When I first got Tivo a couple of years ago, I was so excited to record all the food shows I had heard about and had been missing. Some of them I watched a few times, found to be annoying, and stopped watching pretty quickly (Rachael Ray tops that list).
I watched a lot of “how-to” programs but eventually grew tired of those, too. I know that the TV Food Network is criticized for moving away from the “how-to” format, but I can understand it. You can only watch so much of that and then it becomes boring. I do record “The Hearty Boys,” “Barefoot Contessa,” “Good Eats,” and “Tyler’s Ultimate.” If they are making something that interests me, I’ll watch. Otherwise I delete it without watching.
I thought I’d name the best, but I ended up with my top 5. Here they are:
1. Top Chef (Bravo) – Thanks to Tivo, I don’t usually pay attention to when shows are on. But I always know when Top Chef is on, and I watch it that night (I start watching at least 30 minutes after it starts so I don’t have to watch the commercials). This show brings together a bunch of (mostly) professional chefs, each having distinct personalities and backgrounds. A competitor is eliminated each week and the winner receives $100K. They are given challenges that I would not be able to complete in my wildest dreams – like, create an amuse bouche with items from vending machines in a half hour. I LOVE this show.
2. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Travel Channel) – When I first saw this show, I thought it was a travel show that also featured Anthony Bourdain eating really gross stuff. Either I was wrong or the show has changed. Yes, the show is about travel and food, and Bourdain does have a very adventurous palate, but the show really puts food into a cultural and/or political context. And he picks places you wouldn’t expect from a travel show. It’s interesting, funny, and intelligent. Anthony Bourdain in Beirut, an offshoot of the show, chronicles him and his crew getting stranded in Beirut as it was attacked by Israel. It had me biting my nails. Catch a rerun if you can.
3. Iron Chef America (TV Food Network) – I know the format of the show is getting a bit tired, but I’m still amazed by what these people can pull off in an hour. I never miss an episode.
4. The Next TV Food Network Star (TV Food Network) – This is kind of like Top Chef, but the whole process is nicer -- the competitors are likeable, the judges not as blunt, and the challenges not as impossible. The title of the show is misleading, though, because they winners get an obscure time slot and (I’m surmising) a very low production budget, because the production values of the winners’ shows are shockingly bad. (“The Hearty Boys” vastly improved in its second season. Maybe it’s a sink or swim situation – if they get viewers, they get a better time slot and production budget.)
5. Take Home Chef (TLC) – My friend, Marie, turned me on to this one. A cute Aussie chef named Curtis Stone picks up a buxom woman at the supermarket, goes home with her, and fixes a meal to surprise someone. Flirting and double entendres fly. What does he cook? I don’t really remember. Can’t say I’ve gotten a single recipe from the show. I watch it because Curtis is cute and I like his accent. (My favorite scene is where he rips off his chef’s coat to reveal his tight-fitting tee shirt.) Tom watches it because he always picks up babes. What more can you ask for in TV?
What are your favorite food shows?