11 Food Shows and Documentaries Worth Binge-Watching This Fall

By Michelle Darrisaw |

© PhotoAlto/Ale Ventura/Getty Images

This piece originally appeared on MyRecipes.

Listen, I love watching food competitions as much as the next person. Seeing contestants battle it out in the kitchen for a coveted prize and chef-ly bragging rights, as opposed to the usual aggressive drink-throwing and screaming antics at restaurants featured in other reality television shows (ahem, Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise), is a much welcomed, drama-free relief. I mean, I can’t think of anything more aggravating than watching people waste food and expensive booze in a completely pointless cat fight. Can I get an amen?

But after a while, even what were once some of the most entertaining food competitions become trite, predictable, and frankly, boring. Sorry, Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef fans. Now with the uncertainty of the future of the Great British Bake Off (or commonly known stateside as The Great British Baking Show) and its host shakeups and network changes, I’ve been on the hunt to find quality food-related shows and documentaries that are worthy of being placed on my binge list for fall. And these are the 11 that made the cut. From CNN and Netflix to PBS and FOX, we’ve got your food and flick nights covered with some old and new favorites you should add to your queue, DVR, and watchlist soon.

Chef’s Table

  • Currently streaming on Netflix
  • What to Expect: This Netflix original docu-series gives viewers an intimate glimpse into the lives of world-renowned chefs, with each episode profiling a different chef and their restaurant. For me, though, I love it for its tactful slow-mo action (seriously, there is a lot of slow-mo) and the full-on sensory overload that makes me want to reach for my passport every single time.

Cooked

  • Currently streaming on Netflix
  • What to Expect: If Chef’s Table is the prim and proper view into the restaurant world, Cooked is a grittier, more unrefined version. The Netflix-exclusive docu-series features everyday cooks and useful techniques, as well as how food has evolved among different cultures, with the four natural elements of water, fire, air, and earth serving as the perfect thematic backdrop. In one episode, the element of fire represents a trip to Australia to explore how to cook meats over an open flame. A creatively theme-driven, home cook’s approach to food? Consider me hooked!

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

  • PBS; currently streaming on Netflix
  • What to Expect: You may already be familiar with Phil Rosenthal on TV. He was the mastermind behind the hilarious comedy sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond. Now, Rosenthal returns in true form with a food-obsessed travel show that chronicles his culinary exploits in various cities and countries. It’s personal, adventurous, and most importantly, proves that you can take the boy out of Queens, but you can’t take the Queens out of Rosenthal–even on global stops. After watching him hunt down the best taco in Los Angeles with one of my favorite comedians, Larry Wilmore, it’s safe to say I’ll be having whatever Phil is having this fall.

Parts Unknown

  • CNN
  • What to Expect: There’s Anthony Bourdain–leader of all things food. And then there’s President Barack Obama–leader of the free world. Mix the two and what do you have? A big hit for the season eight (premiered on September 25th) of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, which featured both gentlemen eating and talking about Vietnam just like old friends (only not!). We’ll get to see more of Bourdain doing his thing internationally, but I’m more excited to witness his culinary road trips to Nashville and Houston for some down-home, Southern eats.

A Chef’s Life

  • PBS
  • What to Expect: Vivian Howard is my food spirit animal. I first stumbled across this show last December while home for Christmas. It was then I saw the former New Yorker return to her roots in North Carolina. I became a fan after watching Howard talk to family, friends, and residents in her hometown on how to prepare certain meals and seeing her struggles with operating and owning a restaurant in a small town. The episodes are generally ingredient-focused, showing Howard in the kitchen with her sister baking a red velvet cake, learning how to case sausages with her father, and mixing the perfect ambrosia salad with her neighbor for the holidays. A cookbook is on the way later this fall, so it seems others are finally catching on to what I’ve come to love about Howard, both in and out of the kitchen.

The Mind of a Chef

  • PBS
  • What to Expect: See how the mind of French culinary expert Chef Ludo Lefebvre actually works in the season five premiere this month. All the previous seasons of this hit series have focused on the life of a single chef, allowing viewers to gain an intimate glance into their day-to-day. And I for one am stoked to watch as season five digs into Lefebvre’s French cuisine while cooking in his restaurant in Los Angeles. If you enjoyed Chef Ludo’s bantering on the cancelled ABC flop, The Taste, with Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson, you’ll definitely love this up close and personal look of the man behind the madness.

Bob’s Burgers

  • FOX; currently streaming on Netflix and Hulu
  • What to Expect: I can fully attest to the fact that anyone can absolutely appreciate this cartoon as a full-grown adult. In fact, I’d argue it’s best to put the kids to bed when watching, as some of the jokes are a bit mature in subject matter. I’m classifying this animated comedy as must-see TV in the food world because burgers are always on the menu. It’s smart, laugh-out-loud funny, and upbeat, with each member of the Belcher family exemplifying what it means to not fear “being yourself.” You’re sure to fall in love with this family of five and their tasty sandwich offerings every Sunday night.

Star Plates

  • Premieres September 27 on Food Network
  • What to Expect: Providing a much-needed break from the standard food competition shows, Star Plates drops celebrities… in a restaurant… with famous chefs… during an actual night of service. Yikes! It could be a disaster or a some really good TV. I’m hoping for both. But, to see my girl crush Mindy Kaling and Colin Hanks as line cooks working the pass is more than enough for me, not to mention a truly star-studded kitchen affair.

Photo: Food Network

Photo: Food Network

F*ck, That’s Delicious

  • Vice’s Viceland Channel
  • What to Expect: If you’re a fan of his rhymes, you’re apt to love chef-turned-rapper Action Bronson’s food commentary in this web series for Munchies. Sure you get to watch him eat his way through America with friends and alongside Michelin-starred chefs while he’s on tour, but you may also get a delicious line or two such as: “Flour for the cake gettin’ sifted up.” Or “Lightly battered yam…a squeeze of lemon over lamb.” It’s food, it’s travel, it’s Hip-Hop, and it’s unapologetic–what’s not to love?

For Grace

  • Currently streaming on Netflix
  • What to Expect: I’m all about the human approach to food, and this documentary film delivers abundantly on that. Chef Curtis Duffy has lost his wife and children and hopes to rebuild his life by opening up a new restaurant. There will be food. There will be tears. There will be magic in witnessing the extent of the personal sacrifices made by the people who cook for us. But the ultimate reassurance that you can triumph over any tragedy is worth the tears you’ll shed at the end.

Food Chains

  • Currently streaming on Netflix
  • What to Expect: Do you know what feeds us and our country? A lot of farmers operating under poor working conditions and a broken agricultural and farming system, that’s who. Needless to say, this social documentary gets to the root of problems plaguing the U.S. agricultural system and the workers whose human rights are violated while they toil tirelessly in fields to ensure we have fresh food. The film offers lessons in humanity worth tuning in for.

What are some of your favorite food-related TV shows and films? Let us know in the comments below.

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