Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Magnolia Pictures.
There’s no doubt about it, Netflix is a cultural phenomenon. In the world of streaming services, Netflix is top dog. The service has already brought us drama with Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Daredevil, and Narcos, and comedy with The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Master of None and recently, Judd Apatow’s Love.
On top of all the classic seasons of our favorite shows and movies and Netflix originals, the service has become a haven for documentaries. A few months ago, Making a Murderer premiered on Netflix. Few documentaries have ever received as much attention and speculation as the story of Steve Avery and what exactly happened in Wisconsin on that dark night.
Not all the documentaries on Netflix are of a sinister nature, though. There are many thought-provoking documentaries about sports, culture, entertainment, and of course, food. Here’s our picks for
1. Jiro Dreams of Sushi
This 2011 documentary follows eighty-five-year-old sushi chef Jiro Ono. Owner of Sukiyabishi Jiro, a three-Michelin-star restaurant located in a subway station in downtown Tokyo, Ono strives daily to master the art of sushi. Even though he is considered to be the best sushi chef in the world, he never believes that his work is completely done. His restaurant is, by many standards, tiny. It only seats ten and people from all over the globe travel to its humble doorway to partake in Ono’s twenty-course meal. The film is a story of life, family and the unattainable goal of perfection in an imperfect world.
Cooked is the story of food. The story is told in four parts, each corresponding to the most primal level of cooking: fire, air, water and earth. Fire is the story of how we, as people, first realized the importance of cooking food to make it taste better. This was the absolute beginning of cooking. Host and Chef Michael Pollan takes us on a journey to the Australian outback and rural North Carolina to understand the art of cooking with fire. The documentary moves on from there, focusing on air, water and earth in an effort to explain why we cook and what the art means for us today.
3. The Search for General Tso
This 2014 documentary finally figures out where the iconic Chinese food dish came from. But, it’s so much more than just that. It’s the story of who General Tso was, why the dish was named after him as well as the story of Chinese immigration to the US and the huge part that Chinese restaurants played.
4. For Grace
The 2016 film is the story of Curtis Duffy, one of the most well-respected chefs in the country. Duffy is attempting to hold everything together and build a restaurant while the rest of his life’s foundations seem to be crumbling. Divorced and alienated from his daughters, Duffy only strives for one thing: to create the best restaurant in the country. The documentary follows the creation of Grace, Duffy’s new restaurant, from start to opening night. It’s a story of passion, love and sacrifice that gives viewers an inside look behind the curtain in the restaurant business.
5. The Mind of a Chef
Narrated by Anthony Bourdain, The Mind of a Chef is a documentary series that revolves around everything involved in the world of cooking. Being a chef is more than just putting ingredients into a pan and cooking them. Chef Gabrielle Hamilton and Chef David Kinch host the show about the history, science and origins of cooking.
6. Spinning Plates
This award-winning documentary centers around three very different restaurants and the chefs who work there. One chef in Chicago is striving for excellence while concealing a life-threatening illness. A restaurant in Iowa has been serving the same community for over one-hundred and fifty years. Owners of Tucson area Mexican restaurant struggle to stay above water in a competitive marketplace. Each story is full of inspiration, passion and the idea that food has a magnetic quality to always bring people together.
7. Chef’s Table
This Netflix original documentary series features a profile of a world-famous chef in each episode. Viewers learn about the passion of cooking from famous chefs like Dan Barber (Blue Hill Restaurant at Stone Barns and in New York City), Ben Shewry (Attica Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia), Grant Achatz (Alinea, Next, and The Aviary in Chicago) and Ivan Orkin (Ivan Ramen in New York, United States, and Tokyo).
8. Food, Inc.
So far, the documentaries mentioned have been inspiring and entertaining. Robert Kenner’s 2008 film might be a bit of a bummer for some people. The documentary explains how large corporations have begun to monopolize every part of food in America. Narrated by Eric Schlosser, Food, Inc. is the kind of documentary everyone should watch to really understand where their food is coming from and how to make better dietary choices.
9. Parts Unknown
Similar to other shows he’s hosted, on Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain travels to far-flung places to eat, drink, and spend time with locals to truly immerse himself in everything each culture has to offer. Since it’s a CNN show, Bourdain is able to visit some countries he formerly wouldn’t have ventured to, including Libya, Myanmar, and the Congo. It’s not all war-torn countries, though, one of the most thought-provoking episodes takes place right in the US in Detroit.
10. Super Size Me
Morgan Spurlock also has a show on CNN, but long before that, he made a groundbreaking documentary about fast food in 2004. In Super Size Me, Spurlock films himself eating only McDonald’s products for a whole month. The film shows how his health, life, body, and mind are affected by the food. It’s still an interesting look at how important the food that we put into our body really is. Partly because of the reception of this film, McDonald’s chose to remove the Super Size option from their menus.