Food shows have become one of TV̵
If a true chef can make a great dish from all ingredients, then Minced meat is proof of that. Each episode features chefs competing to create the best dishes from a selection of ingredients that don’t seem to match. As unlikely as the elements are, these chefs come up with brilliant, delicious combinations to wow the judges. It’s exciting to see all that ingenuity put together in timed bursts of energy, even when the results sometimes don’t live up to the effort put into it.
Seasons 26-41 of Minced meat streaming on Hulu ($ 5.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial).
Dinners, drive-ins and dives
Guy Fieri’s larger-than-life persona began with this road trip series, in which the bleached blonde mayor of Flavortown travels to various greasy spoons in the United States (and later to other parts of the world). Fieri discovers the unique dishes made in restaurants that are usually rejected by gourmets, highlighting small, often family-owned businesses in every city he visits. The episodes offer a slice of classic American culture in addition to their comfort food portions.
Seasons 1-38 of Dinners, drive-ins and dives stream on Discovery + ($ 4.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial), and stream seasons 25-29 on Hulu ($ 5.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial).
The French Chef
All cooking shows in America owe their existence largely to this long-running PBS series, hosted by culinary legend Julia Child. Based on the children’s book Mastering the art of French cuisine, the show features the charming chef working his way through various recipes, all of which are done without any retry or room for error. In the 1960s and 1970s, Child brought gourmet cooking into average homes and made it accessible. In the process, she defined a chef’s pop culture conception for decades to come.
Five seasons of The French Chef stream for free with ads on Pluto TV, the Roku Channel and Tubi.
With his crazy, affable personality and his nerdy approach to the technicalities of food preparation, Alton Brown falls somewhere between a TV chef and a mad scientist. His show is one of the longest-running programs in Food Network history, making him one of the channel’s first superstars. Brown has since diversified into multiple different shows (including a revival of Good food), but his original home is still his best showcase.
Seasons 1-16 of Good food stream on Discovery + ($ 4.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial).
The Great British Baking Show
Viewers looking for a softer reality competition show can check out this UK import, where skilled bakers compete against each other in a series of challenges in front of a panel of judges. The format is similar to many other food competition shows, but it is the attitude of positivity and camaraderie, illustrated in a particularly British way, that has made this show an international sensation. Participants are determined to win, but they are also committed to an atmosphere of encouragement and enthusiasm.
Seasons 1-8 of The Great British Baking Show stream on Netflix ($ 8.99 + per month), and stream seasons 1-5 for free through many local libraries on Hoopla.
Gordon Ramsay is very good at yelling at people, but there’s more to this show than just Ramsay’s angry rants. The superstar chef oversees a fierce competition to win a spot as chef of a major restaurant with Ramsay’s approval. It’s an intense, sometimes grueling process for the participants, but that trial by fire produces amazing results. Ramsay may be demanding, but he knows exactly what makes for great food – and great TV.
Seasons 1-18 from Hell’s Kitchen stream for free with ads on Crackle, Peacock, Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, Tubi and Vudu. Season 1 and seasons 10-19 will be streamed on Hulu ($ 5.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial).
Iron Chef America
The original Japanese version of Iron boss introduced American audiences to the kind of bombastic cooking competition show that would later become ubiquitous. This American remake maintains the spirit of the original, with veteran chefs entering Kitchen Stadium to compete against the culinary masters known as Iron Chefs. It’s a combination cooking show and professional wrestling showcasing the great personalities of chefs alongside their culinary skills.
Iron Chef America seasons 1-13 will be streamed on Discovery + ($ 4.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial).
Sometimes the most entertaining thing to watch in a food show is the person making the food and getting everything all wrong. That’s the premise of this delightfully wacky series, in which participants with little to no baking skills attempt to recreate the kind of elaborate treats produced by the highest level baking geniuses. The contestants are destined to fail, but their disastrous results are hilarious to watch, and the show has a benign tone of encouragement to anyone hopeless in the kitchen.
Seasons 1-4 of Success! stream on Netflix ($ 8.99 + per month).
The late Anthony Bourdain became a cultural ambassador with this combination of food and travel. Bourdain travels the world sampling local cuisine and highlighting places and people typical tourists would never encounter. Bourdain’s open mind and rude demeanor endears him to virtually everyone he meets, and he pierces the pretense of many travel show hosts. Bourdain makes finding a place to eat in an unknown location a great adventure.
Seasons 1-8 of No reservations stream on Discovery + ($ 4.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial). Stream two seasons on Hulu ($ 5.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial) and stream five seasons for free with ads on Pluto TV.
One of the first reality competitions to demonstrate the actual marketable skills of its participants, Top chef is more than just a competition to win different cooking challenges. It’s a reliable way for experienced chefs to make their mark, leading to high profile gigs and even their own restaurants. A lot of real top chefs got to work Top chefIt’s also an entertaining take on how people deal with pressure, with lots of interpersonal drama, plus amusing removals from the panel of expert judges.
Seasons 1-17 of Top chef streaming on Hulu ($ 5.99 + per month after a seven-day free trial) and Peacock ($ 4.99 + per month).