Composite image by Arthur Bovino
When James Beard hosted the first nationally syndicated TV cooking show, I Love to Eat, in 1946, he probably didn’t think that 65 years later there would be dozens of cooking shows, an even greater number of celebrity chefs, and two television channels (Food Network and Cooking Channel) devoted exclusively to food. While over the years many shows failed to attract large audiences (does anyone remember Two Dudes Catering?) others have attracted millions of loyal followers.
Part of the reason some of these shows were so widely watched is because they were syndicated on network television and that interest in cooking shows has grown over the years. Others, like Bravo’s Top Chef, have entered the ranks of the most watched cooking shows due to their format. People just seem to love watching experienced chefs battle it out for prize money. So which are the most watched cooking shows of all-time?
This list consists of the highest-rated television shows based on available Nielsen ratings and information about ratings gathered from newspapers and magazines. Noted figures are the peak number of viewers for a single week unless otherwise noted. A few shows on the list were not entirely devoted to cooking (Martha Stewart Living and the Rachael Ray Show), but were included because a significant amount of time involved cooking. Shows like No Reservations and Man v. Food were omitted because though they're food shows, there's no significant amount of cooking.
While some popular cooking shows like Emeril Live, Everyday Italian, or Semi-Homemade didn’t make the cut, by far the most influential cooking show to ever be seen on TV, Julia Child’s The French Chef, was near the top of the list. As for whether the ten most watched cooking shows are of any educational or entertainment value, that‘s up to you.