living in the Middle East is quite isolating you from the "normal" TV culture. But lets face it: when it comes to TV food shows, every country except of the US [even the UK], doesn't get the full treatment of quality.
Fortunately there is a cool thing called "world wide web" which is littered with videos either way of full episodes, or at least clips of them.
So let's get to it:
- No ReservationsIf you don't know Anthony Bourdain, you should go and buy his book "Kitchen Confidential" (be warned, who has a sensitive disposition, when it comes to "sex, drugs and rock'n'roll might be more than occasionally shocked reading it - and definitely blush regularly). Anthony discontinued this show a couple of years ago, but the show is still one of the best and most amusing food related shows ever.
It is narrated with Bourdain's typical contemporary poetic style, it shows the cuisine of countries, restaurants, chefs, how it really is. And well... it shows also often, what toll alcohol takes on Anthony Bourdain. It is funny, amusing, edutaining, every episode is just a perfect 45 minutes spend for a foodie!
- Similar shows:
- The LayoverAlso "surrounding" Anthony Bourdain, this shows has a more fast-pace structure, and focuses on cities. It shows, what you can do within 24 hours... food, food, food, entertaining, cultural things. It is nice - but doesn't have the solid coolness and cultural approach as No Reservations.
- Parts UnknownThis is the contemporary show of Anthony Bourdain on CNN. It feels like a combination of No Reservations and the Layover... it is more serious than No Reservations but more elaborate as the Layover. Good show - but above was definitely the best of the 3 altogether.
- Mind of a ChefIf the narrating voice is familiar with you... and the overall brilliant story telling, and eventually there are some cameos as well... you are right: it is another show of Anthony Bourdain. For me he is a wizard in what he is doing - producing food related shows!
Season one is moderated by David Chang, one of the (if not THE) most trailblazing, trending chefs nowadays, and it circles around Japanese food culture. Season 2 is more American. Still, the show is as brilliant as No Reservations... a bit more focused on food and less on getting drunk.
- Iron Chef AmericaIt is fast-paced produce driven, "brilliantly tabloid", it is amusing without diluting the credibility of the chefs. Iron Chef America is in my eyes iconic and I am depressed, that there are so less new episodes produced nowadays. However if you didn't watched ICA before, there are loads and loads of episodes with absolutely amazing chefs waiting for you.
- The next Iron Chef is a spin off of Iron Chef America - a competition which resulted in the newer Iron Chefs. It is more of a typical culinary competition, rather than the iconoclastic chef battles... but it is also worth to watch.
- Original Iron Chef - is the original Japanese format of Iron Chef America. It is pretty unique, funny and typical Japanese... but lacks the refinement of the American adaptation. It comes also often in a very lackluster video quality... and the voice over translation can be exhausting.
- Gorden Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares - if you like him or not, Gordon Ramsey definitely have a lot of credentials; in the kitchen (well he owns quite a lot of restaurants with stars - obviously he doesn't cook there anymore...) as well as in the TV landscape. One of the most iconic shows are Kitchen Nightmares. You should have a strong stomach and the ability to screen out seen things or forget or just have a lot of faith, if you ever want to dine out again... It also has to be said, that Gordon's language usually shifts the show out of family territory.
But the presence and character of this British celebrity chef is just bringing the show on a level of brilliance rarely seen.
There are British (earlier) episodes, which often have a miserable video quality, and American episodes, which feature better video quality, better scripting, but also a far more commercial approach. Still - it is very entertaining!
- Restaurant Rescue - is just an American show, which literally rips of "Gordon Ramsey's concept". Lead by Robert Irvine (also a British chef), it is also quite well made, especially if you compare to worse adaptations (cough - Restaurant Takeover - cough). As Kitchen Nightmares was discontinued last year, this is the best way, to watch a similar format.
- Masterchef US. Again: Gordon Ramsey, but with some other celebrity personalities of the restaurant industry.
It is a culinary competition for home cooks and it is well made, entertaining. Again Ramsey's personality shines as a beacon, for great food entertainment. It can be at times a bit... commercial and targets "cheap laughs" as well as buys grins on others pity (similar to American Idol or other such competitions), but overall it is addicting and entertaining and even slightly educational.
- Masterchef Jr. - I just hate it... but I understand, why people are watching the "little ones" to cook their heart out. This spin off is just as well made as its original - however focuses on kids.
- Masterchef Australia (and other countries) - I actually enjoyed to watch Masterchef Australia - it isn't bad at all. However with a lot of cooking shows, you need to set some priorities... and as good as it is, it cannot match with the show made with Gordon Ramsey! And: the Australians have a funny dialect (which first of all wins devilish smiles... but then tend to annoy me).
- Masterchef UK / Masterchef UK - the Professionals Why I didn't included Masterchef UK to Masterchef US? Because "the original" has quite a different format and totally has a different vibe. But it is really good. I tend to prefer the US version of Masterchef when it comes to hobby cooks, but the Masterchef UK - the Professional spin of has a quality and culinary depth, which lacks most other cooking shows. It is tough, but not as "vocally abusive" - is just not as "couch_potato_entertaining". But it seriousness sets it apart.
- Top Chef (US) - The overall idea of Top Chef is matching the Masterchef UK - the Professional. However it sets a completely different tone, a different structure... it is definitely not a show, which just rips of another shows idea (to be honest, I am not sure which show was first: Top Chef or Masterchef Professional). Season I was a bit a drought, due to a underwhelming and underperforming female host. The producers acknowledged this, and replaced her with the lovely Padma Lakshmi, which really carries the show aside of an opinionated, but nonetheless brilliant celebrity chef Tony Colicchio.
