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How Netflix has Revolutionized Global Food Television… For the Better

You may have heard of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, the wildly popular Netflix original TV show based on the book by the same name that features talented chef, Samin Nosrat, travelling the world to examine the four basic principles of flavor that make up the greatest foods.

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While this program is extremely popular, there are now a myriad of other similar food-related TV shows gaining popularity all over Netflix; from the Chef Show to Final Table to Nailed It!, Netflix has somehow been able to get ahead of culinary trends and enlist the help of many amazingly talented chefs and bakers. There is always so much negativity surrounding television’s ever-rising popularity and Netflix’s own role in that, but I believe there can be many positives to this globalized entertainment, especially considering Netflix’s recent food-related shows. I recognize the revolutionary beauty in these shows through 4 main aspects: their connection to home cooking, their recognition of global cuisines, their appreciation for the Earth, and simply their entertainment value for all different types of viewers.

  1. They Bring Cooking Back to It’s Humble Origins
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The beauty of most of these shows is that famous chefs and restaurateurs are not the only focus of the show; many also feature their interactions with home cooks, artisan small-town cooks, or even farmers and food producers. These TV shows have managed to bring cooking back to the home, and back to its humble origins. I’m sure some of you have watched the ever-popular show Nailed It!, in which home bakers attempt to recreate elaborate baked goods with a pared-down recipe. While this is really just entertaining because we all laugh at disgusting cake fails or deformed candy figures, these programs also manage to make cooking and baking appear more accessible and intriguing. Watching “people just like us” attempt to really do anything in the kitchen can be the slight push we all need to try our hand at a new recipe or new cooking technique. Also, with an emphasis on family recipes and artisans who passed down their craft through generations, in shows like Chef’s Table or Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, these programs make cooking appear as the noteworthy family tradition it deserves to be. As Netflix amps up the production of this sort of content it may just push their viewers to call their mom up, ask for an old family recipe, and learn to cook it together in their home kitchen. This may sound too good to be true, but with the broad reach, amazing television production, celebrity chef involvement, and honestly delicious portrayals of cuisine that these TV shows have going for them, it is not an exaggeration of their reach.

2. They Recognize GLOBAL Cuisine

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Not only do these shows examine this myriad of roles within the global food system, and make home cooks feel included within that system, they also begin to emphasize the global more than ever before. Now you can turn on a cooking program on Netflix to find celebrity chefs praising the work of Thai street food vendors, or artisan tortilla makers explaining the tradition of their craft. These incredibly famous cooking personalities and wide-reaching entertainment platforms are appreciating the wonderful world of global cuisines more than ever before. Viewers can now not only watch professional chefs explain how to cook the best pasta dishes, but they can also travel the globe, tasting new cuisines, exploring new flavors, and learning about the wonderful food systems that surround us. Finally the public is getting to engage deeply with the food and culture of the world, without more dominant white critics labelling certain flavors or cuisines as “lowly,” “smelly,” “barbaric,” or “flat,” as many have done in the past. Through this new wave of TV shows viewers can eat injera in Ethiopia or help grind masa in the Yucatan, they can smoke fish in Iceland or catch fresh seafood in Indonesia. Most importantly, all of these cuisines and flavors are appreciated, honored, and acknowledged for their greatness and diversity.

3. They Appreciate Where Our Food Comes From: The Earth

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These TV shows have begun to foster a new appreciation for the land, at a time when it is sorely needed. By simply turning on Chef’s Table you can hear a Buddhist monk praising the vegetables they have raised in their own gardens, or you can listen to a program called Food: Delicious Science explain the science behind strawberries ripening before harvest. In most of these TV Shows you can find some chef, artisan, or farmer turn and praise the land around them, the soil they touch, and the air itself for the deeply flavorful produce that the Earth helps create; they are not paid to “talk up” the Earth, but it simply so clear to them that the more connected to nature the ingredients are, the more delicious they become. With just a few clicks an extremely wide-reaching audience can simply better understand how food grows, where it comes from, how we should treat these plants and animals, and most importantly, how we are truly reliant and connected to the Earth. In a society that increasingly emphasizes efficiency, speed, and quantity, often times consumers, especially American consumers, lose any understanding of where their food has come from, how and what allowed it to bloom and flourish, or even who created it for them. Fast food has its benefits, but in losing this connection to the origin of food and the origin of cuisine, consumers could quickly out-pace our planet, without ever even realizing it. Now, without even leaving their couches, consumers can begin to educate themselves about these important issues, while still being entertained. They can begin to understand the importance of local foods and the importance of appreciation what they Earth has to offer all around us.

4. They Engage So Many Different Audiences

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Speaking of being entertained, this new wave of Netflix food TV shows has the ability to make me laugh, cry, and gasp in awe all within a 45 minute episode. These TV shows literally have it all! For any mood or any picky TV watcher I can guarantee you will find one unifying episode, moment, or series on Netflix about food that will entertain you. For the science minded you can check out Food: Delicious Science or Chef vs. Science. For any of you simply looking to laugh you can watch Nailed It! or Sugar Rush. For those of you seriously interested in the culinary world, and possibly interested in a culinary career you can watch Final Table or Chef’s Table. For those of you who are home cooks interested in mastering everyday flavors and techniques you can watch Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat or Cooked. If you are simply looking for a star-studded cast you can watch Ugly Delicious or the Chef Show. If you need to feel better after a long day you can watch the Great British Baking Show or the Big Family Cooking Showdown. If you want to expand your palate and your worldly culinary understanding you can watch the Taco Chronicles or Street Food. Even if you are interested in the business side of the culinary world you can watch Million Pound Menu. Just by simply reading that wide-array of shows I just listing (which is only the tip of the iceberg when doing a deep dive for food shows on Netflix) you can come to realize how truly diverse, accessible, and engaging these shows really are. 


Hands of the senior man cooking kway teow noodles at the street market Penang Malaysia
Hands of the senior man cooking kway teow noodles in asian wok at the Kimberly Street Food Night Market on March 22, 2016 in George Town, Penang, Malaysia.

 The next time you turn on the TV don’t feel as if food television is not for you, and instead check out the wonderful myriad of food-related programs out there! Netflix has managed to transform the way we speak, think, and connect with food through these shows, and you have the opportunity to experience that revolution. Have fun and explore this wonderful world of entertainment, just as you might explore new foods in your own kitchen. 

After reading this I hope your next search term on Netflix will be “food.” I know mine will be.

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