There’s something particularly interesting about cooking shows. Maybe it’s the fact that folks get so dang heated about dishes you can’t even pronounce, but you can pretend at having a passable knowledge about cuisine through the contestants. Maybe it’s the subtle but smug conviction that you could do better. Maybe it’s the formulaic setup. In any case, while cooking shows in general might be a pleasurable concept, they are not a one-size-fits-all affair.
Fear not, though – Netflix, in its infinite and benevolent wisdom, has a near-infinite supply of cooking competition, baking, and foodie tourism shows. Some are great, most are mediocre, some are total crap. Here’s your shortlist for the weekend.
Cutthroat Kitchen: Okay. Admit it. Alton Brown pitting contestants against each other and offering them an opportunity to destroy each other’s dishes at the expense (literal expense) of their own winnings is one of the funniest things you’ve ever seen. Watching folks get stuck in those automatic doors from hell is particularly amusing. Also, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as screaming at professional chefs on the laptop screen, “You idiot! Who makes a quiche with American cheese?” as you chow on the most processed food you can find in the kitchen cabinet. There’s even a drinking game that will probably have you under the table if you’re watching more than two episodes, and, by golly, if that isn’t the point of a TV-show-based drinking game, what is?
The Great British Bake Off: This is like the sweet, pink, fuzzy antidote to American competitive cooking shows where everybody’s screaming and Gordon Ramsay is throwing something and someone storms off set at least once a season. First off, it’s baking, so most of the foods will be recognizable to a non-foodie, if not 100% identifiable. Second off, it’s just plain antithetical to what we’re used to. The contestants share heartwarming tales about their families. They cry when someone gets eliminated. Sue Perkins is there. It’s almost enough to make you want to hop across the pond.
Cooked: This isn’t a competition, unlike the other two entries on the list. Instead, it follows renowned food writer Michael Pollan across the world as he delves into the history and culture behind dishes around the globe. Instead of coming off as 100% foodie tourism, Pollan comes across as pretty respectful, and it’s a good insight into what attitudes toward food around the world are like.