- Top Chef of other countries (e.g. Canada) - I started to watch a bit Top Chef Canada... and it is also quite good. But as the Masterchef Australia, it is just not as cutting edge as the American version.
- Good Eats - if you have abandoned this post to already watch some of my top TV shows, this host might very much be familiar with you... Alton Brown is one of the most influential (non-chef) food personalities - and he is the narrator of Iron Chef America, the host of The Next Iron Chef and he is surfacing reasonably often in other culinary occasions. Good Eats is highly educational, it will make you definitely a better cook! It is really off-beat, and just reflects very much Alton's kooky personality. Unfortunately the show was discontinued last year [after years... I think there are around 200 episodes]. If you haven't seen it yet, it will rock your "cooking world".
- Munchies: Chef Night OutWhile the other shows are traditionally produced and distributed, Munchies is a spin off of VICE and is totally youtube based. That means that it is extremely accessible to anyone!
Chef Night Out always follows the same structure: A chef is introduced and he walks you through his philosophy and approach, some of his dishes and so on. The cool thing is, that chefs/restaurants are chosen, which are really trendy and cool - not lead by known celebrity chefs or not the restaurants you always hear about. This makes the show refreshingly different. After the introduction, the chef picks up some friends and goes to befriended restaurant and bars [or to places in their area, which they wanted to visit] and eat a lot of food and eventually get drunk - they usually take some people from the visited restaurants with them - hence the party becomes bigger. They then go back into their restaurant and cook for their staff as well as friends and people from the other restaurants and party on.
While it sounds a bit crude, the show really showcases the different personalities of the chefs - it is really fun.
- Munchies doesn't only produce Chefs Night Out, but also other brilliant shows - just go onto their youtube channel and subscribe! One really great, but also not necessary family friendly show is Fuck, that's delicious. It takes you onto the food adventures of "foodie rapper" Action Bronson - it is totally entertaining... but be aware, that you might not want to watch it with your kids or other sensitive people - and it is also not save for your workplace!
- Different in structure and content, but very similar in foul language and fun is: Keep It Canada With Matty Matheson. It takes you with the mentioned Matty through Canada... the heavily tattooed and overweight but incredible fun guy, gives you loads of smiles.
- The Munchies show Sushi Chef, is very nice as well - very edutaining, but not as fun-trashy as the other shows.
- Vice/Munchies also made fantastic and very neutral documentaries about serious topics like the over-fishing of the Blue Fin Tuna - or the whole foie gras debate.
- Other shows of Munchies are in my eyes also very view-able - but not as iconic (you should keep your eyes on The Fat Prince - I don't know how, but this totally crappy show just attracts big "acts" from the culinary scene... it also very much features foul language and it is also fun... just not really my type of show.
- Food WishesThis is a real conservative recipe youtube channel, but it has an almost therapeutically effect on me. It has definitely a good amount of humor, but is mainly educational. Personally I think, it is one of the best "recipe driven" shows around, and can definitely revel against professional TV productions!
The top 10 are now set in stone (well, not really...) - but how to get to the shows? Eventually a lot of shows are American and are often restricted to the region...
- iTunes, Amazon.com etc.
- You can buy some of the shows absolutely legally from this pages... but at times they are also regional restricted. For me iTunes is the easiest way... but I believe, the best is to try out different sites/apps and find your very own perfect match.
- There is a lot of legal and half legal (the uploader infringed the copyrights of the tv-production, but you can watch it absolutely legally, until youtube is banning the video). Sometimes it is not a great quality - but most of the time, it is adequate. Even some TV-networks are uploading free youtube videos - but unfortunately often with regional restrictions [we are coming to this point].
- Because I am addicted to food-videos, I made the decision to subscribe to VPN services. Basically you are "tunneling" your internet connection to the servers to your VPN company, hence you have regional restriction, of the server location [usually you can choose the server location]. That works like a charm for the TV-channels websites of the respective shows - on this pages, they upload quite a lot of free videos... e.g. Foodnetwork. Unfortunately it doesn't work anymore with Hulu [which has free content, but now is checking to "typical VPN server addresses and blocks them]. There are few free VPN services out there... which are not very useful in my eyes. I have got ExpressVPN, which is very good and not expensive at all. With this services you are also overall far less vulnerable to hacker attacks!
- Torrenting - no this isn't necessary legal. However it can be very hard to watch some shows, if you don't torrent - and a lot of shows cannot even be purchased legally - personally I think, if you cannot get to the latest shows, legally, there is a proper justification to go rogue. Just download a torrent client like utorrent or Vuze - search in google for "torrent >specific TV show< sXXeXX" and it should bring you to several sites, where you can download it. Usually I prefer the magnet link, which is less prone to download any fraudulent content.
- Have an anti-virus tool on your computer. Torrent webpages are really a cradle for malware... be aware.
- Don't install any video codecs, don't download [or stop downloading and delete] exe files or other applications and disc images!
- Try first of all to get the episodes the legal way, before you download them.
And don't subscribe to the TV premium package of your respective communication company (in the UAE Du and Etisalat), if you only want to see food shows. Unfortunately they have incredible amount of repetitions... and the shows are usually very old.