Craving for a good food show?
The Handbook / Culture / An in-depth guide to all the food shows worth watching

An in-depth guide to all the food shows worth watching

Craving for a good food show?

Words— Kate Dingwall

Once upon a time, food television consisted of how-to cooking shows, aimed at stay-at-home moms who lacked a culinary knack. Now, food is dominating our televisions or computers (or Netflix, Crave, or whatever your subscription of choice may be). There are serious odes to culinary creators (Chef's Table) to cheekier commentary on the state of the industry (Ugly Delicious). There's the old guard (Parts Unknown) to the new (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat). There are competitions, lots of them, ranging in scope from sillier cupcake bake-offs to global chef showdowns (The Final Table). There's even a Gordon Ramsey-fronted Parts Unknown rip-off, where the TV chef travels to remote territories to cook with the locals. The food TV landscape is so vast that College Humor is putting out a full series poking fun at it. But how do you, the viewers, extract the good from the gaudy? Below, the food shows worth binging.

 

 

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat

 

Available On: Netflix

 

Adapted from Samin Nosrat's best-selling cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat spotlights the balance a chef needs to acquire in a dish through the means of well, salt, fat, acid and heat. She does this by spotlighting four countries, Japan, Italy, Mexico, and California: each who have mastered one of the four elements of cooking. In each locale, she draws in regional experts. Usually, it's a female chef or woman killing it in their field - a notable swerve away from the male chefs and homemaker women who once dominated food TV. One of the most appealing parts is how the show bridges a gap between the home cook and the higher culinary world, combining the instructional cooking format with the globe-trotting docu-series style.

 

 

 

 

Ugly Delicious

 

Available On: Netflix

 

In each episode, the fearless leader of Momofuku focuses on a different dish. Pizza is one: Chang chats with pizza purists in both Brooklyn and Naples to discover how they define the plate. Fried Chicken is another: partner-in-crime Peter Meehan (of the LA Times) examines the history of US barbecue while Chang dives into Peking duck and Korean barbecue. Each episode threads through how the dish has evolved over different cultures, countries, and time periods. Celebrity guests pop by frequently, but it's Chang and Meehan's witty banter back and forth that makes the show a driving force.

 

 

Chef's Table

 

Available On: Netflix

 

Spellbounding cinematography, a star-studded cast of fine dining stars, and a classically-driven soundtrack makes this show as much of a work of art as it does a feature on world-class dining. Each episode profiles a chef moving the needle in his field, be Virgilio Martinez from Peru’s lauded Central to Christina Tosi of the Milkbar empire. It's six seasons in now, but don't expect the quality to depreciate. Not a dry eye will make it through Asma Khan's episode, a London-by-way-of-India chef who only employs women of color, nor Mashama Bailey's, where she spotlights Low Country cuisine in Savannah in what was once a segregated Greyhound station.

 

 

 

 

Great British Bake-Off

 

Available On: Netflix

 

If you told me four years ago that one of the most exciting programs on food TV was about…..baking? Well, I wouldn't believe you. But here I am, a bonafide non-baker, screeching, "MARJORIE, YOU'RE OVERWHISKING YOUR CORNFLAKE CAKE" at my computer screen. The much-loved British TV competition brings in a group of amateur bakers to compete in a series of skill-testing challenges. The judges are sweet-as-pie, and are the contestants - they frequently jump over to other stations to help their fellow competitors. That doesn't temper the temperature of the competitions though: the show manages to make a Victoria sponge cake competition a can't-take-your-eyes-off event. Throw in a few dramatic baking challenges, and you've got yourself some good TV. The American iteration - America's Greatest Baking Challenge - is well worth a watch as well.

 

 

Street Food

 

Available On: Netflix

 

Think Chef's Table, but with a focus on the foods served on street corners rather than in high temples of gastronomy. Volume One of the show jumps through Asia, exploring hawker marts and corner shops in Bangkok, Thailand; Delhi, India; Singapore, as well as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The visual language of the show is gripping: you can't take your eyes off the slow-motion shots of chili crab fare sizzling in the streets, or the women of Cebu pouring up bowls of Eel Soup. It weaves through personal stories of vendors tied to more significant issues in the country, pulling in history and culture along the way to prove the thesis of food doesn't need to be served on white tablecloths to be good. 

 

 

 

 

Good Eats

 

Available On: Food Network

 

Alton Brown's seminal cooking program has returned. Think of it as the OG cooking show. For ten years, the Cutthroat Kitchen host brought viewers into his home to make everything from chicken parmesan to a humble pie. Camera angles are quirky, his humor is dad-like (think food puns galore and elaborate histories of each dish), making it easy to fall for Brown's charms. 

 

 

Queer Eye

 

Available On: Netflix

 

The dark horse of the food TV world isn't a food show at all: it's cult-followed makeover show Queer Eye. Every episode, Montreal-bred food expert Antoni Porowski teaches their subject of the episode how to cook to better themselves. Many tears will fall during this feel-good makeover show.

 

 

 

 

Supermarket Sweep

 

Available On: Food Network

 

I shouldn't like this show. Contestants compete in a series of cooking challenges, but to source their ingredients, they must bargain with customers leaving a local supermarket to buy what's in their bags. It's ridiculous, over-the-top, but strangely entertaining (though perhaps not surprising: SNL's Leslie Jones hosts it). 

 

 

Upcoming

 

The following shows haven't rolled out quite yet, but come this fall they are set to make a splash. 

 

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Available On: Netflix (Presumably)

 

David Chang is really good at food TV. He's got over three shows and counting now, and each targets a different topic. In his newest show, in partnership with Eater, he continues his celebrity-led snack tours of global  cities. Each episode, he'll bring on one guest to help him explore a different city in the world. Considering past Chang celebrity guests included Gwenyth Paltrow, Aziz Ansari, Gillian Jacobs, and Robert Downey Jr, expect Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner to be star-studded. But the flash isn't the point: the show is more about examining relationships with people and place.

 

 

 

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

 

Available On: Disney+

 

A follow-up to last year's Goldblum-led cooking show with Bryce Dallas Howard and Jonathan Gold, the beloved Hollywood weirdo is veering further into the food world his new show, The World According to Jeff Goldblum. The show follows him as he explores different 'cultural curiosities': some aren't food-related, but coffee, ice cream, and Korean barbecue are slated for the spotlight.  

 

 

The Chef

 

Available On: Netflix

 

Remember the 2014 flick Chef? Well, Jon Favreau (Director of The Lion King) and Roy Choi (famed food truck Chef) resuscitated the much-loved movie into TV show form. The show feels vaguely voyeuristic: like you're peeking into their kitchen as they prep for a dinner party. Folks pop in and out, many recognizable from either the culinary or the celebrity spheres. Conversations are candid, the entire expert is unscripted, and recipes are drawn out: no 'jump to final product' shots, you see every step of the process. The new season rolls out in early September.

Our purpose

Designed in Canada. Made for good living. We’re dedicated to providing you with purposefully designed products, made ethically and sustainably.