The only thing better than eating food is watching TV programmes about food.
We've always been fans of food shows, as far back as Ainsley Harriot on the much-missed Ready Steady Cook or the original Masterchef with Loyd Grossman - both staples of our post-school TV-watching as kids.
However, the TV food industry has enjoyed a massive boom over the last decade which means that there are more food shows than ever before to cater – pun intended – for every taste.
Below, you'll find our favourites. Bon appetit!
1. THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF (CHANNEL 4) - Vodafone TV channel 111
Since it debuted in in 2010, the GBBO has become one of the most enduring and popular food shows ever. Whether you're a sweet or savoury person, like most shows of its ilk it's all about going on a journey with the various contestants from week to week – whether it's riding the cherry-topped highs with them as they're voted Star Baker, or crying alongside them into their soggy-bottomed flans. Coupled with Mel and Sue's irreverent hosting style and the endearing Mary Berry's downright sweet-if-terribly-posh judging, it makes for fantastic telly. Will it retain its sugary magic with its new hosting and judging line-up on Channel 4? Only time will tell...
2. MASTERCHEF (BBC TWO) - Vodafone TV channel 109
One of the most iconic food shows of all time, and for good reason. The joy of Masterchef has always been in its professionalism; taking normal people who are quite good at cooking, and instilling in them a belief that goddamn it, they could work in a professional kitchen if they really put their minds to it. There have been times over the years where judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode have been moved to tears by some of the dishes cooked by contestants – and as a viewer, you become equally invested. It's often intense, it's usually mouthwatering and it's the sort of compelling television that you just can't help but be inspired by. And that's without mentioning Masterchef: The Professionals. Oh boy.
3. COME DINE WITH ME (CHANNEL 4) - Vodafone TV channel 111
We all know that it's Dave Lamb's commentary that has made Come Dine With Me an institution in the 'food programme' stakes since 2005, but even without it it's a genius concept. Inviting five strangers to meet for the first time, cook for each other, inevitably get boozed up, get some entertainment in and then mark each other out of ten - what could possibly go wrong? The best episodes are the ones where someone cheats and orders something in from a restaurant or take-away, and it's just a matter of time before someone uncovers their devious plot. The game-playing that goes on in some episodes is nothing short of Machiavellian, which is what makes Come Dine With Me so much more than just a show about cooking food for strangers.
4. SATURDAY KITCHEN/SUNDAY BRUNCH (BBC ONE/CHANNEL 4) Vodafone TV channels 108/111
We've lumped these two together because let's be honest, they're more or less the same show. Yet they're both weekend food TV-watching at its finest, the former (on BBC) involving a rotating cast of chefs (lately, including our own Donal Skehan, Michel Roux Jr., etc. ) presenting a 90-minute-show with well-known celebrity guests chatting away as they cook. The latter (on Channel 4) is hosted by Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, and is a similarly laidback magazine-style show that always incorporates cooking and drinks-tasting alongside its celeb interviews. Do we ever make the recipes on either show? Pffft, of course not. But it's good lazy TV, nonetheless.
5. DINNER DATE (Be3) - Vodafone TV channel 110
Like Come Dine With Me, this is a similarly entertaining show that is mostly, but not entirely about food. In fact, it's more like 'Blind Date' but with a meal thrown into the mix. Basically, three people are chosen to cook a meal for a member of the opposite sex (that they haven't met before) on alternate nights. Taking into account the food, the company and the chemistry, the winner is then selected to be taken out for a meal, while the two losers are left with microwave dinners. With the 'romance' element thrown in – not to mention the absolute disasters that some of the 'chefs' have come up with in the past – it makes for the kind of brilliantly excruciating TV that you have to watch between your fingers.
6. FREAKY EATERS (TLC) - Vodafone TV channel 118
There's nothing like watching Freaky Eaters to make you feel better about your own eating habits. Look, let's be fair – we all have various food no-nos. The people on Freaky Eaters, however, usually either have severe phobias about the most seemingly innocuous food, or else they're grown adults who still eat like children (i.e. the woman who ate only junk food, soft drinks and sweets, or the man who refused to eat anything other than french fries). It goes without saying that eating disorders are no laughing matter, but Freaky Eaters is a fascinating insight into how different people view food, and watching them being 'cured' of their phobias, deeply ingrained issues and general bad habits is immensely satisfying.
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