Food-related shows take viewers inside the kitchens of cooks around the world. And while amateur foodies can appreciate series that delve into everything from in-depth explorations of international cuisine to top-level culinary competitions.
We asked those in the industry to list their favorite restaurant-related shows and tell us a bit about what puts them in the top five to give marketing professionals an idea of what attracts even the most discerning folks in the food industry and keeps them coming back for more.
Chef’s Table on Netflix
“I think Chef’s Table has done an incredible job in highlighting the diverse talents and cuisines of the best chefs in the world,” said Tim Hollingsworth, owner and chef of Otium in downtown Los Angeles. Showcasing renowned culinary figures, the Netflix series explores each chef’s unique story and style.
Hollingsworth noted, “The storytelling component has really resonated with me because we are given an entire backstory on what influences their cooking. The chefs and food have equal parts in the narrative.”
Celebrity chef Wayne Elias, half of the team behind Crumble Catering and Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Feliz, California, explained why Chef’s Table was his one choice. He said that it’s the only restaurant-related show that he watches and the only one that inspires him.
“It brings you around the world into amazing back of the house kitchens and the show inspires everyone and enriches the senses of what the world has to offer from so many talented chefs,” he said.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on Travel Channel
“No Reservations is, of course, a classic and still one of my favorites,” said Jason Littrell, a beverage and cocktail consultant who’s worked with bars like Death & Company and B.B. King Blues Club and Grill. “Food is political, cultural and personal, and this show was one of the first to capture the world behind and around what we eat.”
Following the late Anthony Bourdain as he traveled the world seeking out the local cuisine, the series finale aired in 2012, however, Bourdain’s culinary adventures left a lasting impression on fans.
Carolyn Bugbee, general manager of Messhall Kitchen in Los Feliz, California, explained that “this show gives viewers at home the opportunity to learn about cultures, cuisines and co-existing in a way that no other food show has done before.”
Ugly Delicious on Netflix
Ugly Delicious sees James Beard Award-winning chef David Chang joined by his famous friends—writers, artists, activists and other chefs—to delve into the cultural background of what we eat.
“The conversation David Chang is able to facilitate around tradition and appropriation is so important,” said restaurant server Christina Kingsbury. “The perspective Ugly Delicious provides is vital.”
Jim Solomon, chef and owner of the former Fireplace and founder of Shack With the Chef, also praised the show’s host, noting, “David Chang is remarkably genuine and without pretense. I appreciate the exploration of a humble dish and its history, cooking with legendary neighborhood artisans.”
The Final Table on Netflix
“Netflix’s The Final Table [is] the only cooking competition show that I will watch,” said chef Ryan Swanson of Kai at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona. “It stays away from drama and focuses on the food, chefs, and teamwork.”
Chef Tim Hollingsworth also chose The Final Table, although not as a viewer, but instead as the winner of the first season, which pitted 12 pairs of chefs from around the world against each other while they prepared their versions of national dishes from various countries, an experience Hollingsworth called “life-changing and rewarding.”
He added, “As a naturally competitive person who draws inspiration from all cultures, I was able to cook among chefs all over the world, many of whom have become great friends of mine.”
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network
Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives “is a feel-good family food show that gives credit to deserving underdogs in the culinary world,” said Bugbee. She noted that it’s “heartwarming to watch enthusiastic host Guy Fieri give as much praise to small establishments and their good eats as other critics would give to more refined establishments.”
Littrell “appreciate[s] this show because they feature and promote a meritocracy in restaurants. It shows you don’t have to be elevated to be special.”
From friendly culinary tours to chef-on-chef competitions, it’s clear that those who work in or around restaurants appreciate shows that capture the complexity, diversity and community that occurs in the kitchen. And when targeting those in the industry, these are the key factors that make up the perfect recipe for a sweetly successful campaign.