If you love food, chances are you like to watch food related and cooking shows on TV. Here are three cooking shows worth watching these holidays.
Salt, Acid, Fat, Heat – Netflix
The official line: Chef and food writer Samin Nosrat travels the world to explore four basic keys to wonderful cooking, serving up feasts and helpful tips along the way.
To say I loved this four-part series is an understatement. It’s hardly a cooking show, it’s a travelogue that documents historic uses of salt, acid, fat and heat with lots of beautiful footage, interactions with local experts from all corners of the world and interesting facts and tips. Presenter Samin Nosrat is just so likeable, I feel like we’re friends even though we’ve never met. Samin’s delight as she discovers new tastes or foods is endearing and her explanations are informative. She cooks dishes using the principles she’s learnt and her down-to-earth approach is relatable. Episode one is based on fat and set in Italy, so my heart was won from the beginning.
Watch it on Netflix (first month free).
Jamie and the Nonnas – Ten
Jamie Oliver, like him or hate him, he has nailed this series. Firstly, it’s set in Italy and what’s not to love about all that beautiful scenery? Secondly, the Nonnas are so cute! I love how they tell him off if he’s not doing something correctly (every Italian would relate to this!). Thirdly, the food cooked is accessible and looks delicious. Jamie and his sidekick and mentor, Italian chef Gennaro Contaldo, travel across Italy discovering traditional regional dishes, taking instruction from local Nonnas (grandmothers in Italian) on how to make them.
For years I loved Jamie and I have said it more than once – he’s changing the way the world eats. What I love is how he shows that cooking can be easy, healthy and tasty – it doesn’t need to be complicated. However, in recent times he’s become a bit of a commercial / corporate sell-out which I don’t like so much. That aside, this show is easy watching and entertaining. Watch it for the Nonnas, their beautiful dishes and the stunning Italian scenery. It’s free on Ten and catch up on Ten Play but episodes do expire, so don’t leave this too long!
The Final Table – Netflix
Netflix has pimped up the cooking competition and turned it into a star-studded major Hollywood production, the most expensive non-scripted series ever produced rumoured to cost $20 million. Think MasterChef but instead of home cook contestants and crazy challenges, there are 24 highly acclaimed chefs from around the world who compete in pairs.
Over 10-episodes, they cook the national dish from a different country including Italy, India, Mexico UK and USA in one hour and are judged by food critics and celebrities from that country. The teams deemed to have cooked the worst dishes have to cook again in an elimination round that is judged by a heavy-hitting (and often intimidating) chef from that country. In the final, remaining chefs are separated to cook as individuals to win the prize, which isn’t money, it’s glory; a seat at The Final Table.
Australian chefs Mark Best and Shane Osborn are undoubtedly the most awarded and creative amongst the contestant chefs and I’ll declare that I’m totally biased not only because they are Australians, but I worked with Mark at Truffle Kerfuffle and I’ve interviewed both of them for articles I wrote about the show in Fairfax’s Good Food and on Broadsheet. The bromance between the pair makes it great viewing as they play up to the fact that they are the oldest contestants, dropping hilarious dad-jokes at every opportunity. This fun clip on Instagram showcases their mateship on the show perfectly.
The camaraderie between each of the chefs in their teams was engaging and I found myself way more emotionally invested than I expected. I even shed a tear when of the other teams were eliminated.
What I love about this show are the stakes, the chefs have a lot to lose and not a lot to gain by competing. There’s no crazy twists, no bitching between teams, no meltdowns or tantrums, just seriously impressive cooking in under one hour.
One thing I liked less was the celebrity judges. I understand why Netflix went down this route, but I think it would’ve been better just to have proper food critics and chefs do the judging rather than models, comedians, actors, football stars and the like. It was a minor annoyance and one I got over pretty quickly when American comedian-actor Dax Shepard was a judge – he added a lot of fun to the US episode.
Watch The Final Table for Mark and Shane, they do Australia proud. You’ll find yourself really liking some of the other chefs too as their passion, skills and personality are revealed further with each episode. The finale is heart-racing exciting. On Netflix (first month free).
What I’m watching now
I’m behind the times I know (I just got a Netflix account about six weeks ago) but I have just started watching The Chefs Table on Netflix. Episode 1 in the first season is on Italian chef Massimo Bottura – I LOVE him. Besides having the Number One restaurant on the World’s Best 50 List, he is a crazy creative chef who is on a crusade to use food waste and the bits we usually throw out (not shown in this program but that’s one reason I respect him). It’s not a cooking show but it tells the chef’s story – a bit like Australian Story on the ABC. I can’t wait to watch the rest of it.
What food shows do you love to watch? Any recommendations?
“People who love to eat are always the best people” – Julia Child.