Man cook holds a pan with vegetables flying in the air

Do you watch food, cooking, or restaurant shows on TV?

February 20, 2018
  • Often
  • Sometimes
  • Never

That’s the million-dollar question we’re digging into today. Whether you’re a culinary lover or someone who microwaves ramen while scrolling through Seepolls, the food TV spectrum has something for everyone—or does it?

Watching Often

Let’s start with the serial watchers, the die-hard fans who’d rather watch Gordon Ramsay yell, “It’s raw!” than anything else. Why is food television such a big part of your life?

Firstly, the sensory experience is captivating. Close-up shots of sizzling pans, the chiffonade of basil, and the caramelization of a crème brûlée top are the next best thing to cooking. Moreover, there’s a level of excitement and suspense that’s addictive. Whether it’s competitive cooking shows or restaurant revamps, each episode promises a whole arc of highs and lows, perfect for binge-watching.

Not to forget, food TV often serves as an educational platform. Julia Child once said, “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces—just good food from fresh ingredients.” It’s like having a cooking class in your living room sans the stress of immediate failure or the need to clean up your mess.

Curious Facts:

  • Did you know that the Food Network launched in 1993 and now reaches over 100 million U.S. households? Talk about being popular!
  • The show “Chopped” has filmed over 45 seasons! That’s a lotta chopped onions, eh?

The Sometimes Squad

On the flip side, we have the “Sometimes Squad”—those who occasionally flip to a cooking show while channel-surfing. You’re not married to the idea, but you won’t say no to a date with Ina Garten every now and then.

Why the lukewarm commitment? A common reason is the variety (or lack thereof) that food TV offers. While there are countless sub-genres, from travel-based food shows to hyper-specific cooking competitions, it can often feel like the same recipe, just reheated. You might love watching a pizza get made from scratch, but after the 10th pizza, you’re craving something else—like maybe a documentary on space exploration.

However, even casual viewers admit to enjoying the ‘spectacle’ aspect of these shows. As Anthony Bourdain put it, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma.” It’s a cultural extravaganza, a journey to foreign lands and cuisines, right from your couch.

Curious Facts:

  • In 2019, cooking shows made up 12% of all programming across streaming and cable platforms.
  • 30% of Americans say they’ve tried to cook a dish they saw on a food show. Success rate? That’s another poll question.

Team Never

Why would anyone give food TV the cold shoulder? Isn’t it universally delightful?

Surprisingly, some people find food television absolutely unappetizing. For some, it’s the dramatization that gets their goat. These shows can sometimes put drama and suspense over the actual cooking, which can be a major turn-off for those looking for genuine culinary insights.

Then some find it too passive. Some people prefer getting their hands dirty—literally—by cooking or dining out, rather than watching someone else have all the fun.

Lastly, the lack of personal relatability can be a factor. Maybe you’re vegan and tired of all the meat-centric shows, or perhaps you can’t afford the gourmet ingredients used in most recipes.

Curious Facts:

  • An estimated 22% of people have never watched a food-related show on TV—yes, not even a sneak peek at the “Great British Bake Off.”
  • Did you know that some people watch food shows to curb their food cravings? Yep, it’s a real strategy, albeit one that’s still being debated.

Some delicious shows

Here are five popular food, cooking, or restaurant shows that have garnered a large following in the United States:

  • “Top Chef”
    A reality competition show that airs on Bravo, “Top Chef” pits professional chefs against each other in a series of culinary challenges. The show has become incredibly popular since its debut in 2006 and has even spawned several spin-offs.
  • “Chopped”
    This Food Network staple features four chefs competing in a three-round contest, where they must create dishes using a basket of mystery ingredients. The least successful dish results in its creator being “chopped” from the competition. The show first aired in 2009 and has become a staple of food television.
  • “Hell’s Kitchen”
    Hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, “Hell’s Kitchen” is a reality cooking show where aspiring chefs compete for a job at one of Ramsay’s restaurants. Known for its dramatic flair and Ramsay’s tough love approach, the show has been a significant hit since its U.S. debut in 2005.
  • “The Great British Bake Off” (known as “The Great British Baking Show” in the U.S.)
    Though it originated in the UK, this show has found massive popularity in the United States, largely thanks to its availability on streaming services like Netflix. It features amateur bakers competing in a series of rounds, with one contestant eliminated each week.
  • “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”
    Hosted by Guy Fieri, this Food Network show takes viewers on a cross-country road trip to explore America’s most unique and tasty eateries. Though it focuses more on restaurant visits than actual cooking, the show has been a massive hit since it premiered in 2007.

These shows cover a range of styles, from competitive cooking to restaurant exploration, and they each have their own dedicated fan base. Whether you’re looking for culinary inspiration, entertainment, or a bit of both, these shows have you covered.

Is America’s relationship with food TV just a ‘flavor of the month,’ or are we talking long-term commitment here? While viewer preferences may be as varied as a spice rack, the sheer diversity and pervasiveness of food, cooking, and restaurant shows suggest that this is one genre that won’t be getting chopped anytime soon.

Whether you watch these shows often, sometimes, or never, your choice tells a tale of its own. Just as food is more than mere sustenance, food TV offers more than just recipes—it serves comfort, culture, and maybe a side of drama.

As Rachael Ray eloquently said, “Food is a way of communicating, of saying something about yourself, your history, and your culture.” Whether you love, like, or leave it, food television speaks to the American soul in a language that’s as complex, diverse, and delightful as the country itself.

So, where do you fit in this gastronomic tapestry? Are you the perpetual viewer, the occasional indulger, or the eternal skeptic? Choose your side, and let the culinary games begin!

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