The Foodie TV Masterlist: What You Should Be Watching If You Love Food

7:30:00 AM


Allez Cuisine!

Now imagine Chairman Kaga saying that.

As those who know me can attest, I am a bit of a TV Junkie. I can’t get enough of it and I pick up and drop TV series the same way a child goes through their Halloween candy-- quickly and ruthlessly.

More importantly, I grew up watching a lot of television shows that revolved around food. I just gravitated towards them with little to no intention of actually copying the recipes.

Cooking shows were therapeutic. You sit there and watch the chef prepare the dish, step-by-step, and the end result is something beautiful and tasty. It was like sitting on the side and watching my mom, aunts, and grandma cook.

They make it flow effortlessly while half the time I cook, it’s like preparing for an all-out war.

Me against the ingredients.

Just me. No Madonna.

[Please, take this chance to listen to Me Against the Music and get a huge laugh imagining me dancing to this while cooking. Wow, that sounds dangerous..]

So without further ado, if you find cooking shows therapeutic and enjoy learning about food, this is for you.

I will break this post down just to a selective few because otherwise, we’ll be here all day and this post will end up like a book.

The categories are broken down into: Cooking Shows, Cooking Competition, Food Dramas, History of Food, and Guilty Pleasures.

And if things go according to plan, look forward to future posts focusing on movies and books for the Foodie. Or if this post blow up, I’ll consider writing a part II.

Cooking Shows: Time to Get Crackin’

Good Eats (1999-2012)

What happens when you bring Julia Child and Bill Nye the Science Guy together?

You get Alton Brown: the brain child behind Good Eats, the show that is cheese, cooking, comedy and science rolled altogether in one steaming pie.

Before he was the broadcaster in Iron Chef and the host for Cutthroat Kitchen, he was my favorite cooking expert on TV. The best way to describe Alton Brown is to imagine your crazy relative (we all have one) who’s also scientifically inclined, enjoys cooking and pop culture.

It’s a dash of history, a pinch of food science and a dollop of cooking. You meet a cast of eclectic characters like W (parody on James Bond’s Q) who gives Alton Brown all his kitchen gadgets.

Each episode cover a topic, usually something very basic, like eggs, chocolate, noodles, cheese, chicken and so on and so forth.

Good Eats spanned over a total of 14 seasons and ended in 2012 with the penultimate episode titled “Turn on the Dark.” And yes, you guessed it: it was on CHOCOLATE.

So before you write Alton Brown off as just the host or a commentator, take a look at Good Eats.

Memorable Episodes: Thanksgiving (especially the one where they deep fry the turkey), “Art of Darkness” (Chocolate episodes), “Oat Cuisine” (AKA, the HAGGIS episode. A classic), Egg Files (all about utilizing the versatile egg), and more!

Cooking Competitions: Something is Brewing

The Great British Bake Off (Season 1 - Season 6) (ongoing)

If you haven’t heard of this show lately, you must be living under a rock because it has been taking off like wildfire. Originally starting out as The Great British Bake Off, it’s now has its own version in many countries all over the world.

It’s essentially a baking competition where amateur bakers throughout Great Britain come together to compete to win. There are three challenges every week centered on a specific topic: cakes, pastries, bread and etc.

The first challenge is the signature where the contestants bake something that “defines” them. It’s the bake that you would whip out to wow the family. The second is the technical, where the bakers are given the name of the dessert and a vague recipe. From there, they would have to tackle the challenge blindly. The judges come in after the bakes to see who wins. The last challenge is the showstopper where you pull out all the stops to make a magnificent centerpiece, that’s meant to wow the judges.

The show is hosted by Sue and Mel, who are an absolute riot with their commentary, puns and willingness to help out the contestants. Sue is also in Supersizers Go… so you can say that she has some prior knowledge of baking. Sorta.

The judges are Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I don’t care much about Paul. It’s all about Mary and her love of alcohol.

Mary is the sweet grandmotherly figure who bakes you cakes and then douses her slice with a shot of liquor.

In some episodes, you also get a small history lesson behind the specific baked goods, which is always interesting to learn.

The wonderful thing about The Great British Bake Off isn’t just about the brilliant bakes and wonderful frosting piping and sugar work-- it’s the camaraderie.

