Philip Harben was the world’s first TV celebrity chef. When television was black-and-white, Harben dominated the screen with “Cookery.” From 1946 to 1951, he proudly wore his classic striped apron. The debut was the preparation of lobster volsau-vents.
Harben began his cooking career in the kitchen of the Isobar restaurant located in Hampstead, London. He went forward to enlist in the Royal Air Force and eventually worked for the Army Catering Corps. It wasn’t until 1942 that Philip Harben started working in cooking media. He was only a compere for a wireless BBC cooking program at that point. It led to something much better.
“Cookery” was the first cooking show to air on television. June 12, 1946, was the day everything changed for the world of cooking. A show finally existed that demonstrated the preparation instead of the limitations that radio cooking shows offered. The ability to view someone cooking was revolutionary. Even if it was only 10 minutes.
It debuted just after World War II had ended. The deadliest conflict in human history was over, but the world was still trying to recover. Damage. Loss. Rations. You would think this was the wrong time for a cooking show. It was entirely the opposite. Something unifying is exactly what was needed. Harben even used his own rations as ingredients on the show.
He was known for his charisma and exuberance in front of the camera. Always donning his black apron with horizontal white stripes, he became an icon. Philip Harben began the movement of television cooking. It has only become greater since.
If anything is a universal language, it’s eating. Food is about bringing people together. It’s culture. It’s language. It’s love. Food is a unifying force from across the world — or from across your house.
That’s why cooking shows are so appealing. They are a window into that sense of community, family and fellowship, all on demand.
If it looks good, you’ll want to try it. If you’re bored watching people try to find a relationship, you can just watch them try to bake. Watching a professional chef or random people attempt a famous recipe is entertaining. The best part is the variety.
No cooking show is exactly the same, and plenty of great options exist. Celebrities learning to cook. Random applicants competing. Professional chefs trying something new. There is a cooking show somewhere that fits your appetite. Shows that will make you hungry and hopeful. Food can do all of that because it is a driving force of life. It provides sustenance, nourishment and entertainment.
Kick your feet up, microwave some popcorn, or fill a bowl with whatever snack you prefer and dive into the language of culinary. Prepare to be educated, inspired and sometimes even weirded out. Any of these shows can hold your interest for a variety of reasons, whether you like to cook or prefer takeout. Food is community, and these are some shows that will expose you to a new community or strengthen the one you’re in.
The Chef Show
Genre: Cooking Show, Documentary
Streaming platform(s): Netflix
Host(s): Jon Favreau and Roy Choi
Must-watch episode: “Pizzana” (Season 1 – Episode 10). This mid-season episode features professional chef, Daniele Uditi, founder of Pizzana in Los Angeles. With laughs and good food, Jon Favreau has his attempt at making Neapolitan pizza and meatballs!
“The Chef Show” was released almost five years after the movie “Chef.” The esteemed actor, writer and director, Jon Favreau, was paired with the prominent Los Angeles chef, Roy Choi. The movie was loosely based on Choi because of his success with his L.A. food truck. After working together on “Chef,” they eventually moved their cooking into the streaming scene.
This labor of love comes with great production, amazing guests and even better food. It’s more relaxed than the world-famous cooking shows we grew up with. No stationary standing. No uncomfortable lulls. It showcases the hosts for who they are, and they provide a comfortable environment for the guests.
On this show, you’re met with laughter, knowledge and good conversation. Choi boasts his experience with tips for preparation and general cooking excellence. Favreau continues learning the trade and offers great direction. The show serves their community as they explore the ins and outs of food with their friends and other chefs.
Selena + Chef
Genre: Cooking Show
Streaming platform(s): HBO Max
Host(s): Selena Gomez
Must-watch episode: “Selena + Kelis Rodgers” (Season 2 – Episode 5). Selena Gomez is joined by the classically trained chef and cookbook author Kelis Rodgers. Best known for her hit song “Milkshake,” Rodgers walks Selena through the recipes of an oxtail yuca poutine and a fruit buckle.
This show started its journey amidst the chaos of a global pandemic. Selena Gomez, the renowned musical artist and actress, began this show in an attempt to become a better cook. With food as a passion, she had the opportunity to grow her skills alongside some very prominent and talented chefs.
“Selena + Chef” features many laughs, delicious meals and great cooking advice. A different chef, from somewhere around the world, is highlighted in each episode. She tackles the world of food alongside chefs such as Roy Choi, Ayesha Curry, Gordon Ramsay and many more. Even with the show being focused on her skills, Selena is almost always accompanied by family and friends in the kitchen. She talks with them, cooks with them and indulges in her hard work with them.
