10 Best TV Shows for Foodies And Cooking Enthusiasts

These 10 cooking shows are top-tier television for foodies and cooking enthusiasts.

By Robert Scucci | Updated

Whether you’re raiding the fridge for something sweet, or firing up the smoker for something savory, sometimes your love for the culinary arts transcends the kitchen or backyard and makes its way to your television set. But being a foodie doesn’t mean you have to be an expert knife smith or bust out the blowtorch to caramelize your tarts. Sometimes you just want to be entertained and educated as you watch seasoned pros (or highly competitive amateurs) dish out something delicious as you relax in your living room.

And that’s the purpose of this list. We’re here to clue you in to 10 amazing shows that will make your mouth water while you learn a thing or two about the restaurant business, and the hospitality that comes along with it. Though you may not want to watch these shows on an empty stomach, because these shows will certainly dial your appetite to 11.

10. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

If you ever find yourself curious about the cuisine and culture from far-off places, but you don’t have the means or desire to hop on an airplane and add stamps to your passport, then Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is right up your alley. This 12-season documentary series follows Anthony Bourdain on his trips to lesser-known regions of the world in an effort to not only learn about different world cultures but to also get to know the locals intimately. Though the settings and scenery drive the show, it’s Bourdain’s charismatic personality, humility, and willingness to be receptive to different cultures that make this multiple Emmy Award-winning series a must-watch.

Though Bourdain’s untimely passing in 2018 resulted in the series coming to an end, Parts Unknowns legacy will live on forever.

9. Cake Boss

TLC’s Cake Boss gives us a taste of something sweet. This reality series follows Buddy Valastro Jr. in his day-to-day operations of Carlo’s Bake Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey. If you’ve ever worked in food service, then you’d appreciate the insight into the operations of Carlo’s Bake Shop.

Not only does Buddy sometimes get bizarre requests for cakes resembling roulette tables, or zombies, but we’re clued in to how the staff of a bustling bakery gets through the day when the jobs become overwhelming. Sometimes tensions run high in the family-run business, but at the end of the day, everybody puts their differences aside and pools their resources together to make sure the job gets done.

8. The Pioneer Woman

Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman is based Ree Drummond’s blog of the same name, and truly highlights the spirit of cooking at home for your family and friends. Drummond’s personality is light and educational but never patronizing. The best way to describe The Pioneer Woman, which is often set at Drummond’s own ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is what it would be like if your favorite aunt came over just to chat and have some fun while cooking some of your favorite dishes.

And the foods that we see on The Pioneer Woman are classic American fare but with a twist. Some notable dishes include steak sandwiches, chile con queso, perfect pot roast, and even caramel brownies. So if you’re looking for some simple recipes that pack a lot of flavor, we strongly recommend that you take a page from Ree Drummond’s book, and binge-watch a couple hundred episodes of The Pioneer Woman.

7. Iron Chef America

Piggybacking off the massive success of Iron Chef, Iron Chef America is a competition show set in a kitchen stadium. The series pits challengers against Iron Chefs, who have either previously been personalities on the Food Network, or returning champions from the previous Japanese Iron Chef series. And the premise is simple: the chefs involved in the competition have 60 minutes to whip up five dishes based on a secret ingredient or ingredients, and commentary is provided by Alton Brown as if you were watching a sports match on ESPN.

Iron Chef America, just like its Japanese predecessor, is what we could consider to be a high-octane cooking show. While there are some cooking shows that you could sit back and relax while watching, and maybe learn a technique or two to apply to your own daily cooking routine, Iron Chef America would prove difficult to keep up with. The best way to watch this fast-paced free-for-all of calculated culinary chaos is to just sit back, and let it happen to you.

And you’ll be amazed at how quickly these chefs can think on their feet when they’re racing the clock to present their culinary creations to the chairman, who oversees the entire competition.

6. Chopped

Hosted by Ted Allen, Chopped is another Food Network show that has chefs racing the clock to compete for a cash prize. At first glance, the series is similar to Iron Chef America, but there are a number of notable differences. Chopped places four chefs against each other, and they’re tasked with coming up with meals over the “course” of three rounds: appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

At the beginning of each round, each contestant is provided with a basket containing four mystery ingredients (that often don’t go together), and they have to use these ingredients in their culinary creations. But it’s worth noting that the contestants have access to pretty much every kind of specialized chef equipment, as well as a pantry full of every conceivable ingredient they may need. As each round concludes, the chef with the least favorable dish, according to the judges, is eliminated, or “chopped.”

