuseries should be included in the horror section of Netflix, but it is very important for people to understand where their food comes from—and why our bodies (and the planet) are beginning to reject what we’re eating. This series has it all: fraud, corruption and major health consequences.
Rotten reminds us of the importance of staying informed and making better, more educated decisions with that knowledge.
5. The Mind of a Chef
The Mind of a Chef is narrated by the late, beloved chef Anthony Bourdain and hosted by a different top chef per season. Each season combines travel, cooking, history, science and fun, while the chef also shares some secret recipes, tips and techniques. For example, in the latter half of season three, chef Magnus Nilsson brings viewers backstage into his kitchen at Fäviken to show what it’s like to run, manage and maintain the high standards of perhaps one of the most creative restaurants on the planet.
The Mind of a Chef does literally just that: it takes us into the mind of the chef. This show—and media in general—brings chefs to a whole new celebrity status and yet, makes them more personable, approachable and human. That’s perhaps the biggest food trend taking place today. Ordinary people now have a backstage, all access pass into the once closed kitchens (and lives) of the world’s best chefs.