There seem to be no shortage of shows for foodies on Netflix—from Chef’s Table to Ugly Delicious, shows that merge cooking and culture are a huge part of the vast array of docuseries available on the streaming platform. The most recent addition to this wealth of colorful culinary adventures is a four part series called Salt Fat Acid Heat, based on the award–winning of the same name. Samin Nosrat, the author of the cookbook, serves the pivotal role as the show’s animated hostess, who exudes a kind of humility that convinces viewers that they have the power to master the elements of good cooking. As gorgeous and cinematic as Salt Fat Acid Heat may be, there is something uniquely personal about its approach. While watching, I felt like I was part of the adventure, as though I was in the kitchen or the market with Nostrat, who was taking me on a journey to the very essence of flavor.
The premise of the show is deceptively simple—each episode focuses on a different chapter of the story of good cooking, which are, of course, salt, fat, acid, and heat. Despite this no frills take, the show still takes viewers to gorgeous locales where the regional cuisine embodies these elements in exemplary ways. Fat takes us to Italy, to explore the magic of olive oil, cheese, and cured meats. Salt is explored in Japan, where we learn the complex processes that result in flavor staples like soy sauce and miso. Acid is highlighted in the Yucatan region, where citrus grows in abundance and bright salsas enliven every meal. And finally, Nosrat demystifies the use of heat in cooking at home in Berkeley, California. Each episode is dynamic, informative, and heartwarming, making an affinity for certain flavors feel universal rather that culturally specific.
It isn’t uncommon to feel shut–out by inaccessible cuisines of master chefs, or feel at a distance from the traditional dishes of countries thousands of miles away, which some of us could never imagine capturing in our own kitchens. Feeling close to the action not only makes Salt Fat Acid Heat a joy to watch, but makes it possible to apply these essential, and remarkably simple, components of good cooking into one’s everyday life. Seeing Nosrat cook ordinary food in a masterful way across the episodes pulls together all the ideas about flavor that are introduced, amounting to an experience of tremendous practical value. With all that being said, the cinematography and rich exploration of various cities and natural landscapes make the show a visual feast even if you have no intention of cooking an actual one.
Although Nostrat does work with several restaurant chefs, one of the most unique aspects of Salt Fat Acid Heat is that we get a chance to see artisans work with basic but essential ingredients that make high–quality food so delicious. Nostrat’s approach is so refreshingly democratizing, nothing is too difficult about cooking well—simply caring about the food, what it’s made of, and embracing the love of good flavor can elevate your culinary expertise. You need not go on a international adventure in search of all the deliciousness the world has to offer, but rather focus on developing an appreciation and respect for the basics so that you can take home cooking wherever you want it to go.