Yes, it’s the summertime and you should probably be spending your weekend grilling various meats (and meat look-alikes) or sipping Pina Coladas on the beach. But there’s a chance a good chunk of you will be watching the World Cup Final on Sunday morning. (Team Croatia for the win!)
So when you’re done watching men with absurd hairstyles run hundreds of miles on a field, keep the tube on and queue up some top-notch food television to while away the day. Be sure to have some snacks on hand, because you will get hungry.
[Full disclosure: I know I should be telling you to watch deep-dive documentaries that teach lessons about food and make you realize how f&#*-ed up our food system is, but we get enough of that during the week. It’s Sunday — let’s just let our brains relax, okay?]
Chef's Table | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
This one’s for all your aesthetes, you food porn-lovers, you aspirational diners. Chef’s Table is the crème de la crème of luxurious food shows, what with its slow-motion shots of the world’s best chefs elegantly plating food with tweezers and doing radical things like making sugar balloons or creating a dish around ants. It makes your most elegant dishes made with a sous vide circulator and a smart oven look like child’s play.
If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to check out Chef’s Table: Pastry. It only has four episodes so you can blow through the whole season, from the maestro of Italian gelato to an American ex-pat making dessert tastings in Bali, in no time.
Mind of a Chef
This show centers around celebrity chefs and the food that made them what they are. Each episode explores one theme near and dear to their heart (noodles, smoke, New York, etc), and is peppered with acid trip-worthy graphics, nerdy science tidbits from author Harold McGee, and wry narration from the late, great Anthony Bourdain.
I personally love the second half of Season Two with April Bloomfield (the first half follows Southern chef Sean Brock, and is also aces). Despite the recent controversy around the British chef’s restaurant partner, she’s utterly unpretentious and charming on the show. Watch her make food with the Italian cookery legend Marcella Hazan, or explore Britain’s obsession with curry.
Great British Baking Show
Known as GBBO to its fans, this is the show to watch if you’re feeling that the world is a burning garbage heap and you just need something pure and hopeful to light your spirit. And you like hearing the word “sponge” a lot. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are delightful as the judges of this baking show, which takes place in a tent in the middle of the idyllic English countryside. The competitors are adorably supportive of each other, the hosts are wonderfully cheesy, and everything is gingham-covered. Be sure to only watch one of the first 7 seasons — in Season 8, most of the original cast has been replaced. It is just not the same.
One of the newer food tv shows, Ugly Delicious rolled onto Netflix screens this February with its irreverent, “let’s get real for a second” attitude — and plenty of sexy food scenes. The series stars David Chang, the Michelin star-awarded celebrity chef behind the Momofuku Restaurant Group (who was also the star of Season 1 of Mind of a Chef).
It’s funny, it’s star-studded (hey, Aziz Ansari), and it has darn beautiful footage of Chang eating food around the world. Ugly Delicious also admirably tries to tackle issues like race, gender, and authenticity in the food world — though it doesn’t always push the envelope as much as it likes to think. (One admirable exception is the episode about fried chicken.) At the very least, this show made me really, really want to try Viet-Cajun crawfish, so there’s that.