I have been a big fan of cooking shows for a long time. Even as a teenager I spent a lot of time watching Justin Wilson “Gawr On Tee” how delicious his gumbo was going to be.

Or learning exactly what Yan could cook,

When the Food Network hit the airwaves in 1993, I could not wait to glue my eyes to food shows all day long. I found Emeril to be a little over the top but Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Sarah Moulton and a couple of Fat Ladies were eye opening. There was so much to learn that I could not write it all down in one sitting. I filled VHS tapes with episodes so I could transcribe recipes. I know I know, you are saying, who the heck would go through that much work to get a recipe when all you have to do is get online and download the recipe to your smartphone? And what the heck is VHS anyway? Why are you on my lawn?

Old guy cliches aside, this brings me to my point. What the heck has happened to instructional cooking shows? It seems like there has been a steady shift from instruction, to competition shows, to reality shows loosely tied to food. The worst part is that I have followed this trend and continue watching many of them. I find myself watching Worst Cooks in America and discussing (mostly with myself) the reasons why So and So should go home. And it rarely has to do with their abilities to cook.

The competition shows like Chopped, Iron Chef America, and Food Network Star, still give you a chance to learn something about cooking. But this next generation of shows like Fat Chef,

Cupcake wars,

and the freakish Sweet Genius

don’t give you a chance to learn anything about actually preparing food. Or even enjoying food in the case of Fat Chef.

I have to admit I have never really been in to the reality show thing. I’ve never watched Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Idol, Biggest Loser,  The Voice or any of the big reality shows. Not that my deciding not to watch them makes me any kind of TV snob, I watch plenty of crap, but reality TV has never really done it for me. I always assumed it was because I didn’t have a passion for any of the things that were going on. Now there are all these food reality shows that I still don’t like, so it must be the format itself that doesn’t do it for me. Which is even more sad because my once beloved food network just doesn’t seem to care about teaching me how to cook anymore, they just want me to enjoy the drama of food reality.

It seems only fitting that Alton Brown ended Good Eats this year. Turn On the Dark seems a fitting title for the last episode of a great instructional show, given that it is likely to be replaced by something that won’t shed any light on the food in the Food Network.

Anyone have a box of recipe cards they want to share with me? Or a hug?


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7 Responses

  1. Cynthia

    I also enjoy the instructional shows, but also enjoy the competitions. Heck, many of the new instructional shows came directly out of the competitions. While Sweet Genius was just silly, all of these shows are still about FOOD. Relax, enjoy, and *hug*.

  2. Chef Mike

    Ive known plenty of people that have tried out for said reality shows and have not gotten the gig because they wouldn’t “make for good tv”. It’s been interesting how many of them have gotten job offers from the chefs, since they recognize their skill. I really can’t stand the fact that many of the “instructional” shows use ingredients that the average viewer cannot obtain without taking a road trip to a bigger city or spending half the day traveling from home to a farmers market, a store like Whole Foods, and back to a traditional grocery store. At the very least, it keeps restaurateurs like myself in business.

  3. DerekLutz

    PBS is still the best source for instructional cooking shows like America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country. They also have shows from Rick Bayless and Lidia Bastianich.

    The FN spinoff network Cooking Channel is mostly instructional but I’ve noticed the FN non instructional show repeats starting to pop up there too (e.g., Foodography)

  4. Paul Schultz

    ove the Cooking shows for Justin Wilson, and John Besh. I still own several 35RPM Albums
    for Justin Wilson. First time I saw him was when I was a student at LSU in Baton Rouge aand he came to entertain Students.GHis Jokes were Downhome Cajun and funny.

  5. Sue Winkle

    Ok I must say that I have to agree with you, because unless an Apocalypse actually happens, when will I ever need to know how to cook chicory, Ethiopian coffee beans, petite bananas, lamb fries together in one dish? (what are lamb fries anyway?!) And figure it out in 30 min or less.


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