They say we’re living in the era of "peak TV," the Golden Age of Television. We’ve got primetime and streaming and binging—even film actors are making the switch to get in on the action. It’s a post-Sopranos world, and we’re all just living in it.
Yet for all the improvements we’ve seen in dramatic writing and comedy shows of late (the Breaking Bads, The Wires, and the Veeps), it seems food television has been lagging behind. Sure, there were the 30 Minute Meals and the Emeril Lagasses. And let's not forget when the almost annually Emmy- and James Beard Award–nominated Ina Garten came into our midsts in 2002 with Barefoot Contessa. These types of cooking shows in and of themselves define an era, a sub-sect of lifestyle TV that Americans have yearned for and ingested over the years on one particular channel.
But with any monopolization of a genre, there's bound to be a limitation in tone, style, and output. It took a new mediums—like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, even Facebook and Instagram—to diversify the quality of storytelling necessary for a modern age of food fans. The result? Amazing content. Lassies and germs, I’m here to say that the era of peak food TV has finally arrived.
It all started in 2015 with the first season of Chef’s Table. Before that, my bread and butter was the legend of the mismatched basket on Chopped, the dramatic fury of Iron Chef, Duff Goldman’s goofy Ace of Cakes grin (again, Food Network started it all, really).
But all of a sudden, when the production value of peak television spiked (thanks, Netflix budget!), we were ushered into a new age of macro-shot after macro-shot of steaming plate and noodle-filled bowl and ten-foot iced cake with eyes bugging, tongues lolling—and strong, effective storylines to boot.
Since the premiere of Chef’s Table, quality food content has doubled—no, tripled. This year alone, we got Ugly Delicious, Nailed It, Rotten, and a new pastry-inspired season of Chef’s Table.
But it’s not all Netflix original content we’re fiending for. This summer, Korean import Chef & My Fridge made its way to the streaming platform, and viewers have been flocking to it. The show’s premise: A chef is tasked with cooking a meal using only the contents of a Korean celebrity’s fridge. Chef & My Fridge is a hilarious fever dream in which Chopped merges with MTV Cribs—but only the part where they show you the inside of their fridge (if you’re lucky).
But wait, there’s more! The reason I can confidently say that this is the year of peak food TV is that it’s only August, yet from where I sit and binge, I see two (yes, two!) more Netflix food shows on the horizon before 2018 takes a bow and leaves us behind.
The first is The Final Table, a global Top Chef–esque competition show that will pit various chefs against each other as they battle their way through cuisines from around the world. Each episode will be judged by a master of their respective cuisine—Enrique Olvera for Mexico, Claire Smyth for the UK. The show’s release date has yet to be specified, but it’s slated for some time this fall.
And the second is Samin Nosrat's impending Netflix original series. Based on her award-winning cookbook, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, her show (of the same name) will feature the author and chef traversing the world in search of the four elements of cooking she calls essential. Premiering October 19, Nosrat will guide her viewers to Japan (salt), Italy (fat), Mexico (acid), and Berkeley (heat).
Long gone may be the glory days of PBS and "Bam!" and "EVOO," but that doesn't mean food TV is falling by the wayside. If anything, we seem to be entering its golden age.
What are your favorite food TV shows right now? Tell us what you're binging in the comments below.