Nov 24, 2017 Culture

We Asked 11 Chefs to Weigh In on the Best Food Documentaries of All Time

by Megan Beauchamp

Being self-professed foodies, we're always interested in what chefs have to say—whether it's about what they whip up for a healthy weeknight meal, what kitchen tools they swear by, or what they'd never order at a restaurant. While we've already listed out some of our favorite food documentaries on Netflix, we had to know what films the pros find the most inspiring, fascinating, and stimulating. Besides, who better to weigh in on the best food documentaries of all time than actual chefs? From an inspiring documentary about a dedicated sushi chef to a surprisingly compelling film about soil, these recommendations did not disappoint.

Ahead, 11 of our favorite foodies give us a peek at what's on their watch lists.

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Netflix

Jiro Dreams of Sushi was a clear favorite among the chefs we asked to provide food documentary recommendations. Scroll through the glowing recommendations below (and add this film to your watch list stat).

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Evan Sung; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"It was extremely inspiring, especially as it relates to the discipline it takes to be a chef and dedication to a single craft. I used to require my cooks and chefs to watch it," says chef Missy Robbins.

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Katie Burton; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a source of inspiration for me. I have always believed that becoming a great chef is a lengthy quest, and Jiro's many years as an apprentice validated my beliefs regarding the process. I learn something every day I pick up my knives. I feel a lot of culinary students graduate thinking they're chefs. When I saw this movie, I was a sous chef at Le Bernardin and was blown away by the dedication, passion, and willingness to not give up and keep working on my craft. We chefs learn something every day, and our career is a never-ending apprenticeship," divulges chef Diego Garcia of Gloria.

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ViewHouse Eatery, Bar & Rooftop; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"Jiro is an immensely inspiring chef, and the documentary is a true encapsulation of his life's work. Jiro's desire to achieve perfection is astonishing and admirable. Even as he neared the end of his life and had his son to take over the business, he never stopped pushing for greatness and perfection," reveals chef Jose Guerrero of ViewHouse Eatery, Bar & Rooftop.

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Barbara Kraft; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"My favorite food documentary is Jiro Dreams of Sushi. To me, it told the story of a chef incredibly dedicated to his craft and truly understanding the work that it takes to be a great chef. The fact that he sought cooking great at a small restaurant and after strives for expansion is fascinating," says chef Mark LoRusso of Costa di Mare.

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Netflix

Michael Pollan's Cooked was also at the top of many chefs' watch lists. This four-part documentary series is an extension of Pollan's book by the same title and explores the idea that cooking is integral to the human experience. It's no wonder this film is a foodie favorite.

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Little Tong Noodle Shop; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"My favorite food documentary is Cooked. It has a unifying power because it breaks cooking down to the elements, allowing us to see how similar the world is in spite of all the differences on the surface. Before we know a country's language, or sometimes even their people, we know their food first. And Cooked illustrates that regardless of culture or geographic location, regardless of the progress or development of a city, region, or country, we all use the same mediums. It enhances our understanding of cooking—and of the world—at a more fundamental level," says chef Simone Tong of Little Tong Noodle Shop.

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DenizenORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"I really enjoyed Michael Pollan's documentary, Cooked. I enjoy both the history and science behind food, so this series really struck a chord with me. The way he explains processes like fermentation and the difference between wholesome, natural food versus factory food, is detailed enough for a professional but approachable enough for a home cook to enjoy," praises chef John Poiarkoff of Denizen.

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The Langham, Chicago; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"I loved the book and recommend that first, but the documentary—a four-part miniseries—is great not only because it's produced well, but more so because it focuses on the roots of all cooking technique. It's literally an elemental look at how we have developed cuisine as a civilization and how we can get back to basics in what we produce in our own kitchens on a daily basis," recommends pastry chef Scott Green of Travelle Kitchen + Bar.

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Lily Films

In Symphony of the Soil, director Deborah Koons takes the potentially dry subject of the Earth's topmost layer and turns it into a compelling miracle, taking viewers on a journey across four continents meeting farmers, scientists, and foodies along the way.

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Adam Larkey Photography; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"I love it because great food truly starts with great soil," endorses chef Chris Starkus of Urban Farmer.

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Netflix

From the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this documentary series highlights some of the most renowned restaurants in the world and the chefs behind them.

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Ethan Covey; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"My favorite food documentary is Massimo Bottura's episode of Chef's Table. It wasn't necessarily the food that made me like the episode so much but rather the love story behind the restaurant. I love that it illustrates how this industry can really bring people together," says chef Nini Nguyen of Cook Space.

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Caitlin Lisa

For Grace follows the opening of Chef Curtis Duffy's Michelin-awarded restaurant, Grace. Not only does the film provide a behind-the-scenes view of the restaurant industry, but it also offers a look inside the life of one of the world's best chefs.

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Patina Restaurant Group; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"The last touching and life-relating documentary I saw was For Grace. At a point in life where all chefs hit rock bottom, Curtis Duffy is a perfect example that a new life can be created by focus, commitment, and determination," explains executive chef Viet Pham of Café Pinot.

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Saloon in the Sky Productions

Featuring interviews with family, friends, and fellow chefs, this documentary offers a never-before-seen look into the life of one of the restaurant industry's household-name chefs.

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Courtesy of Commander's Palace; ORIGINAL GRAPHIC: Viviana Duron

"I love Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table because it showcases the impact she's had on so many people across the nation, not just those interested in her specific career or New Orleans cuisine. Her story reaches thousands of people who can relate to it on both a personal and professional level. And in turn, the restaurant she built impacts thousands of people through shared memories and experiences," says chef Tory McPhail of Commander's Palace.

And now: These are the recipes every home cook should master, say top chefs.