Hungry for new shows to stream? Why not actually work up a real appetite too? As the second season of Jon Favreau's celeb-studded cooking series — simply titled The Chef Show — returns for its second volume, we at Tom's Guide decided it was a good time to look over the best food and cooking shows on Netflix.
Our picks range from established greats (Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown) to lively upstarts (David Chang's Ugly Delicious). Our only advice: don't hit play on an empty stomach unless you've got a good delivery option at hand.
Is It Cake?
Netflix's newest bizarre food-focused series Is It Cake? seized on a popular meme where bakers make covert cakes. What's a covert cake? Well, did you know that people are baking cakes that look deceptively like other objects? So, yes, that's not a purse, it's a cake. And when it comes to answering the show's titular question, I'd argue that I hope the answer is "no!" because host Mikey Day looks to chop these fake cakes with big knives, and it leads to hilarious moments.
Yes, Is It Cake? also dives into the "how these fake cakes are made?" section of the meme, but the true hilarity comes with Day tries to slice something that isn't meant to be sliced. — Henry T. Casey
David Chang, the man behind the Momofuku restaurant empire, uses Ugly Delicious to show off his fascination with the entire spectrum of food. For example, the Pizza episode gives time to traditional pie makers in Brooklyn and Naples, the chefs breaking the boundaries in Japan and even a behind-the-scenes tour of life at Dominos. Chang's one of those rare chefs who's open about their love of fast food, and it makes Ugly Delicious all the more engaging.
In an episode telling the socio-political history of fried chicken, Chang dives through the American south, visits a KFC in China and dines with The Wire's David Simon and actor Aziz Ansari. — Henry T. Casey
There are celebrity chefs, the likes of which host cooking shows on Food Network. Then there are chefs whose restaurants are renowned, but who work in the background. Most of the chefs who appear on Chef’s Table, a Netflix series that explores a chef, his or her restaurant and how it has changed the world (or at least the world of food), are not famous. You probably won’t recognize a single name as you scroll through the episode list. But their culinary genius is evident, as each episode highlights, and finding out what makes them tick and how they create such beautiful, satisfying food is a journey worth taking.
The cinematography is also just plain gorgeous. If your stomach doesn’t propel you to book a reservation (and a flight) to one of these restaurants, well, you’re a stronger person than I am. — Caitlin McGarry
The Chef Show
I can’t stop watching Jon Favreau eating food. OK, there’s more to The Chef Show than that, but Favreau’s easy-going demeanor and passion to learn more about cooking sucks you into this Netflix series.
The Chef Show is a spin-off of Favreau's hit indie movie Chef (2014) in which a renowned chef quits his job to operate a food truck. The fictional movie was inspired by chef Roy Choi who worked as a technical advisor and reunites with Favreau in The Chef Show.
Choi and Favreau’s friendship forms the backbone of The Chef Show while special guests (Gwyneth Paltrow, Robert-Downey Jr., Tom Holland) spice things up. With great chemistry between the hosts, lessons about different types of cuisine and some scrumptious-looking food, Chef Show is easy viewing for anyone who likes cooking shows, and a must-watch for fans of the film Chef.
Oh, and don’t feel bad about binging the first eight episodes --- a second season was just released. — Phillip Tracy
The Great British Baking Show
With bonkers bakes so sumptuous that you’ll never believe they came from amateurs, exacting judges with a surprising capricious streak, crazy cohosts that find the comedy in even the most mundane of flour-caked recipes, and contestants you’ll root for and love more with each installment, this is the ne plus ultra of baking competition shows for good reason.
There’s never been a better time to watch it, either: Netflix is releasing the current season of episodes in the U.S. the same week they air in the U.K., so (for once!) you won’t have to wait to see who triumphs during Bread Week, whose Technical Challenge isn’t up to snuff, or who dumps their entire failed dessert in the bin.
The previous seasons are terrific, too, though the dozens of dazzling creations on view episode after episode mean this isn’t a show you’ll want to binge if you’re trying to lose a few pounds.
