Thursday, May 16, 2013

Food TV: My Top 10 Favorite Shows That Are No More

As a long-time Food Network aficionado, I have witnessed the coming and going of many cooking shows and chefs. Some of today’s familiar faces have been around for as long as I can remember while others have been replaced or changed shows. While the actual food (cooking, preparation, etc...) aspect is obviously important, what really makes a successful cooking show is the chef; the way that they interact with the food and how they relate this to the viewers. Below is a list of my favorite cooking shows that are no longer being produced (but which I will continue to watch online and in syndication forever).

Coming up with this list was not easy; there have been so many wonderful shows that I have enjoyed watching over the years.  I have attempted to put these in order, though they are open for debate. Some are old, some are recent but they are all very good. Here it goes!

10) Yan Can Cook: This is a show I used to enjoy watching because of his sense of humour and speed. He had some mad really impressive knife skills and always kept his show lively and upbeat. Here is a video of Martin himself making tasty potstickers!

9) Kylie Kwong: Heart and Soul: A great show from Chinese Australian chef Kylie Kwong. I loved the style of the show and in particular, her interesting food creations. She utilized a variety of interesting and unique ingredients with skill and offered a slew of contemporary and traditional Chinese dishes. 

8) The Wild Chef: This show was sadly very short lived; you will likely remember it since it only debuted in 2008 and was still playing on TV until pretty recently. I really liked this show because it was something completely different. Martin was cooking in ways that no other chef on TV had up until that point – pickled sturgeon gizzard (recipe here), whelks in herb sauce, and the list goes on and on! While he has recently come under some scrutiny for his use of foie gras, I think he’s an impressive and creative chef doing amazing things (with maple and meat in particular).

7) Molto Mario: While the set-up of this show wasn’t my favorite – Mario Batali cooking for two to three people in a tiny, rustic-looking kitchen – his recipes always had a regional flare and he would often provide a story as to where in Italy they originated. Despite his orange crocs, I enjoyed watching him cook and it’s too bad that he isn’t on any shows right now (though he was until recently an Iron Chef). He did a collaborative cookbook with Gwenyth Paltrow a few years back and I could totally see them making a show together (beyond a tour of Spain). Here is his recipe for Spaghetti with Artichokes and Pancetta.

6) Emeril Live: This was a great show! Tell me you didn’t ask your parents for a trip to the Emeril Live studio every year for Christmas growing up? Emeril had a live band, he said “BAM” and other hilarious expressions and loved to kick it up a notch. He was my favorite chef for a long time growing up and I miss his show and his enthusiasm for his work. Here is the recipe for Emeril’s Essence as well as a video of him in Chicago back in 1999.

5) The Surreal Gourmet: They probably could have just called this show the Toastermobile because it is easily the most memorable aspect of the show. Watching Bob Blumer cook in a tiny mobile kitchen, sometimes with up to two people in there, was lots of fun and the food was always interesting. Bob has this great, chill personality and he knows how to speak to his audience. He made some really interesting meals and always kept it fun and light. Was this the first ever food truck? Probs. Did he once have an episode entitled "Carb Your Enthusiasm"? Yup!

4) Food Jammers: Super cool Canadian show with three young guys who made one-of-a-kind contraptions to use in cooking and brewing! It was a funky show that featured great indie music and lots of local sights in Toronto.

Side note: Once I saw Nobu Adilman, one of the food jammers, riding his bike around Kensington market. I instantly froze and was totally star struck.

3) Iron Chef (Original Japanese version): The original Iron Chef first premiered in 1993 and was eventually dubbed and aired in Canada. A LOT of Friday nights growing up (elementary through to university) were filled with staying up late to watch Iron Chef. I loved the Chairman’s enthusiasm, the incredible ingredients and of course the commentators (i.e., Fukuisan!) I actually haven't been able to get into the American version because, though fun and entertaining, just doesn't compare.  Here is a clip of this classic!

2) The Urban Peasant: Oh The Urban Peasant… this show will always have a special place in my heart. This show played when I got home from school on the CBC and I watched it religiously. I loved watching James Barber messily move about the kitchen, joking with his audience and often receiving guests (like the mailman a la Mr. Dressup). Plus there is something about his Canadian/British accent that I find so endearing and comforting. This show played a big role in my love of food (and food TV) and I hope Mr. Barber is happily resting in foodie heaven.

1) Two Fat Ladies: This is my number one because it is just such a great show on so many levels. Have you ever seen it?  The premise is basically two ladies, namely Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson who drive around on a motorcycle with a sidecar across the United Kingdom, cooking historical and unique meals for groups of people. They detest grocery stores, Jennifer always has her nails perfectly manicured and they will cook with virtually any ingredient. They make jokes about men and always finish the episode with a casual conversation and a beverage (though never alcoholic for Clarissa). Their friendship comes through in their cooking and in their conversation. 

They loved food, all kinds of food and I will always love watching their show.  

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