If you're into cooking or food at all, then chances are you've spent some time watching the shows on the Food Network. After all, there's nothing more satisfying then watching someone who knows exactly what they're doing create a beautiful dish while giving step by step instructions. Even if you don't know how to cook, there's still a sense of satisfaction in watching someone make the perfect plate of pasta, or perfectly sear a bone-in ribeye. The Food Network has featured a lot of programming in its time on the air, and while there have been some truly great shows, there have also been some that don't stand the test of time. After all, not everything can be a success, and even though food is universal, cooking shows are not.
The varied programming of the Food Network has spawned both hits and misses. Luckily, the hits are usually a lot better, and the misses often aren't even that bad. They just don't stand up to the level of programming the channel is known for. As time goes on, the Food Network continues to create original programming that promotes the joy of cooking and how food brings everyone together. Other channels and streaming services may feature their own shows about food now, but the Food Network will always be the gold standard for food programming. It's the channel that inspired a whole generation to seek out better ingredients and learn to cook for themselves. These are the 15 worst (and 10 best) shows that have ever aired on the Food Network.
25 Worst: Restaurant Stakeout
When you tune into the Food Network, there's a very specific thing you want to see. Namely, food. So how does Restaurant Stakeout deliver on that front? The short answer is, it doesn't. Whereas a better show about restaurants would focus on how to make the food better, Restaurant Stakeout focuses almost entirely on the service and management of the restaurants. This is the kind of show where every episode ends up being about practically the same thing: a manager who is too nice so the staff are taking advantage of them.
24 Worst: Worst Cooks in America
People tun into the Food Network to see the best cooks and chefs in America doing their thing and passing on the knowledge they've picked up over the years. So what does the Food Network come up with for entertainment? Worst Cooks in America. This competition show, hosted by Anne Burrell, takes on the unenviable task of teaching people who have no business being in the kitchen to cook. Despite the "learning" aspect of the show, it seemed more like it was a mean-spirited excuse to just make fun of people who are bad at something.
23 Best: Giada at Home
Is there anything more satisfying then watching someone cook a good meal? Giada may grate on some people because of her insistence on over-pronouncing some words she says from her native tongue, but there's something undeniably charming about her. The show eventually featured recipes that weren't exclusively from Italy, which made for a great variety of food being made on the show in each episode. The relaxing atmosphere, the charming host, and the great food all made Giada at Home one of the best shows to reside in the Food Network's stable.
22 Worst: Guy's Grocery Games
This absolutely ridiculous combination of Iron Chef and Supermarket Sweep is a total disaster. Not only is hosted by Guy Fieri (that's one big strike against it, already), but it features long segments where people are essentially just grocery shopping. There are so many "challenges" thrown at the contestants that it just becomes a huge mess of a show that is impossible to pay attention to. Somehow, this show has lasted for over 200 episodes. There must be some secret appeal to watching people run through a grocery store and be told all their ingredients have to start with the letter "S." There was even a spinoff called Dessert Games, but that only lasted four episodes.
21 Best: Chopped
Chopped may be a competition cooking show, but it's the competition cooking show. What sets Chopped apart from other series like Master Chef or Hell's Kitchen is the episodic format. Each episode of Chopped starts with four chefs and then whittles it down to a singular winner. This prevents any fatigue from having to spend time with contestants you don't like every week because they seem to keep sneaking through every round of elimination. The premise is simple, the pressure is real, and the real star of the show is the food. Chopped is one cooking competition that can stick around.
20 Worst: Paula's Home Cooking
If there were three words that could describe Paula Deen's particular culinary style it would be butter, butter, and butter. The host of Paula's Home Cooking often spoke of her recipes being simple but downright delicious. It didn't seem fair, considering that most of the flavor in her dishes was coming from the intense amounts of fat and salt contained in each of them. One of her recipes even found internet infamy when the comment section on her English peas recipe (cook canned peas in butter. That's it) became one of the funniest collections of food humor on the internet.
19 Best: Barefoot Contessa
Is there another celebrity chef more charming and welcoming than Ina Garten? One of the most memorable parts of her show Barefoot Contessa is even her inviting guests over for dinner. Ina Garten is not a classically trained chef, but she has a joy and passion for cooking that translates perfectly into her show. While Ina sometimes uses obscure or expensive ingredients in her dishes, it's still fun to watch someone who loves cooking so much making something truly amazing. What does it take to get an invite to one of those dinner parties anyway?
