We Asked 11 Chefs to Weigh In on the Best Food Documentaries of All Time
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Denizen; ORIGINAL 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.