Photo: Casey Kelbaugh for AOL
Americans love stuffing their faces and crashing out in front of the tube. Which is why the combination of the two has always proved popular.
Cooking shows are a staple of television programming, as essential to the medium as news broadcasts, sporting events and sitcoms. But unlike grandfatherly anchors droning, sportscasters shouting or wacky neighbors barging, cooking on television is a very rare form of mass instruction, with a sensual ebb and flow.
Celebrity chefs cheerfully chop, slice and saute, swearing the whole time it's easy. Anyone can do it, provided they listen up. These affable hosts crack jokes, add oil and set the oven to broil. And then eat, shoveling their delicious creations into their quivering maw.
Over the course of decades, these shows have remained beloved and rightfully so. Here are 10 of the greatest. ...
10. "Good Eats"
Alton Brown combines dry humor, a passion for food and a head for science into a succinct, yet entertaining show that's a love letter to cooking technique.
9. "America's Test Kitchen"
This plucky PBS show is about the kitchen: what to cook in it, what to cook it with and how to cook it. The hosts are serious-minded experts, but with a wink.
8. "Bizarre Foods"
Host Andrew Zimmern doesn't really show his viewers how to cook as much as he shows them how to eat. Fearlessly, with gusto, passion and enthusiasm.
7. "The Naked Chef"
Jamie Oliver brought a youthful, rock-'n'-roll sensibility to a show that featured simple, flavorsome dishes with exotic flourishes.
6. "Emeril Live"
Emeril isn't boring -- his food and his show sung with spice and soul. Perhaps too much the entertainer for purists, he nonetheless put the "show" in cooking show.
5. "Martha Stewart Living"
The Doyenne of Domesticity leaves some people cold, but her masterly skills, exquisite tastes and the unique way she challenged her viewers to aspire to her seemingly impossible standards makes her an icon of the genre.
4. "Yan Can Cook"
Martin Yan demystified the cuisine of an entire hemisphere, demanding Americans not only embrace Asian food, but cook it as well. And he did it with a clever twinkle in his eye.
3. "The Galloping Gourmet"
This Scottish lad did something pioneering -- he made you laugh as he told you how to cook. Graham Kerr was funny, unpretentious and taught a generation of men that one can be debonair whilst laboring over a hot stove.
2. "The French Chef"
It's almost cliche to venerate Julia Child, the woman who reinvented the cooking show and gave birth to generations of gourmets. She was poised. She was accessible. And her joy was infectious.
1. The Original "Iron Chef"
Like any great competition, this Japanese import was about bragging rights. Classically trained chefs pitted their skills against brash upstarts, improvising like jazz musicians and sweating bullets. And in the end, marvelous, inventive dishes were created, all for the love of the game.