The Most Popular Cooking Show the Year You Were Born
Here are the most popular cooking shows that shaped your youth. How many do you remember?
1924 – 1945: The Betty Crocker School of the Air
The most popular cooking show in the 20s wasn’t on TV at all. It played on the radio from 1924 until 1951, and it starred the fictional Betty Crocker. Until 1927, when The Betty Crocker School of the Air got picked up nationally by NBC Radio, the part of “Betty” was played by whoever happened to be reading the script at the local radio station! Don’t miss these 9 surprising facts about Betty Crocker.
1946: Cookery with Philip Harben
Cookery was a BBC cooking show hosted by Philip Harben, a self-taught cook. The first episode was a 10-minute tutorial on “lobster vol-au-vents.” It was the only cooking show on television when it began, and it ran for another 10 years, making him Britain’s most famous cook for a decade. (Here’s how to make lobster, step-by-step.)
1947: I Love to Eat with James Beard
James Beard was the very first American chef to cook on television. (And he did it live!) Several months after Cookery premiered in the UK, Beard turned up on Friday nights in the U.S. Despite Beard’s considerable talent, the 15-minute show was gone from the airwaves within a year. Here are 15 appetizer recipes that take less than 15 minutes to cook.
1948: The Kelvinator Kitchen with Alma Kitchell
The Kelvinator Kitchen was an NBC show in which host Alma Kitchell demonstrated housekeeping tips and skills, using Kelvinator products. (Kelvinator was an appliance maker that is now owned by Electrolux.) Kitchell, a singer, left her radio career to host the show, which aired soon after Beard’s went off the air and lasted through June 1948.
Make sure you catch our tips on how to clean your kitchen appliances.
1949: To The Queen’s Taste with Dione Lucas
Dione Lucas was an English chef and restaurateur, but her television show aired in the US from 1948 to 1949. It may be most famous for “keeping it real.” Once, when her soufflé failed to rise (or even bake) due to an electrical difficulty on set, Lucas went on chatting about soufflé—even as hers dissolved into a puddle before the audience’s eyes.
Here’s our tutorial on how to make a chocolate soufflé. Hope yours turns out better than Lucas’s!
1955: Chez Bon Viveur with Fanny Cradock
Fanny Cradock claimed to be psychic and liked to say her kitchen talents came from having been a chef in a previous life. Talk about a big personality! Cradock was arguably the very first “celebrity chef,” giving all her dishes French names, even the ones that were not French, and introducing a whole generation of cooks to exotic ingredients.
1959: Entertaining with Kerr with Graham Kerr
Graham Kerr began hosting Entertaining with Kerr on TV in New Zealand in 1959. He appeared dressed in his military uniform, winning over many fans. His book by the same name sold out in a week. Entertaining with Kerr was the first of many cooking shows Kerr would host throughout the world.
For a taste of New Zealand, whip up these shortbread cookies.
1963: The French Chef with Julia Child
Julia Child’s The French Chef debuted in February 1963 on public television and quickly became famous for bringing French cooking into American kitchens. Her love of butter is legendary, and her relaxed approach sometimes had hilarious results. New episodes aired for a decade, after which it went into syndication. Today, you can still find The French Chef on the Cooking Channel.
1966: Joyce Chen Cooks with Joyce Chen
If your mom tried her hand at soy- and ginger-infused stir fry or potstickers in the late 1960s (as mine did!), it’s likely you have Joyce Chen to thank. Chen is credited with popularizing northern-style Chinese cuisine in the U.S. She also brought woks into American kitchens.
1968: The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr
Just a couple years after hitting the airwaves in New Zealand, Kerr moved to Canada to produce and star in The Galloping Gourmet. The show was named for Kerr’s “Galloping Gourmet” persona, which he cultivated by running onstage and leaping over a chair to begin each episode. The show had an international flavor, often including a pre-recorded segment showing Kerr in whatever country that episode’s dish originated. Reruns are still on the Food Network.
