As more and more people start identifying themselves as “foodies” these days, food related entertainment has risen in popularity exponentially. First, cooking shows took over your television, until you couldn’t surf more than a couple of channels without seeing the mugs of Gordon Ramsay or Jamie Oliver or, God help us, Guy Fieri teaching us how to cook. Now, documentaries about different aspects of food culture have started flooding theaters and your Netflix queue, taking a slightly more highbrow approach. But with so many food documentaries out there now, where do you begin? Here are four recent must-sees.
KINGS OF PASTRY
Legendary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (who documented the Monterey Pop festival in the 1960s) capture the French competition Les Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsman in France), where the best pastry chefs in the country compete every four years to be awarded this highly esteemed title. By following a number of the contestants, they show how precise and intense baking can be, where any little error could mean disaster.
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI
A smash hit when it was released in 2012, this doc follows the renowned 85-year old sushi master, Jiro Ono, as he runs his famous restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro’s joint is so popular and only seats 10 people, so the restaurant is constantly full and reservations have to be made months in advance if you want to get in. Jiro himself is a fascinating enigma and the film also goes into the complex relationship he has with his son, who will one day take over his business.
Director Joseph Levy’s film is an intimate portrait of three different American restaurants: Chef Grant Achatz’s Chicago restaurant Alinea, which boasts a three Michelin star rating; the 150-year old family-run Breitbach’s Country Dining, which survives through its strong community bond; and a fledgling roadside Mexican joint. It’s one of the more humanistic food documentaries of late, as it probes into both the personal and professional struggles that each owner faces.
EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS
For something a little more offbeat, try out this doc about the titular Spanish restaurant, run by renowned chef Ferran Adria. For six months of the year, the restaurant is closed while Adria and his culinary team work to create new dishes for the next season. Adria is well-known as a creator of “avant-garde” cuisine, so the meals being prepared are certainly out of the ordinary as the chefs experiment with all different kinds of recipes. It might just give you some radical new meal ideas of your own.
Featured image source: Magnolia Pictures