If you’re like us, you’ve been furiously stress-cooking your way through quarantine. Spurred by some lovely streaming options in the foodie realm, we’ve never been more consistent or creative in our kitchens. We’re tackling new recipes, cooking our way through our favorite chef’s portfolios, buying unfamiliar ingredients, and getting innovative with formerly forlorn pantry items. Read on for some solid food-inspired selections from documentaries to television shows to movies, sure to inspire your own culinary prowess (or just for an escapist break from it all).
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Inspired by the best-selling cookbook of the same name, “Salt Fat Acid Heat” follows chef Samin Nosrat (in photo above) around the world as she explores the four key pillars of flavorful cooking. Show-stopping culinary destinations like Italy, Japan, Mexico, and California shine in this easily palatable, four episode documentary series.
Food Network juggernaut “The Kitchen” is currently in its 20th season of delighting home audiences with both approachable and refined recipes. This multi-chef smorgasbord has done a beautiful job of pivoting to at-home video production during the pandemic. With a large cache of episodes from past seasons also available, The Kitchen will keep you busy for the coming weeks. Pay extra attention to their fun themed episodes, like holiday feasts. For the most relevant content, watch the Quarantine Edition episodes, as they feature ways to jazz up leftovers, cook using pantry staples, and address additional pandemic challenges.
Julie & Julia
A classic food-themed cinematic adventure, this popular film stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams as famed American chef and cookbook author Julia Child and modern-day New Yorker Julie Powell (respectively). The two intersect in this interesting time-hopping tale when Powell vows to cook all 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. Watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime and you’ll immediately crave all the butter and French bistro fare.
A solid investigatory storytelling experience, this Netflix documentary explores the cooking of meat on an open flame all around the globe. “Barbecue” is a James Beard Award-winning look at the art of barbecue in its many iterations. Viewers can also expect to satisfy their wanderlust, as the film traverses through 12 different nations using the barbecue lens to guide the way. Talk about an effective one-two quarantine punch.
This Emmy-nominated Netflix series has all six seasons currently available on the streaming platform. Each episode profiles a well-known professional chef and dives into their personal and professional lives with a culinary twist. Foodies should start with watching episodes of chefs they recognize or proprietors of restaurants they’ve been lucky enough to dine in. (For example, my first foray into the “Chef’s Table” landscape was Season 6, Episode 4 with Sean Brock of Charleston and Nashville culinary fame; I’ve been able to sample his sophisticated Southern cuisine multiple times and it made for a more interesting viewing experience.) Another stellar episode, Season 4, Episode 1 features Milk Bar co-founder and pastry chef Christina Tosi, who opened up her bakery in partnership with Momofoku’s David Chang.
This is an approachable, family-friendly movie about a rodent who dreams of being the greatest chef in all of Paris, no doubt one of the world’s best food cities. This animated Disney/Pixar feature offers a heartwarming “tail” of hard work and dedication from the most surprising of characters, Remy the rat. It’s also likely responsible for the widespread understanding of the sliced vegetable Provencal stew that inspired the name. “Ratatouille” can be accessed for free with a Disney+ subscription or rented via Amazon Prime.
This is an easily digestible, 30-minute show from the celebrated showrunners of Chef’s Table. Available exclusively on Netflix, “Street Food” explores the bustling Asian markets known for inventive vendors with affordable price points. The lone season boasts nine episodes with settings like Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, India, and more.
A lovely French film about a mother-daughter duo who open a charming chocolate shop, aka chocolaterie, “Chocolat” delights in multiple ways. A stellar protagonist and stunning French village setting combine to whisk viewers away to another world. And in these trying times, a story about what home truly means and embracing our differences is just the balm we need to tackle another day of quarantine. “Chocolat” is available on Hulu with a subscription or for rent using Amazon Prime.
For those who love food, but not the sometimes pretentious discussion that can accompany foodie shows, “Nailed It” delivers. Billed as “part reality, part hot mess” by creator Netflix, this program sees amateur cooks compete in quirky competitions for a $10,000 grand prize. Essentially, the entrant who messes up the least is rewarded, which leads to some deeply satisfying humorous moments. All four seasons are currently available—though we suggest starting with one of the even more over-the-top holiday-themed ones.
More Shows to Watch
Watched your way through this list already? Check out other favorites like the sushi-centric “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” on Netflix, the BBC’s binge-worthy snack “Great British Bake Off” (now available on Netflix), and longtime favorite cooking competition show “Chopped,” which is accessible on Hulu. Other great foodie picks include the feature film “Chef,” which can be rented using Amazon Prime, Starz quietly brilliant catering comedy “Party Down,” and popular series “Top Chef,” which is available via Hulu. Pro tip: start watching in season two once our girl Padma begins her hosting gig.