18 Worst: Dinner Impossible
Robert Irvine is a very accomplished chef. He served as a cook in the Royal Navy, has worked as a chef all over the world, and has even received the designation of Honorary Chief Petty Officer by the U.S. Navy for his charitable work. That being said, his show Dinner: Impossible lacks any real stakes. Unlike other people on shows where there is a set amount of time to complete a huge job, Irvine is familiar with cooking good food for a large group of people. It never seems like the dinners on Dinner: Impossible are all that impossible. Though the editing may make it look so, Chef Irvine is always in control and knows exactly what he is doing.
17 Best: Iron Chef America
Iron Chef America is the king of culinary competition. Kitchen Stadium is where it all happens, where the Chairman reveals the secret ingredient, moments before the battle begins. Sometimes it's easy to work with, other times it's canned tuna. The ticking clock builds the pressure, as expert hosts and commentators Alton Brown and Kevin Brauch keep an eye on what the chefs are doing, adding an element of cooking education to the proceedings. The judging is strict and based on clear criteria. There is no cash prize for Iron Chef, and there doesn't need to be. Besting one of the Iron Chefs in Kitchen Stadium is the greatest reward of all.
16 Worst: The Great Food Truck Race
Yet another competition show. For a while, it seemed like the Food Network just wanted to pump out programs that had less to do with cooking than people trying to win a prize. The Great Food Truck Race was yet another one of these shows. Though it began with seasoned food truck owners completing challenges, this obviously wasn't enough. The second season featured chefs who had never owned or operated a food truck. Either way, the biggest problem with this show, like many of the other competition shows on Food Network, was that it lost focus on what matters: the actual food.
15 Best: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Setting aside any opinions about Guy Fieri, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is a good show. Not only does it showcase restaurants that people wouldn't otherwise know about in small towns, it also basically serves as free advertising and short profiles on the cooks working in those places. The show also allows cooks to show how they prepare some of their signature dishes, giving the show the much needed element that a lot of shows on the Food Network are missing: food! "Triple D," as Guy sometimes calls it, might feature a host that not everyone loves, but it's a solid show with a lot of great cooking.
14 Worst: Cupcake Wars
What's worse than a cooking competition show? How about a cooking competition show where the contestants only ever make one type of food? That's essentially what Cupcake Wars is. While it might be fun to see what kinds of cupcakes people come up with, it's just boring after a while to see people just making cupcakes over the course of an hour. Meanwhile, the show its all the tropes of every competition show that came before it: a ticking clock, judges, and a cash prize. Overall, Cupcake Wars has nothing to offer that you can't find on any other cooking competition.
13 Best: Throwdown With Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay is a chef who is always looking to challenge himself. He's the kind of guy who doesn't back down from anything, instead finding a way to do it better. That sort of attitude is a t the heart of Throwdown With Bobby Flay. Flay would travel around the country challenging regional chefs to a cooking competition based on their signature dish. It was all in the spirit of competition and Bobby Flay was always a good sport, showing respect and admiration for his opponents. Sometimes he lost, sometimes he won, but Throwdown was always a joy to watch.
12 Worst: Guy's Big Bite
Anyone who has ever watched a show featuring Guy Fieri knows what kind of person he is. The best thing you can say about him is that he is totally self-assured. Does that make him a good chef? That's debatable. On top of giving his food some truly terrible names (Donkey Sauce, anyone?), Fieri imbues his own cooking show, Guy's Big Bite, with an insufferable energy and desperate wanting for "coolness." He throws around terms like "flavor town" like it's somehow witty or original.
11 Best: A Cook's Tour
The loss of Anthony Bourdain was a huge hit to the culinary world. This was a man who first revealed to the masses what it was really like to work in a professional kitchen, before embarking on a seemingly never ending world tour to sample dishes from all over the world. On A Cook's Tour, the show that preceded No Reservations, Bourdain travelled the world, examining local dishes that could only be made in their countries of origin. It wasn't always the prettiest show about food, but it was honest in its exploration of global food culture.
10 Worst: Inside dish
No one would blame you if you had no idea what this show was, but Inside Dish aired on the Food Network from November 2004 to May 2005 and was hosted by Rachael Ray. It featured Ray interviewing various celebrities as they cooked or had a meal at their favorite restaurant.
If that sounds really boring to you, that's because it was.
Despite featuring guests such as Morgan Freeman and Penn and Teller, the show lacked the one element that would have made it interesting: actual food. Instead, Rachael Ray conducted awkward interviews and appeared to just make all of her guests uncomfortable.