1972: Cookin’ Cajun with Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson was a Cajun humorist and chef whose distinct accent delighted viewers of his ”Cookin’ Cajun” television show, which first hit the air in 1972. Referring to himself as JOOS-tain, he was known for the catchphrase, “I gha-rawn-tee!” (guarantee), according to his obit in the New York Times. Wilson is credited with bringing Cajun cooking to mainstream America.
1973: Family Fare with Delia Smith
Family Fare was a BBC cooking show that began airing in 1973 with host Delia Smith. Smith had already published a book on cooking, How to Cheat at Cooking, in 1971. She’d later go on to host a number of other television shows, including Delia’s How to Cook and Delia’s Cookery Course.
1979: Cooking Mexican with Rick Bayless
In a more unusual career trajectory, Rick Bayless hosted 26 episodes of the PBS series Cooking Mexican during 1978 and 1979, before heading off to Mexico to spend six years cultivating his Mexican cooking skills. In 1987, his book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, came out to rave reviews. Bayless currently hosts PBS’s Mexico: One Plate at a Time, now entering Season 11.
Don’t miss our top 10 Mexican dinner recipes!
1982: Everyday Cooking with Jacques Pepin
French chef Jacques Pepin followed in the footsteps of Julia Child, bringing French food into American kitchens. He started in 1982 on PBS with Everyday Cooking with Jacque Pepin. Pepin remarked that the show “was about saving time and money in the kitchen—and it was a celebration of simple and unpretentious food.” It was the first of many Pepin-hosted television cooking shows.
1983: Indian Cookery with Madhur Jaffrey
Indian-born Madhur Jaffrey is known for bringing Indian cuisine to Americans, starting in 1973 with the publication of her debut cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking. Her first show was Indian Cookery, which was popular on BBC in the early 1980s. She later followed up with Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery in 1989, and Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India in 1995.
1984: Yan Can Cook with Martin Yan
Martin Yan’s self-titled television show aired on PBS in 1982 and has been going ever since (it’s been 1,500 episodes of traditional Chinese cooking). Yan’s famous catchphrase, “If Yan can cook, so can you,” was his trademark signoff for each episode in the early years. Born and raised in China, Yan first caught the attention of Canadian television viewers when he began doing cooking demos on a Calgary-based talk show.
1985: The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith was United Methodist minister who began teaching Food as Sacrament at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. His television career began on a local PBS station, but really took off when he appeared as a guest on Phil Donahue. By the mid-1980s, The Frugal Gourmet was the cooking show everyone was watching.
1986: Holiday Entertaining with Martha Stewart
Before Martha Stewart Living, the former Martha Kostyra was a model, stockbroker, food and entertainment editor of House Beautiful and an author of articles and books on entertaining. By 1986, Stewart broke out as a TV star with “Holiday Entertaining with Martha Stewart,” which aired on PBS. The food, home and entertaining world was revolutionized by Martha, and as she says, “It’s a good thing!”
1988: Food and Drink
First broadcasted in the early 1980s, Food and Drink had really caught its stride by the mid- to late 1980s. It featured a variety of famous hosts and was the first television program in the UK to cover the topic of eating without cooking. It stayed on the air all the way through 2002 and gradually began featuring hosts that were actually famous in the food and wine world.
1993: The Food Network
With cults of personality surrounding Julia Child (in reruns), Graham Kerr (in a revamped Galloping Gourmet), Martin Yan, Martha Stewart and Jeff Smith (of Frugal Gourmet), the stage was set for Television Food Network, which was born in 1993. Its preview lineup included shows by David Rosengarten, Donna Hanover and Robin Leach.
1994: Essence of Emeril with Emeril Lagasse
In 1994, the Food Network’s lineup expanded from its preview fare to include new shows, perhaps the most famous of which was hosted by Emeril Lagasse. Essence of Emeril “kicked” television cooking “up a notch” and truly ushered in the age of the celebrity chef.
1995: Taste with David Rosengarten
Taste was another of the Food Network’s first regular series offerings. It began airing in 1994 and remained on the air through 2001. “Call it culinary voyeurism, but Taste is a cooking show even take-out addicts will find enthralling,” Entertainment Weekly said in its review of the show.
