Food & Culture

The best food shows to watch on Netflix in September

A new season of Chef's Table is just the tip of the iceberg.

By Emma Breheny
Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown is streaming now on Netflix Australia
Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown is streaming now

New shows

Chef's Table season 5
You might have to wait until the end of the month, but this is the biggest news for Netflix's food programming in September. Season 5 (airing 28 September) follows on from the sugar and cocoa-dusted Pastry season that premiered in April. It marks both a return to the format of choosing a collection of chefs without an overarching theme and a marked shift in the show's decisions about who to profile. Finally, there is gender parity in the line-up, as well as a broadening of the geographic and racial purview of the series. In front of the lens are Albert Adrià of El Bulli (and now Tickets) fame; Musa Dağdeviren, an Istanbul chef who's intent on preserving Turkish culture through the food at his three restaurants, Cristina Martinez of South Philly Barbacoa, who is a vocal supporter of immigration reform in the United States; and Duangporn "Bo" Songvisava, a Thai chef who trained in Adelaide and worked at Nahm in London before opening her own restaurant, Bo.Lan, in Bangkok in 2009.

You've got just under two weeks to catch up on past seasons of Chef's Table, with this ranking of every episode to help you decide what to watch (or skip).

A taste of what's to come on season 5 of Chef's Table
A taste of what's to come on season 5 of Chef's Table

Now streaming

Rotten
Food supply chains are put under the microscope in this six-part documentary made by Netflix. The series revolves around the question of whether you know where your food comes from, but along the way it exposes the nefarious systems that have sprung up to maximise profits for large corporations at the expense of both farmers and diners. Expect plenty of shots of food en masse, from chicken carcasses to peanuts to frozen fish. It's important stuff and, unlike Chef's Table, it probably won't leave you hungry.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Binge on seasons 1 to 8 of Anthony Bourdain's Emmy-award winning series and embrace all the bittersweet emotion that comes with it as you tour Sichuan with Bourdain and his buddy Éric Ripert, get a glimpse at a changing Cuba and more.

Food on the Go
Italian food has been so thoroughly absorbed into Australia's culinary vocabulary that it's hard to imagine a time when wood-fired pizze, tender capretto and salt-packed capers were hard to come by. This documentary charts Italian migration and the spread of Italian food worldwide, from America to Argentina and beyond. It also takes a close look at the adaptations to tradition that have been made along the way, spawning fully-fledged cuisines such as Italo-American, which are themselves now spreading around the world as chefs draw on their travels or upbringing to open restaurants such as El Capitano in Melbourne. In summary: history meets a whole lot of pasta sauce.

Ugly Delicious
If you haven't yet got around to watching David Chang's latest series, where he teams up with long-time collaborator Peter Meehan to explore the dishes that make everyday people tick, do yourself a favour and set aside eight hours one weekend to work your way through a smörgåsbord that includes episodes devoted to fried chicken, pizza, barbecue and shrimp, as well as some of Chang's mother's home cooking. Chang is outspoken on the prejudices against particular cuisines (for example, Korean food in America) and invites a diverse array of guests, from comedians to historians, to join him at his table and discuss.

The Mind of a Chef
The latest season featuring Danny Bowien might not be available yet in Australia but seasons 1 to 5 of this PBS production are locked and loaded for your bingeing pleasure. Settle in with the likes of Ludo Lefebvre, Gabrielle Hamilton, Magnus Nilsson and series mastermind David Chang as they take you into their world in very snackable episodes.

Somm and Somm: Into the Bottle
With Somm, you see the blood, sweat and tears that individuals pour into achieving Master Sommelier status, but what about the years of work that go into producing the wines that these sommeliers drink and recommend to others? Somm: Into the Bottle takes you behind the scenes of winemaking, looking at the modern industry through a wide purview and asking the people who work within it to play tour guide for us at home.

Cooked
Michael Pollan's 2013 book, a history lesson in how cooking techniques developed and have since evolved, was turned into a four-part series of the same name and is now streaming on Netflix Australia. As in the book, Pollan is your host here but he covers a lot of ground (including time spent with a group of Martu people in rural Western Australia) as he moves through the touchstones of fire, water, earth and air. Along the way he examines topics such as why cooking food in pots was such a huge leap forward for human civilisation, the social history of American barbecue and the causes of today's aversion to gluten. Bonus: Samin Nosrat (the subject of a Netflix series premiering in October) is one of Pollan's guests in the episode devoted to water.

Theater of Life
Massimo Bottura, the chef of the world's number one restaurant, has been tackling the dual problem of food waste and hunger for several years now under his Food for Soul not-for-profit. This documentary charts how he created his first refettorio when the World Expo came to Milan in 2015 with the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. Using surplus ingredients from the Expo that would otherwise be wasted, the Osteria Francescana chef created dishes to be served at a soup kitchen at the Expo, with the help of international talent including Joan Roca, Alain Ducasse and René Redzepi. See how it was done - and meet the people who benefited - in this documentary.

Sour Grapes
The great wine swindle of the noughties involved a young unknown, Rudy Kurniawan, who rubbed shoulders with some of the world's largest wine collectors, and duped them into buying millions of dollars' worth of fake Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis, Romanée-Conti and other sought-after drops. How he managed to get away with it for so long before the FBI caught up with him is the subject of this documentary.