These 8 Food Documentaries Are Entertaining, Educational, and Available to Stream Right Now
Let’s face it: Your screen has turned into your best friend as it has become vital to practice hard-core social distancing to help flatten the curve of the novel coronavirus outbreak. So, while you make dates with Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, and all your favorite platforms for streaming full-length films and binge-watching tasty TV series, indulge your appetite for all things food and drink with these top documentaries available to stream right now. Because learning can be fun. And delicious.
Food Choices (2016)
If you’re already plant-forward, you’re going to applaud filmmaker Michal Siewierski’s exploration of the impact that food choice has on our health and the health of our planet. If you’re plant-curious, you’ll find the film inspiring and challenging.
Food on the Go (2017)
Take a moment to think about (and make a donation to help) our coronavirus-besieged neighbors in Italy, and then spend a soul-warming hour learning about the migration of Italian cuisine to the U.S., and how it evolved from there. Then maybe send another donation or encourage a friend to do the same.
Streaming now on: Netflix
In Search of Israeli Cuisine (2016)
“If they are called Palestinians or they’re called Israelis, I don’t think the tomato cares.” This is just one of many wonderful exclamations elicited by award-winning chef Michael Solomonov as he tours his native Israel, uncovering the richly influenced local fare (reflecting more than 70 cultures by his counting) that has undergone a miraculous transformation into one of the world’s leading cuisines. You’ll find yourself booking a post-COVID culinary trip to two places: Israel (obviously) but also Philadelphia, where Solomonov helms the award-winning Zahav restaurant.
Cooking meat over fire is about as elemental as it gets, and this film directed by Matthew Salleh looks expansively worldwide at how barbecue informs life, and vice versa, across presumed divisions of race, class, and culture in 12 different countries. You’ll love your local pit master even more after seeing this one (order some ribs for contactless pickup).
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
David Gelb’s portrait of 85-year-old master sushi chef Jiro Ono is considered the all-time greatest food documentary ever made. Shot with beauty and grace, the film takes you to Jiro’s 10-seat Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station, but even more importantly, into a chef’s mind with respect and intimacy. This film has launched many imitators and a legacy of Gelb projects, including Chef’s Table and Street Food (both currently streaming on Netflix). If you haven’t watched this groundbreaking film (or you haven’t fallen utterly in love with sushi), now’s your chance.
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent (2016)
This documentary about the life of one of America’s first truly celebrity-level chefs is, on the most basic level, a fascinating look at the rise and evolution of California cuisine (full of great cameo commentary by culinary stars including Ruth Reichl, Martha Stewart, and Wolfgang Puck) and his return to the spotlight helming New York City’s Tavern on the Green. But it also includes appearances by Ken Friedman and Mario Batali, whose interviews take place pre-#metoo (both later faced allegations of sexual harassment). Which makes it a layered experience to watch today. But one more fascinating for all that.
Sour Grapes (2016)
Can you satisfy your true-crime-show yearnings with a culinary documentary? Yes you can, with filmmakers Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas’s fascinating tale of a savvy young counterfeiter who managed to sell millions of dollars of fake (read, cheap) wine as a super-high-end product (we’re talking millions of dollars, here) through top auction houses. Might make you think twice next time you’re dropping serious dollars on a touted vintage, right? Uncork a bottle of Two Buck Chuck and enjoy.
Kings of Pastry (2010)
Fall happily into the international epicenter of culinary aspiration—France— with D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus (they of the memorable The War Room documentary about Bill Clinton’s first run at the White House). Instead of a race for the presidency, this time it’s about a race for France’s top pastry prize: the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF). We’re talking serious, career pastry chefs putting everything into creations that will either win them the coveted designation or come crashing—literally—down in front of their horrified eyes. Sweet and bittersweet in turns, this is true icing on your stay-at-home cake.