1995: Fork in the Road with Paul Prudhomme
The Cajun chef and owner of New Orleans’s K-Pauls made five TV shows for PBS, but his inaugural outing, named for his book Fork In The Road, was the one that got Americans craving Cajun again. Prudhomme had a BIG personality, and his catchphrase was, “Good cooking, good eating, good loving!”
1996: Too Hot Tamales
The two hot tamales in the kitchen on Too Hot Tamales were Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, who together owned the City Cafe and the Border Grill in California before taking to the airwaves and teaching a generation how to cook Mexican food at home. Too Hot Tamales and Tamales World Tour were on the air for 396 episodes. Here’s how to make your own tamales at home!
1997: Two Fat Ladies
Ah, the Two Fat Ladies: Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. The duo traveled around Great Britain, cooking huge meals with really “wow” ingredients. It aired for only a few years on the BBC but is in perpetual syndication now in the U.S. (on the Cooking Channel and Food Network).
1998: Cooking Live with Sara Moulton
As its name suggests, Cooking Live was a live cooking show hosted by Chef Sara Moulton, who took calls and questions from viewers. It was the first of many cooking shows featuring Moulton, considered by some to be the “dean” of food television. Here are 57 ways to use fresh herbs that we like to think “Dean” Sarah Moulton would approve of.
1999: Good Eats with Alton Brown
Alton Brown is known as the Bill Nye of the food world. With quick wit, quirky acting and impeccable cooking knowledge, Brown entertained viewers with the food science, history and fun on his hit TV show. Here’s the one thing Alton Brown says to never do when shopping for knives.
2000: The Naked Chef with Jamie Oliver
Who’s cute as a button, has an adorable accent and made his television debut on The Naked Chef? Why Jamie Oliver, of course! The Naked Chef ran on BBC for just a few years, but it made a lasting impact, and not just by making Oliver a celebrity chef. Thanks to Oliver’s influence, men could feel manly in the kitchen, tearing up herbs with their bare hands, and women started longing for their honeys to cook them up something for dinner.
2001: Nigella Bites with Nigella Lawson
Part food tutorial, part foodie-confessional, Nigella Bites won viewers over thanks to the accessible warmth and beauty of host, Nigella Lawson. As the Food Network describes it, the show was a “total immersion in Nigella’s food life, focusing on the simple yet delicious food she cooks for herself, her family and friends, as well as the food she fantasize[d] about.”
2002: East Meets West with Ming Tsai
Ming Tsai isn’t just a Chinese-American chef. He’s a bundle of physical energy, doing yoga, playing tennis, riding his bike and of course, hopping out of his van into the heart of an Asian marketplace. How do we know? Because that’s the trademark opening sequence for East Meets West, Tsai’s Emmy-winning cooking show on which he introduced Americans to food that fused Chinese food with European tastes.
2003: Food 911 with Tyler Florence
On Food 911, Tyler Florence travels across the US to help home cooks overcome their cooking emergencies, and I can tell you first-hand that he’s truly a food rescue-worker. He certainly saved me from ruining a perfectly good batch of wheat berries by telling me how to soak and cook them (here’s the right way to prepare wheat berries as well as other whole grains). I was lucky enough to interview him back in the early aughts, and, well, my hero!
2004: Boy Meets Grill with Bobby Flay
It was a love story…between Bobby Flay and his grill, and it could be yours as well, no matter what your level of skill or experience. Flay made his culinary mark at Mesa Grill in New York City (which I’ll never forget because my parents took me to lunch there to celebrate my being sworn in as a New York lawyer). Boy Meets Grill wasn’t his first cooking show, but it certainly stands as one of his most iconic.
2005: Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay
Hell’s Kitchen is the show that made Gordon Ramsay famous in America. Broadcast on Fox, it shows two teams of chefs competing for a job as head chef at a restaurant. Ramsay makes it all very interesting, to say the least, and even if you weren’t watching Hell’s Kitchen back then, you nevertheless heard about it over water cooler conversation! Here are 3 food trends Gordon Ramsey hates.
