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Food has been a part of television from almost the beginning, and the TV chef has been a popular character in American culture for the better part of a century. Chef and cookbook author James Beard hosted the first network cooking show in the 1940s, establishing a genre that would eventually lead to entire cable networks devoted to the nuances of food preparation. The contemporary food show, however, is often much less about food than its ancestors were.

Early TV cooking shows were often concerned as much with advertising as they were with cooking instruction. Sponsors’ products-kitchen appliances, gadgets and food products-were promoted openly and enthusiastically. By the time Julia Child hit the airwaves with her The French Chef in 1963, though, the cooking show had becomes a more serious mixture of entertainment and education, giving home cooks an enjoyable way to learn how to cook new dishes.

In recent years, the food genre has broadened to include a range of program types. The celebrity-chef cooking show remains popular, but the reality and game show genres have reached into the realm of food, as well. In competitive cooking shows, chefs work individually or in teams to create dishes which are evaluated by a panel of judges. In one type of reality food show, a celebrity chef helps to make over struggling restaurants; in these shows, the focus is generally on the interpersonal drama of the situations rather than on the details of food preparation.

Yet another food-TV genre merges the cooking show with a travelogue, as a host seeks out interesting dishes in far-flung locales; the culinary subjects may be regional delicacies, exotic cuisines or otherwise unusual fare. Some of these shows have an educational component, as the host looks on while the local chef shows the audience how to prepare the dishes.

    The Great British Baking Show

    The Great British Baking Show

    Chopped

    Chopped

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

    Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

    Halloween Wars

    Halloween Wars

    Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

    Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted

    Welcome to Sweetie Pie's

    Welcome to Sweetie Pie's

    Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

    Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

    MasterChef

    MasterChef

    Girl Meets Farm

    Girl Meets Farm

    The Kitchen

    The Kitchen

    Cutthroat Kitchen

    Cutthroat Kitchen

    Cupcake Wars

    Cupcake Wars

    Beat Bobby Flay

    Beat Bobby Flay

    Guy's Grocery Games

    Guy's Grocery Games

    MasterChef Junior

    MasterChef Junior

    Selena + Chef

    Selena + Chef

    Delicious Miss Brown

    Delicious Miss Brown

    Zumbo's Just Desserts

    Zumbo's Just Desserts

    Chef's Table

    Chef's Table

    Barefoot Contessa

    Barefoot Contessa

    Trisha's Southern Kitchen

    Trisha's Southern Kitchen

    Cook's Country

    Cook's Country

    BBQ Pitmasters

    BBQ Pitmasters

    Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

    Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

    Good Eats

    Good Eats

    Lidia's Kitchen

    Lidia's Kitchen

    Top Secret Recipe

    Top Secret Recipe

    Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell & Back

    Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell & Back

    Milk Street Television

    Milk Street Television

    Hell's Kitchen

    Hell's Kitchen

    Chopped Junior

    Chopped Junior

    The Chef Show

    The Chef Show

    I'll Have What Phil's Having

    I'll Have What Phil's Having

    Cake Wars

    Cake Wars

    Nailed It

    Nailed It

    Carnival Eats

    Carnival Eats

    Masterchef Canada

    Masterchef Canada

    Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

    Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern

    Buddy vs. Duff

    Buddy vs. Duff

    Gordon's Great Escape

    Gordon's Great Escape

    Holiday Baking Championship

    Holiday Baking Championship

    Rotten

    Rotten

    Spring Baking Championship

    Spring Baking Championship

    Giada in Italy

    Giada in Italy

    Sugar Rush

    Sugar Rush

    Guy's Ranch Kitchen

    Guy's Ranch Kitchen

    Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

    Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

    Top Chef Jr.

    Top Chef Jr.

    Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations

    Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations

    America's Test Kitchen

    America's Test Kitchen

    Taco Chronicles

    Taco Chronicles

    The Next Iron Chef

    The Next Iron Chef

    Amy Schumer Learns to Cook

    Amy Schumer Learns to Cook

    Ramsay's Best Restaurant

    Ramsay's Best Restaurant

    The Kindness Diaries

    The Kindness Diaries

    Sweet Genius

    Sweet Genius

    The Zimmern List

    The Zimmern List

    Down to Earth with Zac Efron

    Down to Earth with Zac Efron

    Man Vs. Child: Chef Showdown

    Man Vs. Child: Chef Showdown

    A Taste of History

    A Taste of History

    Winner Cake All

    Winner Cake All

    Bizarre Foods

    Bizarre Foods

    Britain's Best Home Cook

    Britain's Best Home Cook

    Pig Goat Banana Cricket

    Pig Goat Banana Cricket

    Halloween Cake-Off

    Halloween Cake-Off

    Somebody Feed Phil

    Somebody Feed Phil

    Tasty

    Tasty

    On the Rocks

    On the Rocks

    The French Chef with Julia Child

    The French Chef with Julia Child

    Supermarket Stakeout

    Supermarket Stakeout

    Cooks vs. Cons

    Cooks vs. Cons

    Huang's World

    Huang's World

    Hungry Investors

    Hungry Investors

    Ugly Delicious

    Ugly Delicious

    Christmas Cookie Challenge

    Christmas Cookie Challenge

    Deep Fried Masters

    Deep Fried Masters

    30 Minute Meals

    30 Minute Meals

    Craziest Restaurants in America

    Craziest Restaurants in America

    Restaurant Stakeout

    Restaurant Stakeout

    Patricia Heaton Parties

    Patricia Heaton Parties

    The Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure

    The Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure

    Patti LaBelle's Place

    Patti LaBelle's Place

    Million Pound Menu

    Million Pound Menu

    Unwrapped 2.0

    Unwrapped 2.0

    Giada's Holiday Handbook

    Giada's Holiday Handbook

    BBQ Pit Wars

    BBQ Pit Wars

    The Farm

    The Farm

    Texas Cake House

    Texas Cake House

    Man's Greatest Food

    Man's Greatest Food

    Good Eats: Reloaded

    Good Eats: Reloaded

    Food: Delicious Science

    Food: Delicious Science

    Kitchen Boss

    Kitchen Boss

    Pizza Masters

    Pizza Masters

    Gordon Ramsay's F Word

    Gordon Ramsay's F Word

    Mom's Cooking

    Mom's Cooking

    Farmhouse Rules

    Farmhouse Rules

    How to Live to 100

    How to Live to 100

    Cake Masters

    Cake Masters

    The Flay List

    The Flay List

    Everyday Italian

    Everyday Italian