Zapping through channels without direction? Endlessly scrolling through Netflix with no real purpose? Missing the TV Guide just telling you what to watch? If this sounds like you, this new DINE series is for you. Every few weeks we will tell you what food, travel, or lifestyle television is on right now, and what you should not be missing. In this first installation of Feast Your Eyes, we won’t just tell you what is must-see television right now, but look back at the best of last year and some available classics.
New and Relatively New
The Netflix culinary juggernaut is back for another season. The show, created by Jiro Dreams of Sushi director David Gelb, is still the gold standard for contemporary food documentaries. The cinematography is practically unrivaled in this genre and the show delights with every season’s fresh lineup. In every episode, Gelb focusses on a chef and how their past and upbringing shaped how they go about their craft.
In season 6, the show establishes the theme of four chefs who’ve applied their skill to a homecoming of sorts, celebrating the culture and pantry of the places with which they feel a sense of connection:
Mashama Bailey, a James Beard Award nominee, grew up in New York City, but took her talents back to Savannah, Georgia, where she has long-established family roots. She opened her lauded restaurant The Grey in a formerly segregated Greyhound Bus Station. Needless to say, she’s a prime educator about the intersection of food, gender, race and the intensely tragic history of the American South.
Dario Cecchini continues the centuries-old tradition of the famed Cecchini butcher family, now in its 8th generation. He is on a mission to protect and promote the traditional local butcher, believing that butchery is an ancient art that involves a high respect for the animal. It is a snout-to-tail thinking that precedes modern trends by many years.
Asma Khan is the first British chef to be featured on Chef’s Table. As a Muslim immigrant from India, Khan’s episode tells the story of an unlikely journey from Calcutta tomboy to celebrated London chef.
Lastly, Sean Brock, who viewers might know from his season on PBS’ Mind of a Chef. His episode also shows us the American South but does not compare to Bailey’s episode in any way.
The Big Family Cooking Showdown is great comfort television. The show was originally conceived by the BBC to fill the programming hole left behind by The Great British Baking Show. While the first season managed to recreate the supportive spirit of its baking predecessor, newly-released season 2 resembles more conventional cooking competitions. The families going head-to-head are still very amicable towards each other, but the complicated qualifying system, makes it somewhat of a different show. It might also be the new host pairing, which doesn’t gel as well as their predecessors. We recommend starting with season 1, which was released last year.
This new Netflix miniseries delves into the intricacies of Chinese Chaoshan cuisine. Over twelve bite-sized episodes (around 12 minutes per episode) we learn about important ingredients and techniques in this fascinating Chinese food subculture. Verdict: Very binge-able.
When this four-part series was first released last fall, it created a buzz rarely seen for a food entertainment show. Bestselling cookbook author, and French Laundry alumn Samin Nosrat, travels the world to explore four basic keys to good cooking, serving up feasts and helpful tips along the way. Her upbeat nature and wonder is so addictive, that Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat is must-see food television.
Food Competition Shows…
As usual, there are also a number of food competition shows mid-season right now. Longtime favourite Top Chef is in its 16th season, while Chopped is celebrating its “ruby anniversary” in its 40th season. With both shows we are talking about the US version, with the Canadian counterparts returning in the spring. A newer show on the block, is The Final Table – Netflix’s attempt to recreate Iron Chef. The show garnered mixed reviews after first appearing in December but is worth a shot. It starts off with 12 pairs of chefs who are slowly whittled down until one is left standing. This chosen one, joins a panel of luminary chef judges, which includes among others Andoni Aduriz, Grant Achatz, Claire Smyth and Anne-Sophie Pic – at the Final Table.
Gems You Might Have Missed
Next to Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Ugly Delicious might be the most impactful new food entertainment around. Chef David Chang, who you might know from his Momofuku empire, Lucky Peach magazine, Ringer podcast or the first season of Mind of a Chef, is traveling the globe and joined by writers, activists, artists and other culinary professionals who use food as a way to break down cultural barriers. Artistically, the show is reminiscent of his close friend and mentor Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown or No Reservations. In November 2018, Netflix announced that it ordered a second season, but has not set a release date yet. We will keep you up to date.
Talking about Anthony Bourdain, we have to mention Parts Unknown on this list. The Emmy Award-winning show is widely available for purchase or streaming. In Canada 8 of the 12 seasons are on Netflix. Parts Unknown is the standard bearer for what a travel show should be. Bourdain’s untimely death last summer has left behind a void that no one is likely to fill for a while. Bourdain, an epicurean of the highest order, invites us into worlds unfamiliar to him and to us alike. You will never have a better time seeing somebody else enjoying themselves. Dive in and experience it for yourself. We should also mention his previous show No Reservations at this point. Unfortunately, it is not as available as Parts Unknown, but many episodes can be found on Youtube.
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Nailed It! is probably the funniest food series out there! Hosted by Comic Nicole Byer, amateur contestants have to complete baking challenges way beyond their expertise. The results are hilarious and guarantee you coming back for more. It is not the artistic baking creations, but the same urges you feel during fail compilation videos, that make this show a must-watch.
The Great British/Canadian Baking Show
How many people have told you to watch this in the last two years? We will tell you again. Originally titled The Great British Bake-Off, the show had to change its name for American audiences because the concept of a bake-off is trademarked by the Pillsbury Company. Amateur bakers with exceptional skills compete to win a glass pedestal cake plate and the title of Bake-Off winner. All variations of this show, be it British, Canadian or other are delightful and should be more widely available.
That should do it for this installment of Feast Your Eyes. If we’ve forgotten your favourite show, we will be delighted to read your comments below.