2006: Iron Chef (America)
The original Iron Chef was a Japanese television show that got syndicated in the U.S. Back in the 1990s, I used to watch the chaotic cooking competition, which was narrated like a sporting event in Japanese and dubbed into English. Iron Chef America premiered in 2005, with narration provided by Alton Brown, and a celebrity chef lineup including Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck.
2007: The Rachel Ray Show
Rachel Ray’s self-titled show began airing in 2006, and within a year she was on everyone’s radar. A more practical and approachable version of Martha Stewart, Ray demonstrated her culinary and entertaining skills and tips and still does. It’s not just one of the most-viewed cooking and food-oriented shows, it’s one of the most-viewed daytime shows in general. Here’s the best EVOO you can buy.
2008: Ace of Cakes
Ace of Cakes focused on the daily operations of a Baltimore bakery shop, Charm City Cakes, and viewers were fascinated not only by how Duff Goldman ran his small business but how he constructed those amazing cakes. The love of watching intricate baking spawned a number of other cake-oriented shows, including Cupcake Wars and Cake Boss, both of which began airing in 2009, and Nailed It, an amateur baking competition, which began airing in 2018.
2009: Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives with Guy Fieri
Host Guy Fieri zig-zags across America in search of the best greasy spoons according to locals, and Americans have been eating it up since 2007. Here are 16 foods Guy Fieri’s thinks are “off the hook!”
2011: Down Home With the Neelys
Pat and Gina Neely were married restaurant owners (famous for their Tennessee barbecue restaurants), but on Down Home, they cooked from their Memphis home and expanded beyond barbecue cooking. When it debuted in 2008, it became the highest-rated series in the five-year history of Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” weekend block and continued to maintain its popularity all through its run.
2012: Paula’s Home Cooking with Paula Deen
Paula Deen is a true Southerner, owning and operating a couple of Georgia restaurants, and a true teacher as well, having published 15 cookbooks. The main focus of her show, Paula’s Home Cooking was Southern cuisine and comfort food. 2012 was the height of the show’s popularity. It was canceled the following spring due to philosophical differences between Deen and the Food Network.
2013: Top Chef
Top Chef pits chefs against one another in various cooking challenges (the judges are professional chefs and food and wine industry notables). It premiered in 2006 on Bravo, which is known for its reality television shows, and it’s spawned multiple spinoffs, including Top Chef Masters, Top Chef Just Deserts and Top Chef Junior.
Got some Junior Top Chefs of your own? Here are easy dinners your kids can help prepare.
MasterChef is another hugely popular television cooking competition, this one based on a British show by the same name. Its premiere was in 2010, right after Hell’s Kitchen, giving viewers a double dose of Gordon Ramsay. (He’s been one of the MasterChef judges since the beginning.) One of its most famous events is the “Mystery Box,” in which all of the competing chefs are given a box with the same ingredients and must use only those ingredients to create a dish.
2015: The Pioneer Woman
The Pioneer Woman is Ree Drummond, who made a name for herself with her wonderful recipes and how-tos on her blog. The show primarily features Drummond cooking for family and friends at her working Oklahoma ranch. Here are 17 of Ree Drummond’s favorite potluck recipes!
2016: The Great British Bake Off
The Great British Bake Off premiered in 2010, having amateur bakers compete with one another in the hopes of winning over the impressive judges, including Mary Berry. By 2016, “GBBO”‘s popularity had grown to iconic proportions. It’s still going strong, albeit with a different set of judges. It airs in the U.S. as “The Great British Baking Show.”
Try your hand at these Great British Baking Show copycat recipes!
2017: The Great American Baking Show
The Great American Baking Show is the American version of GBBO and even included Mary Berry in its lineup for its first couple seasons. It reached its peak in popularity in 2017 but was canceled due to philosophical differences with one of its judges, the pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini.
2018: Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Even you weren’t watching Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown before Bourdain’s death, you probably heard all about this Emmy Award-winning food and travel show. It premiered on CNN in 2013 and depicted Bourdain uncovering the world’s most exotic, unusual and adventurous cuisine. The new episodes that Bourdain shot before his death (slated to air throughout the remainder of June) are predicted to reach new levels of viewership.