If anyone encompasses a sense of community, it would be Selena. With her cooking show, she is able to incorporate learning and family time. It’s the perfect example of how food can open that window to community and fellowship.
Genre: Contest, Reality
Streaming platform(s): Netflix
Host(s): Nicole Byer
Must-watch episode: “Howdy, Failure!” (Season 4 – Episode 6). This episode’s guest judge is none other than esteemed actor Adam Scott. The contestants amusingly explore a Western theme through deep-fried doughnuts and a rodeo cake.
This Netflix original is nothing short of hilarious. Nicole Byer hosts alongside the head judge and master pastry chef Jacques Torres. The show is a contest filled with amateur bakers. The worse, the better.
Each episode is a different theme with different bakers, a guest judge along with Byer and Torres, and an outlandish goal. The hilarity of the show lies within the meek abilities of the contestants. It brings many laughs and the craving for a chocolate cake. It exemplifies how baking is unifying, and how help is sometimes a necessity.
Jamie & Julia
Genre: Cooking Show
Streaming platform(s): Youtube
Host(s): Jamie Tracey (ANTI-CHEF)
Must-watch episode: “Making Julia Child’s Yule Log Required A Christmas Miracle” (Episode 84). Featuring a series of attempts at a yule log from Julia Child’s cookbook, this is nothing short of comedy. Jamie Tracey delivers sub-par baking but five-star entertainment with this episode.
One of the best cooking shows to watch is actually on YouTube — a one-man, one-book show. Filming, directing, baking and cooking is Jamie Tracey, who makes a captivating show trying his hand at Julia Child’s recipes.
Tracey is also known under his account name, ANTI-CHEF, and his content is hilarious and purely food-driven with cooking and baking. Or, at least, his attempts at cooking and baking. Turns out, the ANTI-CHEF is exactly that. While he has other series on his page, his “Jamie & Julia” series is where you should begin. The production is simple, as are most other YouTubers. But his humor and editing amplify the content. He stumbles through Julia Child’s “Mastering The Art of French Cooking” and “The French Chef Cookbook,” all while creating entertaining and lively videos. The best part about this particular cooking show? It’s free.
Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
Genre: Reality, Special Interest, Travel
Streaming platform(s): Hulu
Host(s): Padma Lakshmi
Must-watch episode: “Where The Kabob Is Hot” (Season 1 – Episode 6). Padma Lakshmi focuses on one of her favorite cuisines in this episode, Persian food. She travels around Los Angeles and highlights misconceptions that some Americans have about Iranian people, all while sampling delicious food.
“Taste the Nation” is all about award-winning cookbook author Padma Lakshmi’s journey with culture and history through food. She hosts this show while traveling across the country. The premise is to figure out what “American food” truly is, but it ends up having a deeper meaning.
Lakshmi not only embraces new foods but connects with the people making them. The show highlights America through a different lens. With food. With stories. With people. She brings a sense of fellowship and community from anywhere in the country. There is travel and food, but the people and cultures are what truly make it entertaining.
Great news, a brand new season is coming this May!
The Great British Baking Show
Genre: Contest, Reality
Streaming platform(s): Netflix
Host(s): Matt Lucas, Noel Fielding, Prue Leith, Paul Hollywood
Must-watch episode: “The Final” (Season 3 – Episode 10). This season finale closes out a hilarious season with some wild competition. The last three of the contestants bake iced buns, a mille-feuille and a multi-layered British cake to see who is the champion.
It’s similar to “Nailed It!” in that it features home-bakers in a competition. More often than not, they aren’t the next pastry masters. The show is also much longer than the one hosted by Nicole Byer.
Over the span of a few weeks, these bakers are truly tested. Each week has a theme and an objective. If they don’t perform well, they are sent home. It is a simple idea, but the execution is where the fun begins. The audience has the chance to learn about the contestants, and it adds to the thrill of competition. These fierce competitors are also the opposite. Sweet and down-to-earth, these amateur bakers put up a fight worth watching.
It is widely viewed as one of the best cooking shows around. British chef Nadiya Hussain, a popular contestant from the show, now has two cooking shows on Netflix — ”Nadiya Bakes” and ”Nadiya’s Time to Eat” — which is a testament to the series’ popularity.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.