Our 10 Best: Food-Themed Television Shows


A few afternoons ago I had the pleasure of hearing Jacques Pepin discourse on his friendship with Julia Child, whom he met in 1960. He recalled their opportunity to work together on a show called Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home, created in 1999 in Boston and featuring both of them in the kitchen simultaneously, dancing around each other like praying mantises.

Pepin noted that the show was produced on a shoe string, and the two chefs were responsible for buying the ingredients the previous day. “Sometimes we forgot things, and had to improvise,” the revered chef and early advocate for American gastronomy noted, as he whipped up a batch of crepes in front on an adoring audience. “We had 29 minutes to make beef Wellington, and things would go wrong. I remember furiously trying to revive a puff pastry behind her, as she explained some other cooking step standing in front of me.”

How far cooking shows have come from those days! It strikes me that Julia & Jacques was a much better show in a reality TV vein than many that are produced today, with strong elements of creativity and spontaneity built in, while reality TV shows have become stage-managed confections where star power, hairdos, and picturesque culinary novelty are more in evidence than good cooking. Still, no one can argue with the fact that today’s crop of food-themed reality TV shows have had the capacity to inspire us not only to enjoy what we eat, but also to encourage us to take a more active role in sourcing and preparing food. Following, find our rankings of the 10 best food-themed shows, and 15 runners-up.

>Why is this man having the last laugh about Our 10 Best Food-Themed Television Shows?

Julia Child wails on the Fork in the Road awards…

Our 10 Best Food-Themed Television Shows

1. The French Chef, Julia Child, 1962
2. Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen, Lidia Bastianich, 1998
3. The Complete Pepin, Jacques Pepin, 1997
4. Posh Nosh, Simon and Minty Marchmont, 2003
5. The Galloping Gourmet, Graham Kerr, 1969
6. Louisiana Cookin’, Justin Wilson, 1982
7. Top Chef, Ensemble cast, 2006
8. No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain, 2005
9. Food Party, Thu Tran, 2009
10. New Scandinavian Cooking, Andreas Viestad and Tina Nordstrom, 2003

Runners-up: Ryori No Tetsujin (Iron Chef Japan), Ensemble cast, 1993; Molto Mario, Mario Batali, 1997; Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavors of India, Madhur Joffrey, 1995; Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay, 2004; Emeril Live, Emeril Lagasse, 1987; Diary of a Foodie, Gourmet magazine, 2007; Great Chefs of the World, Ensemble cast, 1982; Mexico: One Plate at a Time, Rick Bayless, 2003; Joyce Chen Cooks, Joyce Chen, 1964; The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith, 1983; Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Ted Allen, 2003; Fawlty Towers, John Cleese, et. al., 1975; Made in Spain, Jose Andres, 2008; Alice, Linda Lavin, 1976; Iron Chef America, Ensemble cast, 2004.

Please let us know if your favorite shows are not included on the list.

Answer to teaser question on previous page: The picture is of humorist and trailblazing TV chef Justin Wilson.

While James Beard gets totally shut out!