The pandemic has been raging so long that it’s hard to imagine a time when hopping on a plane and visiting new and exciting destinations was, or will again be, a reality.
And while there are all manner of travel shows available to stream that can scratch that proverbial travel itch, there’s something about food-related global adventures that are particularly satisfying. Maybe it’s the fact chefs tend to be curious types, always on the hunt for new and exciting flavours using familiar and exotic ingredients. Or perhaps it’s the stories of mom-and-pop cooks/food growers in far-flung corners of the world whose stories illuminate something about the human condition that’s either new or relatable to the viewer.
Regardless, here are five shows that will have you hungry for travel and a killer bite to eat…
Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (2021)
Where: CNN (Sundays, 8 p.m.)
His 1996 restaurant-based film Big Night, his two cookbooks, his viral April 2020 Instagram negroni-making post: actor Stanley Tucci is clearly a foodie at heart. And in his new six-part series, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, which premièred on CNN on Feb. 14 and airs weekly on Sundays at 8 p.m., the New York-born Tucci explores his Italian roots in search of all things delicious.
The first episode saw Tucci head to Campania in southwest Italy, with a course-by-course trip through the region’s culinary history, including Neapolitan pizza, spaghetti alla nerano, cake made from Amalfi Coast lemons and, of course, plenty of wine. With loads of stunning scenery — both in the Italian countryside and in the winding streets of Naples and beyond — future episodes of Searching for Italy will surely have you pining for pasta and your own Mediterranean adventure.
Anthony Bourdain: The Layover (2011-2013), No Reservations (2005-2012)
Where: Amazon Prime
Ideally, every episode of every one of the late Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows — Parts Unknown, No Reservations and The Layover — would be available to stream online. Sadly, it doesn’t appear the long-running Parts Unknown, first broadcast on CNN, is available to stream in Canada at all.
What is available here are both seasons, 20 episodes in total, of The Layover, in which Bourdain spends 24 to 48 hours exploring a travel hub-type city, tracking down all the food and drink he can in the short time. It’s a fun, fast-paced look at some of the world’s top towns, including numerous American cities as well as Taipei, Amsterdam, Hong Kong and more (including Montreal and Toronto).
Also available to stream in Canada are the final two seasons of No Reservations — a paltry 18 episodes of the 142 shot in the show’s nine-season run. In this handful of episodes are some gems, including trips by Bourdain and crew to Lisbon, Portugal and Penang, Malaysia, as well as Mozambique, Kurdistan and, in the final episode, Bourdain’s native Brooklyn for a tour of his favourite haunts.
A posthumous Bourdain book, World Travel, is being published in April, and features his thoughts on various locales and includes insight from his former assistant, Laurie Woolever.
Street Food: Asia/Latin America (2019-2020)
Street Food creators Brian McGinn and David Gelb may not be working chefs, but it’s clear food is never far from their minds. The pair created the popular Netflix series Chef’s Table, and Gelb directed the stellar 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
The duo’s two seasons of the Street Food franchise — the first exploring Asia (over nine episodes) and the second Latin America (in six episodes) — combine beautiful visual storytelling with fascinating back stories of street-food purveyors in each of the locales — humble, hilarious characters whose histories range from heartwarming to heartbreaking.
Featured dishes typically highlight culinary creations that are local staples, the heart and soul of the culinary landscape where they are created — chaat in Delhi, India, chilli crab in Singapore, empañadas in Buenos Aires, the moqueca seafood stew of Salvador, Brazil and so on.
Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted (2019)
Where: National Geographic/Disney Plus
British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay has become a staple of reality TV, from Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word to MasterChef and beyond. So it’s no surprise he’s dipped his proverbial toes into travel/food programming as well.
The 13 episodes of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted see the outspoken chef land everywhere from Tasmania to Peru to Louisiana and beyond, learning about local ingredients and techniques. Episodes typically close with Ramsay preparing a meal for locals using the skills he’s learned and the ingredients he’s discovered.
The show is beautifully shot, and both the dishes and the locals included in the episodes are fascinating, but you’ve got to be able to handle Ramsay’s brash, over-the-top personality.
Salt Fat Acid Heat (2018)
Based on her 2017 book, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking, Samin Nosrat’s four-part documentary series sees her exploring each of the elements she considers crucial to cooking.
In exploring the importance of salt, Nosrat visits Japan, learning about miso, soy sauce and the science of fermentation; for fat she skips over to Italy, taking a deep dive on cheeses, olive oil, meats and more. In Mexico, Nosrat explores how acids such as those found in salsas and tart citrus fruit impact the food we eat; back in California, she visits her former stomping grounds at Chez Panisse and cooks with her mom to explore how heat (temperature, not spice) impacts the things we eat.
While they both pack plenty of culinary prowess, personality-wise Nosrat is the polar opposite of Ramsay, bringing a calming kindness and earnest curiosity to Salt Fat Acid Heat.
Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.
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