The coronavirus (a.k.a COVID-19) has forced many restaurants to close or to operate with a reduced staff. There are a lot of restaurant employees out there right now with a lot of time on their hands.
To keep you entertained and your spirits lifted, we’ve put together a list of 13 feel-good movies and TV shows that feature food or restaurants. If you’ve reached the level of boredom where you’re putting on your apron and taking “orders” from your family or roommates, this list is for you.
This documentary is about sushi master Jiro Ono and his dedication to the absolute perfection of his craft. The man has literally been declared a national treasure by Japan. At first glance, you wouldn’t think this subway restaurant was noteworthy, but people book reservations months in advance and happily pay $300 a plate to eat his sushi. He’s the real deal. The film features beautiful close-ups of the food and Jiro at work. It also depicts an interesting father-son relationship, as Jiro’s son is expected to one day take over for his world-renowned, three-Michelin-starred father. No pressure.
Despite being a cartoon, Ratatouille is one of the most realistic depictions of working in a kitchen that we’ve seen. It explains the hierarchy of the French brigade system (executive chef, chef de cuisine, sous chef, etc.), shows cooks with interesting and not always pristine backgrounds, and depicts the difficulty women have in advancing in a field dominated by men. It’s a cute, family-friendly movie with lots of insight into kitchen life and cooking from your heart.
Waiting is a classic. You’ve probably seen it, but now is a perfect time to rewatch it. It’s hilarious and both BOH and FOH will feel at home at Shenanigans. The movie is definitely over the top, but it perfectly captures the tension of counting down the minutes until closing, only to have someone walk-in at the last minute. It also features a Karen of epic proportions, and though you should never mess with a guest’s food the way they do in this scene, it’s still satisfying to watch some fictional revenge on a rude customer.
This movie is a little bizarre, but it’s an interesting look at the level of obsession that chefs at the very top of their game have. The movie follows a disgraced chef who is trying to make a comeback and earn three Michelin stars. It’s set in an over-the-top world where violence and crime are inextricably tied to restaurant life. We’re talking cutting-off-someone’s-nose level of violence (not shown in the movie, don’t worry). It shows how tense things can get in the kitchen during a high-pressure service and depicts two types of chef responses: freaking out and abusing the kitchen staff versus staying calm and collected but with a sense of urgency. Can you guess which works out better?
This is a stop-motion animated film from award-winning director Wes Anderson. It’s family-friendly but easily keeps adults interested, too. The movie follows Mr. Fox, a thief-turned-newspaper-writer who grows bored with his life and returns to stealing. He focuses on three farms: a chicken farm, a turkey and apple farm, and a duck and goose farm. It’s a funny film with food at the center of the plot.
I know you’re thinking this isn’t a food movie, but it’s pretty close. The main character is a talented baker whose life takes a turn for the worse after she has to close her bakery. There’s a scene of her baking one perfectly decorated cupcake just for herself, there’s an enormous cookie that gets attacked at a bridal shower, there’s plenty of drinking, and a whole scene about the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s delicious but also gives people food poisoning. It’s a food movie, and it’s hilarious.
7. Party Down
This is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. It’s about a catering company called Party Down that’s full of relatable misfit waiters who love-hate each other. The relationships between the workers is that relatable “I can be mean to them but no one else can” dynamic. It’s the perfect show to watch when you’re missing your annoying, lovable coworkers and you need a good laugh.
8. Chef’s Table
This docu-series is the Holy Grail of food shows. Each episode features one talented chef, and the shots of the food and cooking are beautiful. If you want to drool while being inspired by successful chefs, this is the only show to watch.
9. Top Chef
Top Chef is a reality cooking competition show. It’s got a million seasons, so you can binge-watch your way through this entire coronavirus shut down. It has fun challenges and features a revolving door of the most respected chefs and restaurateurs in the industry. It’s great for mindless viewing or to inspire your own cooking.
Sweetbitter shows the behind-the-scenes of fine dining through a mix of FOH and BOH characters. It’s a compelling drama with a ton of focus on wine, food, and restaurant life. The show quickly fleshes out the unnamed fine dining restaurant where the characters work. It feels authentic and can give you a lot of insider info if you’re new to the restaurant industry in general or fine dining specifically. There’s also a great family meal scene in season one.
11. Bitchin’ Kitchen
This is not your typical cooking show. The host, Nadia G., is a hilarious Italian rockabilly goth, the kitchen decor changes each episode but always features something creepy (doll heads, anyone?), and it’s equal parts cooking show and sketch comedy. She also makes delicious recipes and the mysterious Spice Agent with the unpronounceable name educates viewers about unusual spices.
12. The Chef’s Line
This Australian reality cooking show has a unique set up — four home cooks compete against the line of a local professional kitchen, from commis to executive chef. Each challenge features a dish from the restaurant made by one of the professional line cooks and the home cooks each create their take on that dish. The three hosts take turns blind tasting the dishes and selecting the best one. It’s wholesome entertainment and cooking inspiration all rolled up into one.
13. Bob’s Burgers
Bob’s Burgers is a cartoon for adults. It features Bob and his family who work together in their burger restaurant. They have the absolute best burger specials (I’ve Created a Muenster Burger, Chard to a Crisp Burger, If Looks Could Kale Burger) that might inspire a new creation for your menu. It has relatable restaurant problems like the health inspector showing up unexpectedly but adds a crazy cartoon twist.
We’ve received several responses from restaurant employees on other movies that should be part of the list, and we listened 🙂 Here are recommendations from your fellow restaurant professionals!