Cooking Television | Kate Bennett

What is Cooking Television? 

If you have ever found yourself— or your parents more likely— aimlessly flipping through TV channels, you are sure to know names like Guy Fieri, Gordon Ramesy, Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdane, etc. Don’t Recognise any of them? Fine, try the ever popular television shows like Iron Chef, The Great British Bake Off, Hell’s Kitchen, Chopped, etc.       

Cooking television is, and will go down as, one of the most enduring genres of the television era. Getting its roots during World War II, with cooking programs aiming to tell its viewers tips and tricks on how to make ration-friendly meals, it's a topic that's long been prevalent. So if you are an avid watcher of shows like Top Chef or Guy’s Grocery Games, you (in a way) have the assasination of Franz Ferdanand and appeasement to thank for that. 

In the 1950’s cooking television served to give homemakers recipes and helpful hints. Then in the 1980’s serving to add to the excess of the time, and now to as a way to feed (pun intended) our need for celebrity and competition. 

What are some of the best Cooking Programs? 

There are a few schools of thought that must be broken down when trying to rank or categorize the overabundance of cooking programs: there are the cooking for cooking sake shows, the competition shows, and the travel cooking shows. 

In terms of cooking for cooking sake you have the classic and probably most definitive of the genera: Julia Child’s The French Chef. This show served as an introduction to cooking for many and it was mainly carried by the strong personality of Julia, this being a very important component of any good cooking television show, and one that persists into modern times. 

Competition shows garner more of a following than most other sub-genres, with shows like The Great British Bake Off obtaining an almost cult-like following. The interesting personalities of the competitors and the pressure of the challenges added onto by the time crunch create a compelling structure that has been utilized time and time again. There is a plethora of these shows available to the viewer, covering a myriad of different sub-foodie-cultures. Take for example the dichotomy that exists between Cupcake Wars and Hell’s Kitchen: there is something for just about anyone. 

The last well defined sub-genera, and arguably the most niche of the categories: travel cooking. This area of television has a definite capacity to be the one where you learn something at the end of the day— something deeper than how to debone a fish. Travel cooking television shows, like the well loved and respected Anthony Bourdaine: Parts Unknown serve to be beautiful, and at times heartbreaking, tools that allows us to delve into international cuisine. But further than that shows like the late Anthony Bourdaine’s offer us an insight into unfamiliar cultures and further, the human condition.    

A Shift in Demographic and Platform  

The YouTube age is now starting to encourage a whole new wave of cooking programs. Moving away from 22 of 45 minute long episodes and towards something new. Catering to a younger audience, there is beginning to be an abundance of sometimes obscure five minute videos on “how to cook so and so” or the very well received thirty second “cooking hack” videos. 

If only to describe it in one way, YouTube has transformed our previously held notions of what a  television show is and turned an hour into a segment. Allowing the viewer to watch more content at a more efficient rate, and get more invested into what they are watching by allowing the option to binge watch content and with more frequent posting schedules than most mainstream television networks allow.

Lots of personalities and programs are jumping off the television ship and into the internet era. Take for example, the San Diego native Sam the Cooking Guy. Further, publications are coming aboard ship to, like in the case of the magazine turned YouTube channel Bon Appétit. Garnering a following of 5.41 Million, this is only the beginning of a new age.