Considering I spend a large portion of my life thinking about food and watching TV shows, TV shows about food are basically the best thing ever. Why anyone wouldn't want to spend their evenings watching a bunch of baking Brits in a tent, or ogling a dude in Texas shoving a 72 ounce steak down his gullet is totally beyond me.
However, if you're new to salivating over unreachable deliciousness, here's a (by no means definitive) guide to some of the best food TV shows on the box.
1. The Great British Bake Off
On the surface, The Great British Bake Off is the epitome of quintessential Britishness, largely because it features a bunch of Brits jamming scones in a marquee. Presenting countless treats to a pair of charming judges named Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, whose dress game is as good as their distaste for a biscuit's "soggy bottom," TGBBO may seem all quaint and lovely but really it's as stressful as TV food shows come; will this set, will that rise, will someone throw a huge fit and chuck a cake in the bin? Nobody knows, and that's what makes this show so goddamn spiffing.
2. The Rachael Ray Show
Other than the fact that this woman adds cheese to literally everything (which already makes her a goddess in my book), The Rachel Ray Show is basically a lifestyle TV show that puts food at the forefront — where it should be. Talking everything from sports to makeovers, this woman covers all the basics while whipping up everything from PB&J cookies to Thai Beef, with help from various celebrity guests.
3. Nigella Kitchen
British chef Nigella Lawson has a bunch of different TV shows surrounding her fun approach to food — Nigella Feasts, Forever Summer with Nigella, Nigellisima and Simply Nigella, to name but a few. This woman has built an empire on her scrumptious, easy-to-cook attitude that is all about enjoying yourself in the kitchen; something she may take a little too literally from time to time, but — let's be honest — that's why we're watching anyway ;)
4. Chef's Table
American documentary series Chef's Table is a worldwide food journey championing the globe's best chefs and their restaurants within each 50 minute episode. From Dan Barber's Blue Hill Restaurant in NYC to Gaggan Anand's Gaggan in Bangkok, not only is this food centric TV show a total feast for the eyes, but it also gives great insight into the minds of the visionary masters who're currently transforming the food industry one conceptual dinner at a time.
5. Cake Boss
Why anyone wouldn't want to watch food TV shows about a dude spending his days making fucking giant edible art cakes is completely beyond me, but then, this world is a confusing place. Cake Boss follows the daily operations of Carlo's Bake Shop and the mind-boggling creations they whip up on the regular. New York Cityscapes to giant Transformers, there's no cake these guys cannot conquer.
7. Top Chef
Food TV gets serious with reality competition show Top Chef, where the creme de la creme of aspiring chefs battle it out in numerous culinary challenges and present their goods to a panel of industry experts. And, despite the fact you can barely rustle up an egg without something, somewhere, exploding, you still find yourself sitting at home, take-out on lap, judging the hell out of them too.
8. MasterChef Junior
Similarly to Top Chef, MasterChef Junior is a stress-filled competition show brimming with delicious snacks, cat fights and abnormally talented cooks. What makes this food TV series way more addictive and equally harder to stomach, though, is that its contestants are between 8 and 13 years old.
It's honestly disturbing and, I'll be honest, a little disheartening to see how well these small creatures can cook, but boy does it make for good TV.
9. Man v. Food
Where? Travel Channel
You may need to unbutton your pants or, hell, take them off altogether to sit through this absolute beast of a show. Man v. Food is just as glutinous as it sounds and, as you follow Adam Richman around America, one city at a time, you'll witness him munching his way through an unholy amount of food before taking on a pre-existing eating challenge at one of many local eateries.
It should make you sick, but mostly it'll just make you hungry for more.
10. Hell's Kitchen
If you like your food TV rolled and coated in F-bombs, then potty-mouthed British chef Gordon Ramsey has cooked up a show that'll really tickle your tastebuds. Another fight-to-the-death style cook off, Hell's Kitchen US follows the same format as its English OG and packs multiple challenges into its 45-minute time slot — including mind the boggling "taste it, make it" test in which the chefs are able to recreate a dish Ramsay has whipped up earlier just by having a little sample. Madness.
11. Come Dine With Me
Where? BBC America
What started as a British baby is now broadcast around the world, and why wouldn't it be with such a crackin' and simple concept? In a nutshell, a group of 4–5 participants must host a three course dinner party at their homes, one person per day, for one week. At the end of every dinner, the participants give the evening a score out of 10 and the votes are collated at the end of the week.
The winner gets a bunch of $$$ and a massive pat on the back for sitting through what is usually an insane week of awkward entertainment, weird food and general bitchiness — all of which are enhanced by a brilliantly sarcastic narrator.
12. Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern
Where? Travel Channel
A series with a difference — Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern kicked off as a one-hour long documentary and now takes you on a weekly culinary adventure around the world. The show travels with the aim to tackle prejudices about native dishes generally perceived as gross AF across America, with Zimmern chowing down on regional dishes such as Betute Tugak — stuffed frog with pork — from the Philippines for example, or black sea urchins in Greece.
All these food TV shows are as educational as they are bizarre. Now get inspired and start cooking!