The Food Network has churned out countless competition shows over the years ever since its birth in 1993. It seems they have got it down to a science considering the number of great shows that have been introduced over the years. Everything from 30 minute meals to Cupcake Wars means there is something for everyone.
This year is probably the year that needs this article the most considering Food Network just turned 25 on the exact same day that we gormandized on gravy and turkey. Yup. Thanksgiving meant even more this year because on November 22nd, 1993 Food Network began to teach us how to grow fat happily and 25 years in we have not grown bored of it at all. Whether you love the kitchen or loathe spending a second there, you have spent a few hours going through the many shows available when nothing else is on or when you have guests to feed on short notice.
Over the years there have been a few hits and a few misses and today we are going to take a walk down memory lane to see which ones are worth your time and which aren't. Digging back into the archives, these are the best and worst shows Food Network has created over the years.
It is not easy to understand why this one managed to air itself since Food Network claims it airs food shows. Unfortunately enough the title is very apt because the whole show is essentially Sandra Lee using packaged goods to make a half-hearted dish at the end. She makes almost every dish look like something you would give your kid for lunch if you did not have enough time. The whole reason we watch Food Network is to either see cooks that are better than us or to learn recipes to make us better cooks. This one did not tick either one of those boxes which makes it a complete waste of time.
Food Court Wars is based on the idea that every week two new teams battle it out to own their own restaurant at a food court in a mall. Firstly, that is a serious anti-climax for anyone watching because anyone who has taken a look at Food Network knows that most shows give away prizes of a minimum of $50,000. So the stakes are not very high which not only meant that viewers lost interest but it seems like the contestants did as well since they do not really seem to be putting too much effort in. Definite miss.
There is no real point to this one because if most of us wanted to see a bad cook in action we would just add a mirror to our kitchen decor. There is nothing bad about the show per se but there is no real hook here either. You could get through an episode if you are checking your Twitter feed at the same time but it is not worth much more than background noise. At the end of the show, the two most improved cooks will battle each other to create a three-course restaurant quality meal. This one is average at best and there are far too many good ones out there to watch instead.
Whether you like Inside Dish or not is down to whether you like Rachael Ray or not. Some viewers find her irritating while others do not mind her. No one really loves the show and it falls into the average department. It is also not very food-focused since half the show is Rachael surprising celebrities who sometimes do not even seem like they want to be on the show. If you want a bit of talk in your daily episode then you probably would not mind this one but if you are looking for something that is actually food-related, then you should probably skip this.
As we have already established, Rachael Ray is not exactly America's sweetheart and Guy Fieri is most certainly not. Together they made a fairly annoying team that went around giving advice to celebrities on how to cook. Now what you are thinking is understandable - who gave Guy Fieri the authority to judge other people's cooking? No one really, which is why this show did not really do well. This show is essentially the blind leading the blind and not much else. Whether Rachael beats Guy or Guy beats Rachael, the result is the same. We learnt nothing.
The show's idea, in essence, was good and had potential but it was not carried out as well as it should have been. Dinner: Impossible, as defined by Food Network, is a show where 'A seasoned chef is challenged to perform a seemingly impossible task without compromising the quality of the food.' This may sound like a pretty great idea but the task is not exactly impossible and everything is fine in the end. It is hard to enjoy a story when you know the ending beforehand and Dinner: Impossible is just one large spoiler which is why it did not last very long.
Tyler's Ultimate is a good show on the whole but it just ran out of ideas too early in the game. Some of the episodes are really enjoyable and worth a watch but the show wrapped up too quickly. The show is based on Tyler travelling around the world to learn as much as he can about a certain dish and then returning to create his version of it based on what he had seen and learnt. One would think there would be enough dishes in the world to have supplied at least a few years of content, but it seems we were wrong. This was a great idea in the beginning but as time passed the show ran out of ideas it seems till it ceased to exist altogether.
A lot of people may not agree with this one but the weird, wonky Ron Ben-Israel made it an extremely unique and fun cooking show to watch. Each episode had the pastry genius challenging the contestants to make a popular dessert in the style of a certain set or following a certain theme. There were some great ideas along the way and decoration that you cannot help but admire. This show, unfortunately, only had three seasons to it because people got tired of the dishes they could not recreate.
Ace of cakes is great for viewers that love seeing how crazy a cake can get by following a range of ideas from Duff Goldman and his team. Some of the cakes on the show were absolutely genius and it took true talent to get some of the ideas they had to follow underway. The show follows Duff Goldman as he navigates his way through a day at his cake shop in Baltimore where he makes custom cakes all day long. The creations that Duff and the team came up with left a lot of viewers speechless.