5. Hell’s Kitchen

Continuing with the spirit of lively competition, Hell’s Kitchen is a competition that boasts a progressive elimination format. Starring Gordon Ramsay, each season starts with 20 aspiring chefs, which quickly gets pared down to 12. From this point on, two teams of six are tasked with a challenge and a dinner service. At the end of each episode, a chef is eliminated until we’re down to our final group of six, who then compete against each other on the challenges, and work together during the dinner services.

Challenges on Hell’s Kitchen include recreating complex dishes after a quick blind taste test. The dinner services involve the teams working together on the kitchen line for up to 100 guests, and they’re expected to belt out a high volume of appetizers, entrées, and desserts while also maintaining a high quality of taste, presentation, and coordination under Ramsay’s supervision.

And the stakes are quite high. The winning chef lands an opportunity to be a head chef at a restaurant of Ramsay’s choosing, as well as a $250,000 cash prize.

4. The Great British Baking Show

The Great British Baking Show pits a group of amateur bakers against one another in the form of three separate challenges: the signature challenge, the technical challenge, and the showstopper challenge based on that week’s theme (cakes, biscuits, puddings, etc.)

The signature challenge allows the amateur bakers to show off their own tried and true signature baked good. The technical challenge requires each amateur to be able to present their technical knowledge by preparing a finished product with limited instructions. In this case, each baker is given the same recipe, and they are not told what the challenge will be ahead of time.

The showstopper challenge allows the bakers to show off their prowess by baking something that not only tastes great and looks amazing, but also boasts technical mastery, and each baker’s own artistic flare. The final week of each season declares a winner, who receives a cake stand trophy, a bunch of flowers, and in some cases, the chance of a recipe book deal.

3. Chef’s Table

Stepping away from the world of competitive cooking, Netflix’s Chef’s Table is a documentary series that dives into the world of successful, world-renowned chefs. Each episode of Chef’s Table highlights the career, approach to cooking, and personal philosophy of a different chef, and gives the viewer insight into what makes the different chefs tick.

Shot in a more traditional format rather than a reality TV format, Chef’s Table allows us to see food as an art form and an extension of each chef’s personality. From BBQ to pizza to pastries, we can watch in awe as master chefs show us true devotion to their craft, and how they inject so much of their life and personality into the food that they are so passionate about.

2. MasterChef

Based on the British BBC series of the same name, MasterChef is an American cooking competition series that puts amateur and home chefs against each other to win the title of “MasterChef,” and take home a cash prize of $250,000.

Though the format of MasterChef has had slight variations over its 12-season run, there are five regularly occurring challenges: a skill test, a mystery box, an elimination test, a team challenge, and a pressure test. The mystery box test boasts a similar reveal to what you’d see in Chopped, and the team challenge involves contestants taking the place of a particular restaurant’s staff, to see if they can work together to keep the operation running smoothly.

The competition takes place on a sound stage and is equipped similarly to shows like Iron Chef, and Chopped, in that contestants have access to a well-stocked pantry, all the cooking equipment that they could possibly need, and a freezer/fridge area.

Once the competition is down to two or three competitors, they will compete against one another in a three-course cook-off, judged by Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sánchez, and Joe Bastianich. It is at this point that an overall winner is crowned MasterChef.

1. Top Chef

Top Chef has a similar progressive elimination format to Hell’s Kitchen, starting with 12 to 19 professional chefs, and whittled down to the finalists as the season progresses. But Top Chef takes a page from MTV‘s Real World playbook, in the sense that contestants live together in an apartment or house provided by the studio, with limited communication to the outside world while the show is in production. Each season of Top Chef is set in the host’s home city or state, and the theme of each season is often inspired by the local cuisine

Each episode has a Quickfire Challenge and an Elimination Challenge with their own set of rules. And after all is said and done, the winner takes home a cash prize of $250,000 (as of Season 17).

The Quickfire Challenge is an hour-long (or shorter) cook-off in which contestants are required to quickly put a concept together. Some notable Quickfire Challenges include asking teams of three to create an amuse bouche (small, savory appetizer) using RITZ Crackers as the base.

The Elimination Challenge requires chefs to make one, or several dishes. Certain challenges allow chefs to pick their own ingredients within a certain budget, but some challenges require chefs to limit the number of ingredients used or require them to use the ingredients provided.

There is a lot at stake on Bravo’s Top Chef, and clearly, it’s compelling television, considering that the show is still going strong after 20 seasons.