The top reality television news of the month is certainly the return of Top Chef. While the new season of the cooking competition series has set food fans abuzz, it is hard to shake the feeling that it is yet another culinary series that has been wholly co-opted by the competitive nature of television. Many executives seem to think that competition series are the only way forward on Food Network and other similar entities.
Fortunately, the history of food on the small screen is one that also welcomes decidedly non-competitive affairs. From shows that teach about cooking directly to those that do it in a more palatable manner, there is always something to devour when chefs and bakers squaring off isn’t what you are in the mood for.
10 The Chef Show (Netflix)
First up, on Netflix, Jon Favreau parlayed the excellent comfort food movie Chef into a series entitled The Chef Show. It’s a great way to explore some of the more down-home, delicious cooking that make Chef viewers so hungry.
The Chef Show is also great for celebrity appearances, as it was on this program where Gwyneth Paltrow revealed she had no idea she was in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The things learned in the kitchen are boundless!
9 Holidays At Walt Disney World Resort (Food Network)
It’d be a mistake to mention stellar cooking shows on television without exploring how those practices can trickle over to holiday fare and the Disney World theme parks. Holidays at Walt Disney World Resort on the Food Network takes viewers deep into the treats whipped up by the Orlando culinary team.
From the park-wide treats at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party to a massive gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian, there’s always something sweet to snack on. This television event explores all the hard work in a delightful fashion.
8 The French Chef (Tubi TV)
It would be a mistake to discuss the best of non-competitive cooking shows without mentioning Julia Child, one of the pioneers of the genre on the small screen. Her top show was The French Chef, which aired over two hundred episodes from 1963 to 1973.
Because it was essentially a public access show that hit it big, The French Chef isn’t the most modern or accessible series. But thanks to the PBS-centric streamers, it’s still available and out there for glorious viewings.
7 Chef’s Table (Netflix)
Chef’s Table is one of the longest-running Netflix series. The food documentary from the director of Jiro Dreams of Sushi began in 2015 and is still finding new territory to explore.
Chef’s Table takes hungry viewers all throughout the world to explore some of the most personal cooks working today. It’s an enchanting, detailed series that celebrates the craft of what has become a truly beloved art form.
6 Bizarre Foods (Travel Channel)
Venturing over to the Travel Channel, Bizarre Foods explores how different cultures embrace unexpected meals and delicacies. It helps to show a different side of cooking beyond the same foundation of meals that drive most mainstream restaurants and kitchens.
Host Andrew Zimmern always brings a nuanced, adventurous perspective to some of these foods. His pleasant demeanor helps prevent the cooking from sliding into Fear Factor territory, too.
5 Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives (Hulu)
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, on the other hand, is still ongoing on the Food Network. Begun in 2007 by Guy Fieri, the series has helped lend credence in the mainstream food culture to some eateries that might be looked down upon by some more snobbish critics.
Not Fieri, though. He’s always down to chow down and meet some new friends along the way. Not only is the series a fun, harmless hang, but it’s also a great way for local spots across North America to generate more buzz.
4 Amazing Eats (FuboTV)
There’s a little bit of competition to Man Vs Food, but two-thirds of the classic Travel Channel series hosted by Adam Richman centered on him exploring the city he traveled to and the best spots to eat near his food challenge.
Amazing Eats was a stellar follow-up that condensed those first segments and eschewed the challenges. Richman is a journeyman food television host, but he was always at his best when he was just exploring a city’s hidden gems.
3 Phantom Gourmet
Phantom Gourmet is a cooking/food series situated specifically in the New England region, but it feels so personable and authentic that it could easily go national if it wanted to. But host Dan Andelman is undeniably content to continue eating his way through Boston, Portland, Worcester, and more cities in the northeast.
It’s a great combination of showing how food is made, reviewing food, and just discussing what a great meal can mean to a person. There’s nothing better than waking up in the late morning on a weekend with a crisp, new Phantom Gourmet to tune into.
2 No Reservations (Hulu)
One of the best television hosts in the history of the food genre was Anthony Bourdain. He hosted two major series, No Reservations and Parts Unknown, but it’s the former that celebrated all the various outlets for food that exist in the world.
All Bourdain ever wanted was a good meal, a good chat, and a good memory. The cultures he visited never failed to deliver on these elements, but it was Bourdain’s magical touch that made No Reservations one of the best food shows in recent memory.
1 Ugly Delicious (Netflix)
Returning to Netflix for the last entry on the list, Ugly Delicious is a cooking show that ignores competition altogether and instead celebrates the culture and history of specific dishes. What sets it apart, though, is the personality of host David Chang.
The genius behind Momofuku, Chang has become one of the pre-eminent figures of food in the world today and Ugly Delicious helped to permanently cement him into that spot. Hopefully, a third season will be on the way soon.
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