Growing up in America, I’ve become desensitized by all the backstabbing and screaming matches in our cooking competitions and reality television that I was genuinely surprised by how helpful everybody is in this show. The editors aren’t trying to pit everybody against each other or stir up any drama.

Rather than watching their competitor’s cakes collapse and cookies (pardon me, biscuits) crumble, they always lend a helping hand to their fellow baker.

The show is relaxing and oddly therapeutic with beautifully drawn representations of their baked creations. I may not be the one baking, but I do love seeing beautiful baked goods.

Common Themes: Soggy Bottoms. Boozy Bakes. Ice Cream FIASCO. Lion Bread. Double Entendres. Sue and Mel goofing around. Paul being Evil.

Cooking Dramas: A Piece of Pie

Shinya Shokudo (3 seasons + 1 movie & Korean adaptation)

There are many TV shows and dramas out there centered around food, but nothing captivated my attention more than Shinya Shokudo, or Midnight Diner in English.

Shinya Shokudo is a Japanese slice of life drama that revolves around this diner that's only opened from midnight to 7 AM. The owner will serve you anything you want provided that he can make it in his kitchen.

It originally started off as a Manga and was adapted to a drama that spanned three seasons, one movie, and a Korean adaptation.

Each episode is named after a certain dish in Japanese cuisine and sets the theme for the entire episode. An eclectic band of people frequents the diner and they set the scene for the stories. We have people from all walks of life: yakuza, stripper, single 30-somethings, fishermen, and etc. The list goes on and on...

There's humor, heart, drama and the series tackles daily issues outside of the typical plot lines we find on television.

I want to say the main protagonist is the diner itself and the mysterious chef/owner who serves the dishes. But even after three seasons, the audience doesn't know much about his background. Will we ever? Maybe we have to wait and see what happens in the manga.  

Interesting Fact: The Korean version features Minam from the idol group Winner.

History of Food: Redefining Drunk As a Skunk

Supersizers go…./Supersizers eat…

Dishes like spaghetti, hamburger, and the humble pie doesn't just come from nowhere. We can trace it's roots back to a certain period of time. So what's a better way to learn about the history of food than from a food critic and a comedian?

The Supersizers Go... and The Supersizers Eat... are British series that features Giles Coren (food critic) and Sue Perkins (comedian) as they “travel” back in time and experience how people lived back then and more importantly, how and what they ate back then.

The first season takes them through the: Wartime, Restoration, Victorian, 70s, Elizabethan, and Regency. The second season sees them going to the: 80s, Medieval, French Revolution, 20s, 50s, and Ancient Rome.

It's a week long adventure where they dress the part, eat the part, work and play the part, and see how that affects their health.

Some of the delicacies they served back then were positively repulsive by today's standards and often involved a lot of game as well as animal heads.

Keep in mind that it is a British show, so everything is taken from the British standpoint. They don't cover the 20s in the states or Wartime in America, but gives you a lot of background and history about what was happening in Great Britain during that time period.

What to Look Out for: A lot of alcohol. After all, water was not drinkable back then. Animal heads. Offal. Insects. Frogs. Wiggly gelatin. A lot of complaining from both Giles and Sue.

Guilty Pleasures: Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Diners, Drive Ins and Dives

Think of the worst, irresistible, gut-wrenching, heart attack inducing dishes and then dedicate an entire show to it.

That, my friend is Diners, Drive-in and Dives. Hosted by Guy Fieri, who isn't everybody's cup of tea, this show takes you around restaurants throughout the U.S. looking for the best--you guessed it--Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

I first got into this show when there was nothing else to watch on TV. So I randomly flipped to the Food Channel.

After that, I was hooked.

It was so mesmerizing just to watch a TV show about food, fully aware that you won't be eating it any time soon.

He covers burgers, sandwiches, pasta, American classics as well as fusion and ethnic cuisine and many many more. I feel like, the philosophy is: the more cheese, the better.

The format of the episode usually covers a specific theme or is tailored towards a particular state in the country. It would introduce the restaurant and then showcase its signature dish before bringing you into the kitchen to show how they make it.

What to Watch for: Guy Fieri's level of orange-ness. Food porn. Crazy words to explain the deliciousness of food.

What are your favorite food shows to watch? Would you be interested in more posts like this? Any shows that aren't featured, but you think that I should definitely check out?

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