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The best cooking shows of all time, according to chefs

Even real-life chefs binge 'Hell's Kitchen' and 'Iron Chef'

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

You don't have to be a whiz in the kitchen to binge the heck out of a good old-fashioned cooking show. No matter your skill level, there's something mesmerizing about watching the pros chop, sear and plate from the comfort of your couch. Toss in the added pressure of a reality show competition, and you've got endless hours of entertainment. If you're looking for something new to add to your watchlist, consider the best cooking shows of all time – as selected by some of the world's top chefs. (Yes, even after a long day in the kitchen, they too can't resist a good Iron Chef marathon.)

For some chefs, the best cooking shows acted as a gateway to a career in the culinary arts. For others, newer series provide a smorgasbord of inspiration. Ready to hit play? Take a look at the cooking shows that chefs adore – from Emeril Live and Chef's Table to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a weekly food series that taps into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

The best cooking shows of all time, according to chefs

Julia Child: Cooking with Master Chefs

‘I wanted to become a chef because of Julia Child. The show showed me that anything is possible and that food should tell a story about who you are.’—Bill Kim, chef-owner of Urbanbelly and Bill Kim at Time Out Market in Chicago

‘The Nyesha Arrington Show. Joking – but maybe one day! This is really hard because I love Julia Child, but I also love the Two Fat Ladies. Those ladies were true culinary rebels, and the best part is that they loved butter. Truly they loved rich food and adventure, and watching their show was a pure joy.’Nyesha Arrington, Los Angeles-based chef and former Top Chef contestant


Hell’s Kitchen

‘The best cooking show of all time has to be Hell’s Kitchen. I absolutely love that show. Besides seeing the beautiful chef Gordan Ramsay grace my screen every week, I love watching chefs perform in high-pressure situations. I believe if you can successfully run a station with Ramsay screaming down your throat, you can pretty much accomplish anything.’—Kristen Ashley, chef-owner of Cleo's Southern Cuisine in Chicago

‘For me, it’s Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay on the Food Network. Why? I must say that his show gives the real picture of how a chef works in the kitchen on a daily basis and how to execute a busy service under pressure.’—Dadrian Coke, chef de cuisine at Chubby's Jamaican Kitchen in Toronto


Emeril Live

‘Emeril made chefs into superstars. Every home cook was yelling “BAM!” as they seasoned their food. Chefs who were on Emeril Live became household names.’—Brian Jupiter, chef-owner of Ina Mae Tavern and Frontier in Chicago

Top Chef

Top Chef! Why? I was one of the contestants on Season 11, and I had an amazing experience. Everything you see on the show is real. Being part of that Top Chef family will always mean a great deal to me.’—Carlos Gaytán, chef-owner of Tzuco in Chicago


Good Eats

‘There are three. Good Eats with Alton Brown was by far the most informative show while also being incredibly entertaining. Emeril Live was the best cooking show with an audience – he was a master at engaging and delighting the crowd, and his recipes were all really good. The last one is Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which doesn't need any explanation.’—Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer, chefs and co-owners of Boia De in Miami

Floyd on France

Floyd on France – a brilliant window into cooking in a simpler time. Floyd is funny and, more often than not, drunk. But shows about cooking don't have to be complicated to be incredible.’—Max Venning, co-owner of Top Cuvée in London


Chef's Table

‘It has to be Chef's Table. When the title music starts, there’s absolutely no way you can't get excited. It is so beautifully filmed and I appreciate the casting of the most prestigious and talented chefs around the globe. It's just a perfect cooking show, and I hope it never ends.’—Nicolas Fagundes, sous chef at Pichet in Dublin

Chef's Table. Although there isn’t a huge amount of cooking in the series per se, it’s incredible that we can find out more about our chef heroes and what makes them tick.’—Morgan McGlone, chef and co-founder of Belles Hot Chicken in Sydney

Yan Can Cook

‘Back in the ’90s, I loved the American cooking show Yan Can Cook, which was always fun and entertaining. Chef’s Table is another very special and inspiring show. It showcases the passion, the hard work and stories behind some the most iconic chefs and restaurants around the world. My favourite bits are of people who have cooked for years just to make others happy through their food and sticking to their roots.’—Avinash Shashidhara, head chef of Pali Hill in London


Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

‘This may be a controversial take but stay with me here: Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. This show has highlighted so many of North America’s unsung restaurants that make up the fabric of our industry. These local favourites are what make small towns – and larger cities – unforgettable and really showcase that you don't need to be the fanciest place to make people happy with your food.’—Kathryn Ferries, sous chef at Stofa Restaurant in Ottawa

La Cocina de Karlos Arguiñano

‘I like La Cocina de Karlos Arguiñano since I used to watch it all the time with my grandmother. I’m also a fan of the old Iron Chef from Japan, where real restaurants’ top chefs compete against each other with a mystery box with surprising ingredients. It’s super fun to watch and you may even learn a thing or two.’—Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong


MasterChef Australia

‘The cooks are putting [out] professional-level creations with influences from all around the world. Also, the show creators are up to date with the latest food trends and hot ingredients from all around the world, which they try to highlight throughout the show. There is a lot that a cooking enthusiast can learn from this show.’—Marwa Alkhalaf, chef-director of Nutshell in London

Parts Unknown

‘It's not really a “cooking” show, but the way Anthony Bourdain explored places through food and culture was very special.’—Chris Leach, chef-cofounder of Manteca in London


Iron Chef

‘For me, the best cooking show of all times is Iron Chef. Two chefs with great culinary skills producing a four-course meal using a mystery ingredient – it’s always fascinated me. I love the adrenaline rush, the use of technique and creativity one needs to exude in just 30 minutes.’—Prashant Chipkar, executive chef and culinary director at Masti and chef at Time Out Market in Dubai

Iron Chef, a Japanese cooking competition that invites guest chefs to challenge a list of Iron Chef Masters as they prepare a meal focusing on a specific ingredient. It’s fascinating to see how creative chefs are and how they can turn something ordinary into a great dish.’—Ho Wai-Kong, head chef at Bibi & Baba in Hong Kong

Jamie’s Great Escape

‘This will sound a little bit basic, but for me, Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Great Escape was a game changer – it was Jamie in his prime. He was in a constant battle to show that you could put modern twists on Italian classics, and he went up against some extremely hard-headed Italians who almost universally disagreed with him. The English are magpies when it comes to food, and this show really showed that as something we could be proud of, even if the locals don’t necessarily agree.’—Joe Moore, founder at Crust Bros in London


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