Food by VICE

The 11 Best Food Documentaries to Watch When You Have Wicked Munchies

Burning-hot movies and tv shows for the culinary and cinematic gourmand—just don't burn yourself watching them.

by Emerson Rosenthal
May 30 2018, 8:36pm

Screengrabs from left, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and Noma: My Perfect Storm

The best and worst thing about having the munchies is how delicious they make food look. Under the right conditions, a hamburger becomes a symphony, sushi, sculptures, and a bowl of spaghetti swirls like a van Gogh. This is no more evident than in cooking shows or documentaries—especially after a good Netflix and chill sesh—because the cinematography is tailored to take even ordinary dishes and turn them into delicacies. Because it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to food footage, especially when you’re high, we’ve combed through the selections and picked out the most mouth-watering and best food documentaries to watch on Netflix (US) right now:

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

What we love about cooking show hosts is sharing in their enjoyment of the experience of food. Bourdain does it a little differently; ever since his voice emerged first in the New Yorker and then in his best-selling Kitchen Confidential, he’s built an audience around his unique charm—the guy knows food and loves talking about it, but doesn’t put on airs and isn’t afraid of getting into the thick of it. This includes insane travel plans, bizarre culinary delights, and titanic amounts of alcohol. Eight of the 11 seasons of his beloved food travelogue, Parts Unknown, are available to watch on Netflix, and will have you saying “Wow, did he really just do that?”

The Birth of Saké

This sumptuous, award-winning 2015 documentary takes you deep inside the Tedorigawa Brewery for the winter, as the 144-year-old distillery trudges through the brutal sake-making winter season. Directed, shot, and written by No Reservations alum Erik Shirai, you won’t look a rice wine the same way again. Kampai!

Chef’s Table

Four seasons of Netflix’s Emmy-nominated culinary series (including one that focuses specifically on pastries) are available for your sensory delights, taking you as far and wide as Patagonia and Bali with chefs including Italian maestro Massimo Bottura, Indian innovator Gaggan Anand, and South Korean Buddhist nun (and chef) Jeong Kwan.

Empire of Scents

"Scent is the strongest sense linked to memory,” as the old Axe Body Spray ad goes. Thankfully, War Witch writer-director Kim Nguyen has fleshed this out fully in his 2014 film Empire of Scents. Rote and riveting, it’s a highly informational documentary that aspires to the aim of all great art: to evoke in the viewer the emotions connected to the senses themselves.

The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass

Not sure about you, but we like getting baked, baking, and putting on silly British accents—sometimes all at once!—so this BBC series is basically candy. Er, cake.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The eminent sushi documentary tells the story of life at the top for “world’s greatest” master sushi chef, Jiro Ono, and the people who surround him. It’s a family affair, and documentarian David Gelb captures the delicacy with deftness. Just don’t watch this one if you’re planning on having sushi later, because not only will you be disappointed by whatever you get, you’ll know exactly what’s wrong with it in comparison to Jiro’s.

Mind of a Chef

Ever think about something that's extremely visually unappetizing—calamari or uni—and think about the humility and hunger it took some ancestor, hundreds of years ago, to take a bite. We’ll never know what was going through the head of the first person to shuck an oyster, but we can get in the heads of their contemporary counterparts with this Anthony Bourdain-narrated PBS documentary series, each season of which focuses in on the influences and inspirations of one master chef.

Noma: My Perfect Storm

Noma: if it isn’t the best restaurant on earth, it’s up there. French filmmaker Pierre Deschamps captures a tumultuous period in time for the vaulted Copenhagen eatery where dishes themselves are works of art, as master chef René Redzepi struggles to keep his restaurant’s title and its doors open (Noma would close in 2017, only to reopen again this year). It’s about as high-intensity as it gets for a chef, so don’t expect it to be easy on the viewer, either. As Eater’s Joshua David Stein put it, “A clear film about a mess of a man can't help but be a mess of a film.” But sometimes the best mess is delicious.

Somebody Feed Phil

Not really sure why someone gave Phil Rosenthal, the co-creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, his own travel and food series, but we're not mad at it, either. Catch up with Rosenthal as well as family and friends, including Ray Romano, in this joyful ode to sitting down to a table with the people you love. And yes, dad jokes are on the menu.

SOMM

Think the SATs are difficult? For someone to even attempt the invitation-only Master Sommelier examination, which certifies that they are indeed a master of pairing food and wine, they generally require a minimum of ten years spent in the hospitality industry. In Jason Wise’s 2013 documentary, four intrepid sommeliers try their nostrils and taste buds at glory. You’ll come away with a new respect for people who stick their noses in wine glasses, guaranteed.

Ugly Delicious

Celebrity chef David Chang brings his distinct sensibilities to this Netflix food series about the less-presentable, but no less-tasty aspects of global food culture. A taco trip from LA to Mexico should pique the interests of any foodie, but it’s the frank and eye-opening conversations about how food makes us human that elevates this show into something worth savoring.

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