Let’s face it: we all have a special place in our hearts for old-school Food Network. Since day one, it’s brought some great chefs and food personalities into our homes, not only showing us how to prepare great meals but entertaining us at the same time. While today its competition and “lifestyle” shows tend to get the most attention, at its heart we feel that Food Network has always been about the cooking shows, and we’ve ranked the top 12.
The “stand and stir” format wasn’t invented by Food Network, but they did a great job of bringing it to the masses. For many, their afternoon programming block of straight-ahead cooking shows, where a host would stand in front of the camera and prepare a meal, walking us through each step of the process, not only introduced us to new dishes, ingredients, and personalities, but also showed us that the skills needed to cook a great meal weren’t beyond our reach either. In short, it was comfort food in television format.
Dozens and dozens of cooking shows have been aired by Food Network in the 20 years since its debut, some obviously more memorable than others. In order to rank the top dozen, we took into account several criteria: Was the show entertaining and educational? Did it attract a following? Did it introduce us to new ways of thinking about food? Did it have an influence on the culinary community at large? Was it considered “groundbreaking” in one way or another? And if it’s a show that’s been off the air for some time, is it still fondly remembered by those who tuned in?
In order to be considered for our ranking, the show needed to be aired exclusively on the Food Network, not produced by, say, the BBC and later picked up by Food Network (sorry, Two Fat Ladies!). We dug back into the archives to make sure that our list represented a full cross-section of their cooking shows, going back to the very beginning. So read on to learn which 12 cooking shows we consider to be the very best that Food Network has ever brought to air, and hopefully also for a trip down memory lane.