9 Best: Good Eats
Good Eats was a pioneering show in that it combined both cooking and food science into one delightfully offbeat program. Host Alton Brown got his start as a cinematographer for music videos, and his creative visual flair carried over into Good Eats. Each episode of the show found Brown exploring a single type of food, diving directly into its history and the science behind what makes ti delicious. The show was as unconventional as a cooking show could get. An episode could feature puppets, giant props, and even a visit from the Lady of the Refrigerator. It is fondly remembered for its sense of humor, its intelligence, and its creativity.
8 Worst: Sugar
Sugar is a show that airs on Food Network Canada, and features chef Anna Olson as a host. Before getting into why Sugar doesn't work, it should be said that Anna Olson is a very accomplished pastry chef and seems to be an all around good person. However, her show just doesn't have all that much to it. Like its saccharine name, Sugar is just too sweet. Unlike other cooking shows, Sugar can only do so much. With baking, you're essentially using the same ingredients and techniques every time you make something, meaning the variety of recipes featured on the show can stretch pretty thin.
7 Best: Jamie at Home
There's something truly therapeutic about watching Jamie Oliver walk through his garden in a big pair of rain boots and pull fresh vegetables right out of the ground. It's something that a lot of us wish we could do, and may have helped to inspire people to eat locally.
Jamie at Home, as the title suggests, made viewers feel like they were at home.
His recipes were simple, down to Earth, and put the natural flavors of his ingredients above everything else. He might not have succeeded in changing school lunches in the US, but Jamie Oliver made people think at least a little differently about their food.
6 Worst: Food Network Star
Of course the next show on this list is the one that birthed Guy Fieri out into the collective consciousness of Food Network viewers. Next Food Network Star is a lot like American Idol, in that it purports to give someone the opportunity to propel their career forward with a show on the Food Network, but very few of the winning contestants have found any major success. It's just exhausting having to see the same kind of reality competition show cliches played out year after year with nothing to show for it at the end of the season.
5 Best: Emeril Live
Bam! Emeril Live was the series that started it all. Emeril Lagasse became a household name, and reintroduced the idea of a celebrity chef to the world. Unlike later cooking shows, Emeril Live was filmed in front of a live studio audience, lending an air of immediacy and showmanship to the already eccentric cooking style of Lagasse. The show covered a variety of cooking styles, and featured an in-house band. It also occasionally featured guest chefs and celebrities. The Food Network was only just starting, but Emeril Live definitely kicked it up a notch.
4 Worst: 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray gets another spot on the worst list with her interminable show which nevertheless made her a household name. 30 Minute Meals was a hit, but for what reason?
Ray admitted several times that she is not a chef and had no formal training when the show premiered.
That's like taking golf tips from a guy who hits the driving range a few times a week. On the show, Ray would make dinners that, really, with a little time and effort, anyone could make. Other than Ray's personality, there was absolutely nothing special about the show, and the food was, at its best, so-so.
3 Worst: Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry
Eat, Shrink, and Be Merry was a show that aired on Food Network Canada and featured the Podleski sisters, Janet and Greta, challenging professional chefs by making healthier versions of their signature dishes. First of all, it should be noted that neither of the Podleski sisters is a trained chef. Yet they enter every challenge with a holier-than-thou attitude about making a dish that is healthier and tastes better than one made by someone who has worked all their life to get where they are. There are even problematic undertones in some episodes, such as when the sisters claimed they could make a better butter chicken than an Indian chef.
2 Worst: The Gourmet Next Door
Now this is a deep cut in terms of the worst Food Network shows. The Gourmet Next Door was the prize show for Amy Finley, the winner of season three of Next Food Network Star. During the competition, Amy Finley asked to withdraw but was told to stay on. she was later eliminated, but brought back after another contestant was forced out for lying about his background as a chef. Finley eventually won, but was obviously not up to the task of hosting a cooking show. The Gourmet Next Door lasted only six episodes, with Finley revealing later that she had turned down the offer for a second season.
1 Worst: Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee
Of all the hosts on Food Network, none is worse than Sandra Lee. The host of Semi-Homemade delivers exactly what the show promises: "home cooked" food that almost exclusively comes from a package. some of her less than favorable dishes include a "no bake love cake," which was just some store bought cakes stacked on top of each other, and her infamous "Kwanzaa cake," which was insulting not only to chefs, but anyone who enjoys food in any capacity. Sandra Lee has done a lot of good public service in her life, but she should probably stay away from the professional realm of food.