Susan Feniger and Mary-Sue Milliken made one of the best cooking shows ever inspired by the cuisine of Mexico, and it was enjoyable most of the time which is why they made 396 episodes. The show was based on the idea that the two of them would take the knowledge they had acquired while touring Mexico and put it to good use by teaching people everywhere how to get the dishes just right. It was also a pretty fun show to watch because they were very lovable characters and worked well together. The only reason the show ended was because it was focused on this particular cuisine and there were only so many dishes to explore.
Giada DeLaurentiis created the Italy-inclined version of Too Hot Tamales and it was just as good. She's created some great recipes inspired by Italy with a US twist and it worked for her audience. She also had a casual demeanour which has made her watchable and relatable for people around the world. She has continued on with her food career and created plenty of shows in her time but if you are looking for dishes that taste great and suit your budget and schedule, this one is for you. The great part about this show is it works for the average person with its homey charm.
While Guy Fieri is not America's sweetheart, there is a good chance Ree Drummond is with her hearty cuisine and wholesome family values. The beauty of this show is how she makes food about family and love while leaving behind the sleek stainless steel that comes with restaurants. Following her every move and seeing her adorable family pop in for almost every episode makes the show informative and fun for viewers. The show mostly deals with cuisine from the US and dishes that everyone has tried while growing up.
Iron Chef America is certainly not as great as the original but it was amazing nonetheless. It mostly replicated the idea from the Japanese version but held its own in a lot of ways which made the show pretty fun to watch. Each episode saw an ordinary cook battling against a top chef to see who came out on top. With the stakes high and Brown hosting, it was a recipe for success from the very beginning.
Alton Brown created Good Eats because he decided that the cooking shows at the time were just not good enough and thank god he did because people appreciate this show years down the line. With 244 episodes and 8 specials each with a theme of its own, you can find information on just about anything you are looking for. Each episode dealt with a different idea which could be anything from meats to chocolate. It had a whole lot of information packed in with everything from tips to techniques. It was also pretty fun to watch thanks to the new characters that were brought in constantly.
Another winner from Alton Brown was Cutthroat Kitchen where contestants were given the ability to sabotage other contestants' dishes to get ahead. Some of the ways in which they would sabotage - for example, cooking in a closed coffin - left even viewers in shock and it was a miracle some of the chefs got anything on their plate at all. The show had a great sense of humour to it and it was extremely innovative as well. The bold leap that the show took did work out in the end though.
Firstly this show could've just work on showing us various pictures of cupcakes but they decided to go above and beyond with their innovative spirit. Each episode dares contestants to use out of the box ingredients that work with the theme to create crazy cupcakes that somehow still look amazing. You do really live the experience alongside the contestants through all the victories and losses. The show leaves you on the edge of your seat and you can also use it to come up with some crazy ideas of your own for your next baking session.
Barefoot Contessa is relatable and fun because it does not have all of the glamour and swirls that most cooking shows do. The show has been running since 2002 and viewers are still loving it. Ina Garten is not only a good cook but also a good host which is why the show continues to garner more viewers by the day. The dishes are easy to try at home and worth attempting which is why Barefoot Contessa continues to air 16 years in. It is the perfect balance between home cooking and something you could serve to your guests.
Emeril Lagasse was a well know personality and an important factor when it came to moulding Food Network. His amazing technique and engaging personality won the hearts of millions, making him a household name. Emeril was on Food Network for ten long years and made cooking enjoyable. People watching around the world did not just want to recreate the dish but wanted to recreate the dish with him, which is what made the show a real winner.
Iron Chef is technically Japan's child but it was embraced by people everywhere to the point where an Iron Chef America was created. The show is dubbed into English and follows chefs as they create amazing dishes that you would not even be able to imagine while competing against a challenger. The chefs put their ego and honour on the line while they give it their all so that they can beat the challengers. It is pretty amazing to follow the ordinary cook and chef battle it out. There is also a secret ingredient in every challenge to make it all so much more interesting.
Nabbing the first place on this long list is Chopped which is one of the few shows out there that does not have an expiry date. Each episode is welcomed by viewers with open arms which is why it still running so many years in. The show follows a general format wherein each episode four chefs compete against each other to create an appetizer, an entree and dessert while also having to deal with a basket of ingredients that they need to incorporate within the dish. This format has been copied by tons of other shows and continues to be a hit because of the constant drama that comes with each episode.