Cooking Shows for the Pop Culture Junkie

Ina GartenNBC via Getty Images

True pop culture connoisseurs are willing to give just about every genre, series, miniseries, director or film a try. But even though they’re just as excited for the new Marvel movie as they are the latest indie from Richard Linklater, or watch both Breaking Bad and The Bachelorette, there’s still one genre that most TV buffs are reluctant to sample. We are, of course, referring to the cooking show, likely the preferred Sunday afternoon programming of your parents. But cooking shows are more than just drawn out recipes from stiff, snobby chefs; they’re exciting and interesting and sometimes, even dangerous. In an effort to encourage television fiends to expand their horizons even further, we’ve pulled together some of our favorites and matched them to their pop culture equivalent, so you can find the show or competition that’s right for your appetite. Even if you don’t find a new addition to your DVR, at least you’ve got something new to eat during your next Netflix binge.  

If You Like Nancy Meyers’ Movies, Try Barefoot Contessa  
If you’re watching a Nancy Meyers film, you’re probably someone who appreciates a middle-aged romance, a linen pant and an expensive kitchen. Ina Garten’s show is ostensibly about teaching people how to cook delicious, rustic dishes, but it’s really about her beautiful home in the Hamptons, where’s she always throwing together something in her impeccably designed kitchen for an impromptu – but perfectly designed – get together. And since her husband Jeffrey often wanders in to fawn over her, all it’s really missing is Diane Keaton.

If You Like Scandal, Try Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee
On Scandal, Olivia Pope can solve even the most intimidating, impossible-looking presidential problems with efficiency, and spends a significant amount of time contemplating her life while drinking wine in an expensive cardigan. Sandra Lee does the exact same thing on Semi-Homemade, only the problem is how to turn a bunch of processed, canned foods into something that’s even remotely edible. Unlike Olivia, unfortunately, she doesn’t always succeed. 

If You Like Channing Tatum, Try Anything with Bobby Flay
Channing Tatum has carved out a niche in Hollywood by being good-looking and likable, no matter what kind of film he’s in. Comedy, romance, action, it doesn’t matter – you’re not really there for the plot, you just want to watch a Channing Tatum movie. When you want that kind of comfortable entertainment from your cooking shows, turn to Bobby Flay. It doesn’t matter which show you choose. He has a million of them, and they’re all just as likable and inoffensive as the others.

If You Like True Blood, Try Nigella Feasts
Chances are you lost track of the plot of True Blood about three seasons ago and are now just tuning in for the sheer amount of skin on display. What’s Joe Manganiello saying? Who cares, just look at him. If you’re looking for a cooking show that will be equally uncomfortable to watch with your parents, you’re looking for Nigella Lawson, who treats food the way the rest of us treat Alexander Skarsgaard and Ryan Kwanten. What’s she making? It doesn’t matter. Just look at it.  

If You Like Glee, Try 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray
Only a few people have stuck with Glee this long into its run. They’re the kind of people who are willing to ignore just about anything in favor of upbeat dance numbers, familiar characters, and bright colors. They’re also the kind of people who would love 30 Minute Meals with Rachael Ray, another acquired taste. You want questionable dialogue? People talking enthusiastically in the loudest, most theatrical voice possible? Comfortable guilty pleasures? A set designed in shades of tangerine? This is the show for you.

Guy FieriWENN/Carrie Devorah

If You Like Everything Michael Bay’s Created, Try Guy’s Big Bite  
You’re a person with simple tastes: you want loud, explosive action scenes, very little plot, lots of incoherent shouting and as many punching robots as humanly possible. Sure, you might get teased by friends who think they have better sensibilities, but you know you’re not alone in your preferences. Luckily, there’s a cooking show just for you, hosted by the culinary equivalent of Michael Bay – Guy Fieri – in which he makes loud, obnoxious, potentially explosive food that forgoes any kind of subtlety for punching you in the face with flavors.

If You Like True Detective, Try Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown  
This isn’t a straightforward cooking show, but then True Detective isn’t a straightforward murder mystery show. Both feature a complicated, charming anti-hero with a penchant for foul language, who sets out in search of meaning and mystery. it just so happens that instead of solving a crime, Anthony Bourdian is hunting down obscure delicacies. All of the action, adventure, beautiful cinematography, and potential for weird crushes are still in tact, though. Don’t you worry.

If You Like The Hunger Games, Try Top Chef  
Do you like televised competitions in which one person must outsmart, outwit, and out-maneuver everyone else, please judges who have the ability to bestow gifts and advantages on them, utilize their individual skills in creative ways, form alliances and teams in order to support one another, all in hte interest of coming out on top? The only difference between The Hunger Games  and Top Chef  is that nobody dies on the latter. Although, someone did cut off a finger once…

If You Like Harry Potter, Try Jamie Oliver
For many people, the Harry Potter series was an introduction to a lifelong love of reading, British culture, fantasy worlds and fandom, among other things. Likewise, Jamie Oliver is often an entryway into the world of cooking shows. He’s handsome and charming, easy to follow, and cooks simple, classic meals with all of the manic enthusiasm of Daniel Radcliffe. The first time you ever saw someone make traditional British food? It was probably Jamie Oliver. Plus, like Harry, he’s the star of an epic series of his own, with somewhere between two and 12 shows airing on some channel at any given time.

If You Like Friday Night Lights, Try Chuck’s Day Off
As many Friday Night Lights fans know, sometimes the best programs are the ones very few people are watching, and that’s true of the Cooking Channel show Chuck’s Day Off. In this series, our culinary Tim Riggins, Chuck Hughes, takes us through the process of cooking classic, simple food with his laid-back, good ol’ boy charm. At some point, before you’re entirely ready, you’ll be done with all the episodes, feeling empty, hungry, and a little bit in love. And like with Friday Night Lights, you’ll spend a significant amount of time trying to convince your friends to give it a shot, promising it’s “not just about cooking, I promise!”





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