Too many (celebrity) cooks in the (TV) kitchen

The term “celebrity chef” used to mean a chef who became a celebrity. Now it is taking on a new meaning as more and more already famous people – actors, singers, reality show stars – create their own cooking shows. From Paris Hilton to Selena Gomez and now to Florence Pugh, these programs are proliferating on networks and streaming services. Is this a good thing? Eater’s Amy McCarthy says “no” and tells us why there are too many celebrity cooking shows.

McCarthy first takes us back to the heyday of televised food programming, reminiscing fondly about shows like The French Chef and culinary TV legends like Jacques Pépin, Rachael Ray and Ina Garten. She’s less sanguine about the new crop of programs and their stars. “This new world of celebrity cooking shows makes me worry that we’ll lose a lot of what we gained during the heyday of Food Network. Food Network was never perfect, but it did give many of us our first experiences with cooking better and more interesting meals at home,” she says.

While I agree in part with McCarthy’s views, I won’t knock these shows altogether. First, I am a bit (okay, a fair amount) older than the target audience for the programs, so my opinion may not be that relevant. Second, I believe anything that encourages people to get in the kitchen and experiment is at least moderately good. And I must admit I was mildly entertained by Cooking with Paris.

Maybe these shows are “dumbed down” or maybe that is just my perception as an experienced cook and a person who grew up without Instagram or TikTok. Goodness knows that in my 20s I was not exactly cooking gourmet meals, and I might have found it fun to make “beany fart” salad back then. Just because these shows aren’t as serious as the early Food Network shows doesn’t make them inherently bad. It will be interesting to hear if Gen Z waxes poetic about the current crop of culinary programs in 2043 as I do about Jacques Pépin’s classic public TV programs now.

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  • matag  on  March 30, 2023

    My current pet peeve is that there are far less cooking shows and way more cooking contests, challenges and games. I loved when Julia, Emeril, Ina etc showed you how to add a cup or a tablespoon to make a dish.

  • tmjellicoe  on  March 30, 2023

    I agree with Matag. Too many contests and not enough how to.

    Some celebrity cookbooks and such do help get the younger generations into the kitchen. One of my kids saw a series of tik tok videos of someone cooking from Snoop Dog’s book so she bought it and started using it. Then she brought it with her when coming home from uni so she could try more recipes.

  • dnortje31  on  March 31, 2023

    Totally agree with the previous comments! I despair at the fact that there aren’t a few good shows for more experienced cooks; everything seems to be aimed at younger generations who don’t know how to cook. Julia Child, Keith Floyd, and The Galloping Gourmet (showing my age here 😉 were inspirational cooks. We don’t seem to have that anymore.

  • GiselleMarie  on  March 31, 2023

    I, too, love the quiet, instructive shows in which an accomplished chef demonstrates for us how to properly cook. My pet peeve are the shows that fall into the “food as a competition” genre with their artificial time limits, stress, mistakes, and bad language. Who finds these entertaining? I don’t watch much TV, but on a rainy weekend, I do like learning from Lidia Bastianich and others like her.

  • Pizzacat13  on  March 31, 2023

    I’ve resorted to Youtube these days for cooking shows that actually show people cooking! I love Marion’s Kitchen, Pailin’s Kitchen (for Thai cooking), Maangchi and Ethan Chlebowski, not dumbed down and great instructional cooking programs.

    • Jane  on  March 31, 2023

      We have recently added YouTube and TikTok links on the author pages – we previously just had the author’s site and Instagram. I have added the YouTube links for the authors you mention (apart from Ethan who has not yet written a cookbook). If you, or any other member, have other YouTube links you think we should add, please email them to us.

  • JaniceKj  on  March 31, 2023

    I totally agree with all. I stopped entirely FN and TCC, the channels are all about food competitions, super editing scenes, as much as every 5 secs. I prefer now YT… I can choose from a great variety of chefs or shows. Also, Create.TV has great shows, I stick to simplicity/educational and soft spoken shows.

  • anya_sf  on  April 1, 2023

    In general, I agree with the others in that I miss the old shows that actually taught one how to cook (mainly how I learned!). But I certainly do appreciate a few cooking competition programs, although too many are simply ridiculous. And I’ve actually enjoyed Selena Gomez’s show (could see making some of those dishes) as well as Paris Hilton’s (for a completely different reason). And some of the YouTube//TikTok videos are quite helpful, so I could totally see how those would help a younger generation learn to cook, just like Jacques Pepin and Martin Yan did back in my day.

  • MollyB  on  April 4, 2023

    I’m likewise tired of all the celebrity shows. I want to watch and learn from experts who really know what they’re doing (even if it’s just as a home cook), not from actors/musicians/models, etc. Something I have enjoyed recently are live online cooking classes on specific things I want to learn. I really liked a few that I did with Chicca’s “Cooking in Tuscany,” and I hoping to try one of the League of Kitchens classes soon.

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