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Reviews: Summer Viewing List – The Food Shows

by Mike Lunsford, Editor

An interesting thing happened in our society in the last decade or so. Chefs, cooks, bakers, and other culinary artists have become more than just famous for their cooking. They have their own TV shows, they attend red carpet events, they pop up on other television shows they are much more a part of the pop culture world than they were than last century.

With that being said, those celebrities involved in some form of the food service industry have gotten their shows onto streaming services such as Netflix. Sometimes you want a break from dramatic reveals, super hero fights, and prison shenanigans. Maybe you just want to watch someone eat some awesome food in exotic locales. Perhaps you’re looking for amateur bakers to make incredible confectionery artwork. Maybe you want to see a legend doing what brought them to stardom. Well readers, you’ve come to the right place. These are the best of the TV Food shows out there.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
 

Anthony Bourdain is the punk rock god of an otherwise overly homogenized Food TV host world. He’s opinionated, he’s funny, he’s angry, he loves amazing food, he doesn’t give a crap about popular opinion and is unafraid to call out those he finds vile. More importantly, the guy actually gives a damn about his fellow man, which doesn’t come through in many of his contemporaries’ shows.

His current project, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is more than the simple “here’s tasty food and where you can eat it.” Bourdain takes a simple concept of finding great food all over the world and turns it into a master’s class in history, geography and social commentary. You learn about culture, religion, and current events all while seeing Bourdain crush meal after meal of awe-inspiring food. On top of that, he makes a point of showing you why the place he’s visiting matters. He shines a light on places that other travel hosts would brush aside. And it’s damn entertaining. Not only does he travel the world in his adventures, he goes to places you wouldn’t expect. This isn’t only the “safe” places. He goes to some locales that few others would. It shows that he cares about more than just food and fame. 

You can view all seasons of the CNN series on Netflix. Do yourself a favor and start watching. It’s not just the best food show on TV right now, it’s one of the best shows period. 

Rating: ★★★★★

ComicsOnline gives Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown 5 bad-ass celebrity chefs out of 5. 

 

The Great British Baking Show

When cooking shows were first becoming something to notice, it was PBS who cornered the market. With legends such as Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and Martin Yan (“if Yan can cook, so can you!”) they were the place to go if you wanted to learn how to cook from the pros. In the 21st century, PBS (in conjunction with BBC) has found the same heart with one of their more popular series called The Great British Baking Show

Do you know the difference between an American cooking show and The Great British Baking Show? Drama. Food Network and the others who air cooking related shows made sure they pumped their shows full of reality-show-grade nonsense and dramatics. Now, before I bash the medium, the Alton Brown hosted Cutthroat Kitchen is incredible as it’s almost a knowing nod to how ridiculous the manufactured drama can be. Plus, Alton Brown can do no wrong in my book. Good Eats for life, Alton. 

The Great British Baking Show is a contest of the best bakers in the United Kingdom. They use skills and possess a knowledge of desserts that is truly impressive. The only drama is who will come up with the best piece. The contestants grow to be friends with each other, often times helping their comrades, a sight not often seen across the pond on reality television. Maybe it’s because the shows distributors (PBS and BBC) have a reputation of high class, but the show espouses a level of compassion not seen elsewhere. And as far as incredible feats of culinary artwork, this show is unsurpassed. 

Paul made a lion…out of different types of breads. FROM SCRATCH!!! Or you could watch someone eat a big sandwich. I guess to each their own. 

The Great British Baking Show is a welcome change of pace. There are no shouting matches, no “you stabbed me in the back!!” moments, no cat fights. It is simply people baking their arses off. All of the food looks amazing and you will hear about deserts that you didn’t even know were in existence. It’s soothing to watch and listen to as judges Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are perfect examples of the stereotypical “British manners.” Berry and Hollywood never yell at contestants or insult them, and they definitely don’t go Gordon Ramsey on them and curse. It’s a civility at it’s best in an often uncivil cooking competition world. 

Rating: ★★★★★

ComicsOnline gives The Great British Baking Show 5 delicious confections out of 5. 

 

Good Eats

I professed my adoration for Alton Brown earlier in this article. He was the first host of a cooking show that I made a point to religiously watch. I’ve used techniques he’s taught on his show, Good Eats on multiple occasions. Not only are his recipes delicious, he presents them in a way that is both educational and entertaining. 

Why am I bringing up Good Eats when the show hasn’t had a new episode since 2011? Other than the fact that you can watch the entire catalog of episodes on foodnetwork.com, Alton Brown himself teased a new project, one that he has been hinting at since last fall. 

If you’re not a Good Eats fan like myself, all those props were used extensively on the show. I legitimately jumped out of my seat when I saw this tweet. So, if you’re unfamiliar with the show, let me give you the run down. Imagine an episode of any regular cooking show but it’s taught by a genetic mutation of Bill Nye the Science Guy, Robin Williams, and the Muppets show up too. Good Eats combines a history lesson on the food de jour, it shows you how to properly cook it, what instruments to use and why, all while presenting it in a unique and interesting way. There are characters who show up such as Alton’s picky-eater nephew, government officials, southern-fried gentlemen, and even his own grandmother makes a guest spot or two. 

puppets, not his grandmother

Alton Brown, along with Emeril, Rachel Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, and Paula Deen were the Fab Five of Hosts on The Food Network in the early 2000’s. They led the fledgling channel to levels that no one ever thought a channel about food and cooking could go. If you’ve never watched Good Eats, you are doing yourself a disservice. To this day, it is still the most creative and entertaining show involving cooking. You can catch old episodes on foodnetwork.com or in re-runs on the Cooking Channel. 

[rating 5/5] 

ComicsOnline gives Good Eats 5 mad food-scientists out of 5. 

There you have, folks. If you like cooking shows, these are the cream of the crop. Stay tuned for next week’s article about classic television revisited on Netflix. 

 

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About Mike Lunsford

Mike is an editor at ComicsOnline and a co-host on the ComicsOnline podcast. He's from the DC area in Virginia. He's also the co-creator of the comic book, Ethan Stone P.I.

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