I don’t love a lot of things other than my family, my friends, my dogs, and of course food—but my true love is television. You see, we met in the ‘70s and have had a love affair that continues to this day. It educates, entertains, comforts, keeps me informed, and incites emotions all without needing anything from me. Back when we were first introduced, a love of TV was not something one promoted, but for this GenXer latchkey kid of the ‘70s and ‘80s, television was my escape, my babysitter, my friend, and sometimes the reason homework did not get done.
By the time the Food Network was introduced in the ‘90s, I was a professional television watcher analyzing format, content, and talent. My roommate would often come home to me watching Emeril Live in the dark with bloodshot eyes like a fiend. It’s all foreshadow-realness for my, now, 20-year career in food.
In 2022, I am now using my infinite television watching powers for your benefit by recommending the five food shows you should be watching right now. I’ve got some documentary series, some reality competition shows (of course), and a couple of honorable fiction mentions, too. So grab your favorite TV snacks like brie en croute and devils on horseback and let’s get into it.
- Season 1, Netflix, full season now available
A friend hipped me to this jive on a Sunday morning. She texted, “Are you watching Drink Masters on Netflix?” To which I replied, “No,” while simultaneously turning on my Apple TV and finding the first episode. She and I agreed to not binge and savor the series…fast forward one day and a divot in my couch, I was both celebrating the winner and burying my sadness that it was over.
From episode one, shot one, Drink Masters is a fantasy land for the contestants and the viewers alike. Host, comedian Tone Bell, is the perfect garnish to this “cocktail” of judges, contestants, and challenges. He moves each episode along with humor, curiosity, and encouragement.
Congratulations to the winner, a front-runner for me, and the whole team. It’s a must-watch.
- Season 3, Netflix, full season now available
From the same producers of Chef’s Table comes the third season of Street Food focusing on six cities in the United States. I appreciate these producers turning their white-gloved fine dining lens towards the more readily available and approachable fare and its makers.
As a native New Yorker, I was happy to see some of the series’ selections for our city, though, like true New Yorkers, there is debate about what is represented as our street food. As a native Harlemite, I need to give a special shout-out to Chef Tami of Harlem Seafood Soul, a cart on the historic 125th street kicking out po’ boys, fried fish, funnel cakes, and a whole lot of sass.
Whether you are a street food-lover or at the beginning of your journey of curbside gastronomy, Street Food is a must-watch resource of information. When you know more, you eat more.
- Season 1, HBO Max, full season now available
Ask me about my favorite cuisines and some form of Asian food will come out of my mouth. So it’s no surprise that I think this documentary series about uncovering the contributions of Asian Americans to our country through the community of food is a must-watch.
I was rapt with the Filipino Americans in New Orleans and Japanese Americans in Los Angeles episodes. I was intrigued by the New York City episode as celebrated journalist Lisa Ling uncovers the fastest growing Asian immigrant group and the Bangladeshi foods that tell their story. However, it was the revealing episodes about Chinese Americans in Sacramento and Korean Americans in the Washington DC area, where Lisa and her (handsome) husband Paul, respectively, return to their formative years as Asian Americans and address topics around identity, fitting in, and self discovery.
I so enjoyed the pace and authenticity of this series. There are no gratuitous food shots in Take Out. Rather, it is like a great novel in which you pause to savor and reflect after finishing each chapter. Whether the season two “novel” will be written remains with HBO Max, but I know I will be ready if and when it comes.
- Season 1, HBO Max (also available on many platforms), new episodes weekly
This documentary series about two couples running a bed and breakfast and cooking school in Julia Child’s former vacation home in France is filled with all the “bon appetit” and joy of cooking you can imagine. Whether you are a documentary fan, a Francophile, or just want to learn what all of the Mastering the Art of French Cooking fuss is about, this is the show for you.
Between the international guests and the American owners, there is a wealth of learning on running an inn, farming, and of course cooking. One of the most fascinating and intriguing things missing from this cooking school is recipes. Yes, as Mrs. Child did, La Pitchoune teaches by using one’s senses, or intuitive cooking if you will. That is the true way of mastering the art of cooking in my opinion.
- Season 1 HBO Max, new episodes weekly
Full disclosure, I have not watched this reality documentary/competition show. However, when this series comes from the mind of Dan Levy (of Schitt’s Creek), who also serves as host and judge, I am here for it. 10 chefs contestants with dreams of furthering their culinary dreams come together to compete for a $300,000 cash prize.
To date, The Big Brunch episodes include signature starter and main dishes, hangover cocktail cures, vegan brunch, and an episode entitled “Carb Loading Brunch”. If you are in a brunch rut, this is the show for you.
3 Bonus Shows to Watch Right Now
We at The Spruce Eats are supporting our colleague, Lauryn Bodden, on her quest to be the first winner of Snack VS Chef on Netflix beginning November 30th. This reality food competition challenges 12 chefs to make and recreate some of our favorite snack foods. Watch the show, and then use what you learn as ammo to fight a snack attack. POW!!!
Finally, for my FFS (Fictional Food Show) heads, I have two honorable mentions.
For FX’s The Patient, it takes a little food nerd like myself to call this thriller series with Steve Carell a food show. I do because the lead character, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is a troubled restaurant inspector who brings his captee food from his favorite restaurants sometimes describing them as “the best in the city”. Fellow food nerds, go forth.
Much like FX’s The Bear, the Italian food porn in Netflix’s From Scratch has been making the rounds in my fellow food editor's circle. In the show, an American woman living in Italy to study art meets a talented aspiring Italian chef. He cooks, she eats, they fall in love. It is a Harlequin novel on the small screen with glorious overtones and images of food plus Italian and Black American culture that kept me rapt, implanted on my couch, and my food-meets-love fantasies alive.