These days, the shelves at the supermarket are looking a little bare. That could lead to more experimentation in the kitchen, as budding chefs try out a variety of different ingredients to make do with what they have.
Naturally, that may have you to turning to the television for inspiration. Cooking shows have always been a part of the TV landscape, but with the rise of streaming, they’ve moved to the next level. Netflix has a whole host of great cooking shows, examining food from every conceivable angle, and here are 15 of the best.
- The best Netflix shows, including some of the series on this list
- The best Netflix movies
- The best Amazon Prime shows
The Great British Baking Show
Numerous cooking shows are founded on competition, but The Great British Baking Show (known as Bake Off in the UK) does things a little differently. Full of charming contestants and heartening narratives, the show is a competition, but without the ferocity or the drama. Each week, bakers must complete three challenges in encouraging circumstances, ending with creative showstoppers. You won’t be able to taste the delicious treats, but the show will make you feel like you have.
UK viewers can't stream the show on Netflix right now, annoyingly, but All4 (opens in new tab) has the three recent three series to stream with ads.
Hosted by acclaimed chef David Chang, Ugly Delicious is much more than a cookery show. Ugly Delicious is a history lesson in a bowl. Each episode highlights a specific dish, but rather than exploring how the dish is made, it takes you on a journey of the history of the food and the culture it was born into. Like a visual essay, Ugly Delicious is a love letter to food which goes way deeper than taste. Featuring Korean barbecue, Xiaolongbao dumplings, tacos from Los Angeles to Mexico and pizza in Connecticut, Naples and even Japan, Ugly Delicious takes you around the world in new and interesting ways.
Sugar Rush is the most colourful cooking show around, and is like a 45-minute cupcake. With celebrity guest judges, neon sets and high stakes drama, this all might be a bit much for you if you’re looking for a pure, focused cookery program. If you’re after something fun, flavorsome and fluffy, though, Sugar Rush is just what you need. There are some spectacular creations here, mixed in with much finer, technical cakes. Sort of like the Great British Bake Off on LSD, Sugar Rush has all the makings of a great guilty pleasure.
Another cookery show which delves much deeper than just the food, Chef’s Table takes an introspective look at the makings of a chef. Each episode follows the career, culture and inspiration of a world renowned chef, offering up profiles of them and their work complete with captivating cinematography. Creator David Gelb previously helmed the documentary movie Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, which is essentially a feature length Chef’s Table. Worth tracking down once you’ve had your fill here.
Cooking on High
Cooking on High has a killer concept and the name to match, even if the execution just falls slightly short. It’s a cooking contest show like any other, with the key distinction that every dish includes marijuana as a core ingredient. The problem is it gets a little high on its own supply. The production values aren’t really there, everything feels slapped together and it’s exactly what you imagined a mix of cooking TV and weed would end up as. Still an entertaining watch, though.
Nailed It was born out of those ‘cake fails’ you see online, and while the aim of the game is to not fail – to ‘nail it’, you might say – the challenges are so grand that contestants sometimes fall short. There are so many shows out there which revolve around the creation of perfect, jaw-dropping cakes, but they lack the relatability of Nailed It. Here, with all amateur bakers involved, things often go wrong in the best possible way. Seeing the hilarious failures is often better than seeing the contestants actually nail it.
The Chef Show
If you liked the movie Chef, you’ll love The Chef Show. Written, directed by and starring Jon Favreau, the movie chronicled an award-winning chef who abandoned his high end restaurant to rediscover his love of cooking with a food truck. The Chef Show sees Favreau reunited with chef Roy Choi, the consultant for the movie. The show highlights the bond between them and the love of cooking the pair share, bringing in a whole host of celebrities for the ride too. It’s best known for the viral clip where Gwyneth Paltrow forgot she had ever been in a Spider-Man movie, despite featuring in Spider-Man: Homecoming alongside Favreau. A third season released on Netflix this year.
Street Food: Asia
Coming from Chef’s Table creator David Gelb, Street Food takes a much more rugged look at the history of dishes. Where its predecessor focuses on a single chef and their journey, Street Food examines the cities where food comes to life at a grassroots level. The first volume was set entirely in Asia, exploring Thailand, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Vietnam and more, with future series set to explore other continents too. By stripping away the personalities, Street Food gets much closer to the action and offers the most authentic experience here.
Restaurants on the Edge
Restaurants on the Edge asks the question ‘what if you tried to make Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares without Gordon Ramsay?’ The answer? You end up feeling like you’re missing something. The show replaces the temperamental Scottish chef with three less OTT characters: a restaurateur, an interior designer and a chef, but they’re less than the sum of their parts. Between them, they try to revive struggling restaurants by reconnecting them with the local culture, and it’s worth a watch to see the stories behind the failures, even if it doesn’t live up to Chef Ramsay.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Based on the cookbook of the same name, this mini docuseries explores what chef Samin Nosrat claims are the four essential parts of cooking: salt, fat, acid, and heat. Each episode explores one element of the cooking quadrilogy, although frustratingly for some perfectionists, the airing order switches Fat and Salt around. Starting in Italy with olive oil, the series journeys to Japan for the salt of soy sauce and miso, Mexico for acid and ends in Nosrat’s first restaurant in California for heat. With a much greater proportion of female chefs and home cooks than most cooking shows out there, Salt Fat Acid Heat has a unique charm.
Million Pound Menu
If you’re looking for a cooking show just as focused on the business side of restauranteering as it is the food, look no further. Brought to you by Fred Sirieix of First Dates fame, Million Pound Menu is Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank for restaurants. Four different chefs prepare a signature dish for a team of investors, with one being chosen to open a pop-up. That’s just the beginning, though. After a half price service, another meal for the investors, a business meeting and full price service, each investor individually decides if they want to go into business together, or leave the chefs high and dry.
In the US, this is a Netflix original, but in the UK where it airs on the BBC, you can still watch it on the service.
The Final Table
The Final Table is a hugely ambitious, globetrotting cooking show like no other. Featuring international pairs of chefs, each episode sees them prepare dishes from different culinary cultures. These dishes are judged by a food critic, two culturally important citizens and a world renowned chef from that country, with one pair eliminated week by week. For the season finale, all of the legendary chefs return to sit at The Final Table and judge the ultimate champion. A high stakes competition with high quality food, The Final Table is a masterclass in what it takes to become a top class chef.
The Big Family Cooking Showdown
The Big Family Cooking Showdown is an entertaining watch, but doesn’t exactly know what it is. Hosted by Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain and DJ Zoe Ball, the show pits two teams of three family members against each other in a knockout format. It goes after the warm appeal of Bake Off, but comes off a little twee and forced, and the challenges are a little convoluted. It’s set for a second series, and if it sorts out the teething problems, it could be great. Until then, it’s not perfect but it’s well worth a try.
Zumbo's Just Desserts
This Australian cooking show feels like what you’d get if you threw all the ingredients in the cupboard together just to see what happens, especially if what you have in your cupboard is a lot of sprinkles. Presented by Adriano Zumbo, it immediately becomes clear why Zumbo is known as “The Sweet Assassin” and “The Australian Willy Wonka”. His creations are sugar packed delights with strange and sublime concoctions of flavor, and here contestants are tasked with completing three hour-long technical bakes as well as creating some of his most spectacular signature dishes.
For all it’s a tasty snack that’s easy to make at home, the taco is one of the most culturally significant dishes around, and this Spanish-language docuseries details the history surrounding the immortal taco. Delving into the history, varying styles and different riffs on the taco design, Taco Chronicles takes us from the Aztecs to modern day Los Angeles via Tijuana and Asia Minor. Who knew one little taco contained so much history?