Food is a global unifier. Cooking styles and tastes may differ across the world, but the process for creating dishes requires all the same instincts. And when the meal hits the plate, it brings people together. So it follows that shows about food have been some of the most successful in the history of television. The first star you probably think of is Julia Child, while other modern celebrities include Emeril Lagasse and Alton Brown.
Never one to miss out on a trend, Netflix has been ramping up its cooking content, and its original programs complement its acquisitions nicely. We divided the shows up between the competitions and documentaries in our roundup below.
Check out the best cooking shows that are currently up on Netflix’s streaming service.
The Great British Bake Off was rebranded when it crossed the pond to air on PBS; for Americans, the show is known as The Great British Baking Show. It is the quintessential baking competition, and because it hails from the UK, the contestants prove to be remarkably polite. There are three series on Netflix to enjoy: the current collections; older seasons known as Origins; and the Holiday special. For added fun, watch the judges bake the technical challenge recipes on Masterclass.
The personalities of the contestants on Zumbo’s Just Desserts are permitted to flourish in this elimination show. It is named after and hosted by Australian pâtissier Adriano Zumbo, who has also been featured on every season of Masterchef, as well as Sugar Rush, which is also featured on this list.
Comedian Nicole Byer and renowned French chef Jacques Torres helm this zany cooking competition, meant to find out which of the worst amateur chefs in America can follow directions. Each challenge is to simply re-create a baking masterpiece, and the results will earn genuine laughs. The contestants are in on the joke, so it is chock full of wholesome, messy fun.
Founder of Sprinkles cupcakes, Candace Nelson, and aforementioned baker Adriano Zumbo are the main judges of this Netflix original program. There are few other game shows as regimented as this one, where time is really the show’s main villain. The variety of cakes, cupcakes, and confections that the bakers produce are mouthwatering, if also stress-inducing.
The tabloids made it out as if this British show was embroiled in controversy with Great British Bake Off, but in reality, the shows are starkly different. Two (or more) families compete per episode to prepare large meals, and you can probably already imagine the dysfunction that ensues.
After the death of Parts Unknown’s fearless host, Anthony Bourdain, his fans made it clear that removing the program from Netflix would be a bad business move, to say the least. So Netflix made sure to work out the rights to keep it up for a little while longer. Bourdain won 10 Primetime Emmy Awards for his compassion onscreen and continued interest in his daily life in what makes people come together.
This short documentary series is based on a book by Samin Nosrat, a columnist for The New York Times Magazine and also the show’s protagonist. It looks at food from a different perspective, focused entirely on the titular aspects, which Nosrat declares are “the four cardinal directions of cooking.” The show is informative and entertaining, perfect for a little something different for your television palette.
Part Chef’s Table, part Ugly Delicious, this PBS docu-series takes an in-depth look at, well, the mind of a chef! Each season focuses on a particular personality or pair of personalities, who over the course of the episodes, espouse their philosophies on cooking. The series hits many important aspects of the culinary arts, including history and science as well as travel.
Food doc connoisseurs will know this show’s creator, David Gelb, who was behind the award-winning documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Gelb considers Chef’s Table to be a sequel of sorts to the feature-length film. Each season takes an hour-long episode to profile a talented chef from around the world, giving an inside look into the lives of chefs in unique and varying environments.
For a more casual look at different tastes, follow restauranteur David Chang around as he finds what makes the best food items so great. The first episode, for example, centers around pizza, where Chang winds up at a dimly lit sushi joint, among other surprising spots. The adventures are humorous and highlight another side to diverse cultures.
We will leave you with this Halloween-themed wild card. Christine McConnell is the protagonist of this half-narrative, half-cooking program, and her supporting characters are all muppets from the Jim Henson Company. Their adventures, and creations therein, are spine-chilling, haunted fun. While this was more appropriate to watch in October, the episodes entertaining enough to sustain you year-round.