If you consider Hell’s Kitchen or Masterchef quality food programming, please stop reading this post. Despite being an open-minded individual, I have very strict guidelines for my chosen food shows. Here’s my shortlist of summer binge-worthy food programming according to those guidelines—guidelines that Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef certainly do not meet.
Homecooks are not professionals (or drama queens)
The Great British Bake-Off (PBS)
Although the BBC game-changer came to an end last summer—it’s since been dramatically picked up by Channel 4—PBS has only aired up to season three here in North America. The beauty of GBS was its casting. There was no unnecessary insinuated drama among contestants or cooked-up tear-jerker backstories. They openly admitted to practicing the recipes at home and even carried print copies alongside them as they baked. Add the judges’ and hosts’ hilarious, yet human, approaches, food history segments and the now infamous tent and you’ve got yourself a respectable television cooking contest.
Chefs are not (always) celebrities
Chef’s Table (Netflix)
Netflix original, Chef’s Table takes food porn to a new level. Mesmerizing direction and music highlight the dishes of the world’s best chefs. Beyond the food, Chef’s Table profiles their featured chefs through interviews with colleagues and food journalists as well as footage of them on the job. The program manages to feature an impressively varied selection of chefs and thusly terrains and working conditions. Each episode is as often a love letter to the area in which each chef cooks as much as the chef themselves.
Food is not without context
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN)
Although he’d likely rebuke the title, Bourdain is a celebrity chef of sorts—a food rock star at least. After writing the notorious Kitchen Confidential in 2000, Bourdain has made a name for himself as a food writer and television personality. Thankfully Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown captures the food culture of cities worldwide without overdoing the booze and sex jokes. Like Chef’s Table, viewers discover the food through its development and preparation. Although arguable it’s as much a travel show as a food show, for me, it’s a top-notch example of the latter form.
Canadian cuisine is not boring
Top Chef Canada: All-Stars (Food Network Canada)
In spite of my food television snobbery, the Food Network certainly contributed to my early interest in the culinary arts. Sadly its programming is often hit and miss and a cliché in itself now. And while Canadian reboots of American shows often fall flat, Top Chef Canada won me over. Every summer from 2011 to 2014 I watch it religiously—it’s how I discovered my female chef crush, Connie DeSousa. Although it was cancelled too soon for this fan, it’s back this summer in an all-star edition. And so is Connie. Unlike its American counterpart, its focus was Canadian food and culinary talent—not drama. Let’s hope that’s the case this season.