There’s a good chance you’ve at least entertained the notion of going to culinary school. Learning how to prepare a proper béarnaise sauce and properly sharpen a knife are worthwhile skills, but not all of us have the two to four years, tons of cash, or the mental and physical endurance needed to actually get that degree.
If you want to know what attending culinary school is like without ever going, read Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute of America or check out former Food & Wine senior editor Margaret Eby’s dispatches on the subject. But if you just want an education in technique, turn to Netflix.
From in-depth food documentaries and profiles of the world’s greatest chefs to thrilling competitions and practical home tips, Netflix shows can teach you how to better understand what you eat. Here’s how to experience a glimpse of culinary school from your sofa.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
Based on chef and writer Samin Nosrat’s bestselling book of the same name, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is an education into the essentials of flavor. Nosrat, one of the most beloved food writers and cooks around, welcomes you into her exploration of what makes these seemingly simple flavors so important as she travels to Japan, Italy, Mexico, and back to the kitchen where she had her own culinary education: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. You’ll be charmed and entertained as you learn about the history of these elements of cooking, and the ingredients and techniques cooks use to make the most of them.
Michael Pollan knows a lot about nutrition and his Netflix documentary-series, Cooked, focuses on many of the aspects of how we eat that he’s been researching for years. Pollan’s series is broken down into four parts, each of which focuses on a different element of cooking: fire, water, air and earth. Additionally, the series raises questions about sustainable farming, meat consumption, misconceptions of gluten and cheese production. Cooked also looks at the disconnect between producer and consumer and how the public relies more on mass-produced, modified food with less nutritional value than ever before. Cooked is a building block for better understanding nutrition and an excellent starting point for your Netflix education.
Each episode of Netflix’s flagship chef documentary series is dedicated to one individual’s story, journey and vision and pushes the idea that the world’s greatest chefs are driven by expressing their entire beings through their restaurants. Trends from around the world, from the way food is plated to how restaurants are designed to the philosophies behind how menus are created, are all on display on Chef’s Table. Pizza fans in particular will appreciate the six-episode spin-off series dedicated to the artisans making their favorite dish in cities around the world,
Noma: My Perfect Storm
Rene Redzepi is one of the most influential chefs of the 21st century and Noma: My Perfect Storm revealed the creative processes behind his landmark Copenhagen restaurant as it stood in 2015 — especially fascinating as it is slated to close in 2024, citing the unsustainability of its labor model that was mostly based in unpaid stages by aspiring chefs. You’ll learn about the stress and expectations that come with running a restaurant named best in the world, as well as how a deeply complex Noma dish comes together — from foraging for ingredients and maintaining relationships with farmers to preparing them (lots of fermenting) and arranging them on the plate for customers.
School of Chocolate
Swiss-French chocolatier Amaury Guichon has amassed over 11 million Instagram followers, dazzled by his extravagant and audacious chocolate constructions. In this Netflix series. Guichon mentors eight professional candy makers through a series of challenges highlighting different properties of chocolate (ooziness, moldability, and yes — flavor), eventually crowning a winner in a jaw-dropping display of culinary artistry that needs to be seen to be believed.
Nadiya’s Time to Eat
Great British Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain isn’t just sticking with the sweet stuff (though her show Nadiya Bakes is definitely a great dessert when you’re finished binging this show). In this series, Hussein notes that she’s not just done with feeling guilty about taking shortcuts; she’s fully embracing and sharing every smart cooking hack she can find so she — and her audience — can still serve winning meals to the people they love, without getting stuck in the kitchen for too long.