With ever-increasing popularity, more and more new cooking shows are popping up at an alarming rate. I remember when the Food Network channel consisted of basically 12 hours of Emeril with a few other shows thrown in for good measure (Old school Iron Chef, most notably), but now there are so many shows and spin-offs and hosts its enough to make your head spin. Fear not, here’s my breakdown on what I consider the top 5 best, and worst, food shows on TV. (Some are shown on other networks besides the Food Network, but all food-related shows are included)
5. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives
While technically more of an eating show than a cooking show, it’s a great concept hosted by Guy Fieri, whose larger than life personality and appetite really makes the show entertaining. Focusing on local gems and hometown favorites the show helps spotlight the top casual food spots across the US and helps spread the word about family-run or independent food hot-spots rather than large chains. This show is a guilty pleasure for me and I always find myself watching it.
4. Jamie’s Great Italian Escape
I know this was filmed awhile ago, but it’s still aired regularly on food network due to it’s popularity. The producers for this show did a brilliant job making the show not only about cooking, and food, but the characters and culture behind it. Everyone from monks, to farmers, fishermen, and elderly ladies making pasta in the streets was involved. This is also the series where Oliver got heaps and heaps of hate mail for killing a live lamb on film, something previously unheard of on any food network show.
3. Top Chef
Woo hoo! A cooking reality show that actually focuses on the contestants and their food instead of provoking drama and stroking egos! With talented contestants, brilliant guest chefs and judges (Anthony Bourdain, my personal favorite) and great challenges, this is the best cooking reality show on TV.
2. Alton Brown – Good Eats!
How can you not love Alton? Focusing on the science behind cooking in his own unique and entertaining way, I learn something each and every time I watch the show. Sure, some of his scenes are a little over the top, but that’s part of the appeal. At the end of the day his recipes are delicious no matter how many costume changes are required to get there. There’s only one Alton.
1. Iron Chef America
The American Idol of Food Network TV, it’s the clear number one. Brilliant iron chefs, big name competitors, and a more exciting format than its older version, it’s a good watch each and every time. The only thing starting to get to me is the judges they are lining up for the show. Really? Mo Rocca and Criss Angel are judging Mario Batali’s food?
5. Hell’s Kitchen
This is the polar opposite of Top Chef, as this show is about one man and one man only, Gordon Ramsay. A brilliant chef, he’s essentially been reduced to a character, far from the restaurateur that held 3 Michelin stars at one time. How many times can we watch someone overcook Wellington or risotto, or be called a donkey? Apparently tons. This show is like watching Big Brother with the occasional cooking session there’s so much drama provoked.
4. Anna Olson – Sugar
I like Anna Olson, I really do. She seems nice and someone who’d be great to have as a neighbour. But each and every single time her show comes on I change the channel. Why? I’m not sure. I think because it’s all baking so it’s just repetitive. Measure this, mix this, bake at 350. She’s never tackling a live swordfish or going spear hunting (like all chefs do, trust me) or doing anything to keep my interest long enough. Plus the white kitchen she cooks in gives me a headache. She does have a new show however which focuses on general cooking and it’s better, but a little spear hunting would put it over the top.
3. Ted Allen – Food Detectives
It was about time Ted Allen got his own show. But really, food detectives? I get it, Ted’s a smart guy, so let’s put him in a white lab coat and get him to talk science no one cares about. Ted’s my favorite regular judge on Iron Chef, but this show is unwatchable. The man can cook, get him in a kitchen instead of talking about dying your shirt with beets.
2. Giada DeLaurentis – Everyday Italian
She’s a beautiful woman, no doubt, but even that can’t get me watching this show long enough. I have decided what actually drives me crazy about this show is her sporadic over-the-top Italian pronunciations of certain ingredients. For anyone who’s watched that show, she doesn’t have the slightest hint of an Italian accent, except when one of her choice ingredients comes up in a sentence. “Now I’m going to add 1/2 cup of grated MOOT-ZARELLLLLLLA cheese and stir to combine.” Bam, suddenly she sounds like Super Mario and then snaps right back out of it. Is that enough to make me write off this show? Apparently it is.
1. Road Tasted – The Deen Brothers
I actually think this may have been replaced with “Road Tasted with the Neeleys” (also terrible), but this without a doubt is the worst show I’ve seen on the Food Network. Riding on momma Paula Deen’s coat tails has never paid off better for 2 boys who basically drive around high fiving for half an hour. Asking ridiculous questions, creeping out most of their guests, I wonder if they ever get tired of people asking if they can meet their mom? Unwatchable.
She’s not re-inventing the wheel with her food, but can anyone in the food business work a camera like a Nigella can? She is mesmerizing to watch, peppering everything up with colourful adjectives and mild innuendo. She’s found her niche and works it well.
Throwdown with Bobby Flay
I like this show. I like how average cooks from small towns can smoke a professional chef at their specialty they’ve perfected throughout the years. People like to root for the underdog, me included.