But it’s the touching stories and eye-popping abilities of the bakers themselves that make The Great British Baking Show an emphatic must-see even for the most diehard of carb-cutters. —Matthew Murray
Salt Fat Acid Heat
Chef Samin Nosrat is a ball of joy. Nosrat, author of the beautiful cookbook Salt Fat Acid Heat, stars in the Netflix series of the same name, and her enthusiasm for food is contagious. Stunningly shot cooking shows usually make me hunger for whatever deliciousness is on-screen. Salt Fat Acid Heat’s appeal is that you want the food, but you also want to be Nosrat, rolling out pasta dough after a tour through Italy or searing short ribs with Japanese ingredients.
Salt Fat Acid Heat is a four-episode series based on Nosrat’s book, which explains the four elements that make good food taste good. Each episode is themed after the titular elements, as Nosrat explores the cooking methods and ingredients that turn meats and vegetables into pleasurable meals. Savor these four hours of television, then read Nosrat’s book and head to the grocery store to stock up on lemons and miso. You’ll need them more than you realized. — Caitlin McGarry
If you’ve ever watched a cake collapse or pulled a brick out of your oven when you knew you put in a ball of bread dough, tears undoubtedly have flowed. But it’s the schadenfreudelicious thrill of watching this happen to others — time after glorious time — that makes Nailed It! one of the greatest of all Netflix original series. Inspired by the Internet meme sensation of truly impressive kitchen catastrophes, the show asks (dares?) three, uh, underskilled bakers to recreate pieces of confectionary art — usually with terrifying results.
Yes, the horrors that emerge from these neophytes’ hands are hilarious in themselves. But the best part of Nailed It! is the inspired chemistry between the appealingly improvisatory comedienne-actress host Nicole Byer and the eternally optimistic but perpetually bewildered head judge Jacques Torres (you know, one of the most renowned chocolatiers in the world). Watching the pair try to swallow — figuratively and literally — the chaos unfolding around them, while trying, often fruitlessly, to put a positive spin on the contestants’ output and just get the winner’s trophy delivered on time (“Whes?”), is worth a Netflix subscription all by itself. — Matthew Murray
Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown
Chef, author and overall food industry icon Anthony Bourdain's final series is one of his best. Parts Unknown brought Bourdain to CNN, which gave him 12 seasons (5 of which are here on Netflix) of flying everywhere, from Berlin to West Virginia, from Louisiana to Bhutan and of course spending ample time in his hometown of New York.
While Tony eats all the food fit for feasting, Parts Unknown stands out from the pack by shining a spotlight on the lives and cultures of the people who make the dishes. So you'll meet Queens' hungriest activists, learn about the Chicano world's obsession with Morrissey and see how life in Laos was impacted by the U.S. bombings during the secret war of the 1960's and 70's. — Henry T. Casey
If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown, you’ll love the cultural immersion of Netflix original Street Food. Its first and only season takes your eye’s taste buds through nine Asian cultural centers. Street Food documents the stories of famed street food chefs whose art requires them to work before sunrise and feed hungry market goers their signature dish in the late hours of the night. Each half hour segment is wholesome, stimulating, and educational. Plus it’ll leave you craving all sorts of foods you’ve never heard of before. — Kate Kozuch
Sugar Rush is a two-season quick binge with a quicker pace. The baking competition show starts with a theme and four sets of bakers every episode. Each team has three hours to present the judges with cupcakes and an original confection, with any extra time they earn added to the final cake round. But here’s the catch—the judges only eliminate a team after every team has completed a given sweet. So bakers could be halfway through preparing their second confection and be told to pack their aprons. Pastry chefs Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo are joined by a guest judge every week to decide who will win a $10,000 prize. - Kate Kozuch
The Mind of a Chef
Not all of Netflix's great food shows are originals. This PBS show, a predecessor of sorts to Ugly Delicious, gave David Chang and other chefs, including Ludo Lefebvre, Gabrielle Hamilton and Sean Brock a chance to give deep dives on why they love (and how they personalize) the foods that made them famous. Of course, Chang explains all about noodles and pork products, while Brock goes a little more rustic with seed crops, root vegetables and preserves. The Mind of a Chef features narration from chef Anthony Bourdain, who left an imprint across all food culture programming. — Henry T. Casey