The Food Network was launched in 1993, focusing on cooking shows with renowned chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Jacques Pépin, and the library of Julia Child’s The French Chef. It has evolved into one of the 25 most-watched channels on TV, featuring a wide range of programming. From competitive cooking programs like Chopped and Iron Chef America to traditional cooking shows like The Barefoot Contessa, the network has truly turned cooking and eating into entertainment.
Despite the channel’s popularity over the last 25 years, it has not been immune to the cable-cutting trend. Today, some of the most popular food-related shows can be found on YouTube and other social media networks. The web content ranges from independent personalities to major brands. The variety and lack of constraints that come with traditional programming means that there’s a show for everybody.
Binging with Babish
The ultimate convergence of food and pop culture, Binging with Babish has gained an immense following by exploring infamous dishes from TV shows, movies, and other works of fiction. Some of the meals tackled on the show are The Sloppy Jessica from Brooklyn Nine Nine, Regular Show’s Death Sandwich, and the eponymous Ratatouille.
Host Andrew Rea recreates the dishes step by step in a detailed and often humorous manor. With some of the more unappetizing bites like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Milk Steak or The Good Place’s Peeps and M&M Chili, he attempts a more palatable version with varying levels of culinary success, but it always delivers on the entertainment factor.
First We Feast
First We Feast is a channel with an impressive variety of programs. The Burger Show, Curry Shop, and That’s Odd, Let’s Drink It all serve a particular niche. The network has absolutely struck gold, though with its talk show Hot Ones aka “the show with hot questions and even hotter wings.”
Facing an intimidating array of chicken wings doused in hot sauces, celebrities sit down with host Sean Evans to run the gauntlet together. As the interview goes on, the wings rapidly climb the Scoville scale. The capsaicin-based torture provides for some serious comedy, like Aubrey Plaza attempting to gargle milk up her nose, but it also makes for a far more authentic interview. The heat disarms the guests and opens them up beyond the usual, sanitized late night talk show fare.
Part talk show, part game show, Hot Ones has become something of a cult hit. Though it started small, boasting lesser-known rappers as its first guests, the show, now in its ninth season is playing host to A-listers like Kristen Bell, Idris Elba, and Halle Berry.
First We Feast has even released their own sauces now, which can help you run your own Hot Ones challenge. In the restaurant setting, a wing throwdown night can be a massive hit. Hell Nights around the country are massively popular, indulging the palate masochists of the world.
You know those top-down angle videos all over Facebook with bold type step-by-step instructions for simple, but experimental dishes? Welcome to Tasty. Often imitated, but never duplicated, the channel helped jumpstart the wave of recipe-sharing that has taken over social media over the last few years. Now with a follower count of over 98 million, they have become a Food Network-lite of sorts.
Last year the company named uber-chef Marcus Samuelsson as its “Executive Chef-in-Residence” to guide its expansion, mentor other chef personalities, and create content. The channel is no longer just an avenue for Pinterest-y parents to spruce up their kids’ school night meals. While easy to follow how-to videos still make up a significant portion of their content, haute cuisine and more informative programming now shine alongside them.
If you can’t beat them, join them. The quintessential celebrity chef, restauranteur, and TV host of about a dozen shows somehow finds time to create even more content for his personal YouTube channel. Ramsay’s massive fan base from his FOX shows has followed him to his online endeavors.
While many of his videos serve as teasers and previews for his shows, he also features some exclusive recipes and mini travel documentaries a la Anthony Bourdain. His series on scrambled eggs is not to be missed. His mastery of such a simple dish serves as a blank canvas on which he paints with local colors and flavors to create something unique wherever he goes. From the Hawaiian classic Spam and Eggs to the far more adventurous eggs with worms in Peru, Ramsay brings his signature style to gastro-tourism.
Whether it’s cultivating new recipes, inspiring themed nights, or even creating your own kitchen videos for marketing, social media has become an endless source of inspiration and opportunity. If nothing else, these shows and clips remind us of how cooking is truly a visual art. When we focus on the presentation and the aesthetics of our food, it becomes part of the entertainment itself.