Hollywood Reporter TV Critics: 10 Shows to Watch for Home-Cooking Inspiration

6:45 AM 3/25/2020

by Inkoo Kang and Daniel Fienberg

From chef competitions to mouth-watering travelogues, a drama showcasing New Orleans cuisine to a kitchen-centric comedy, these shows will help cure your quarantine-induced foodie blues.

'Chopped,' 'Ugly Delicious,' 'Better Things'
'Chopped,' 'Ugly Delicious,' 'Better Things'
Jason DeCrow/Food Network; Courtesy of Netflix; Suzanne Tenner/FX

With the restaurant industry in danger, grocery stores now sites of panic and home-cooking projects the new social-media craze, the coronavirus epidemic has clearly forced us to think a lot — and differently — about food. Nearly everyone's relationship to — and appreciation of — food has probably shifted in the wake of COVID-19, as we miss nights out with friends, try new dishes with the extra time at home or simply get bored with our own culinary repertoire.

And that's where TV comes in. Whether you want a cooking buddy, some inspiration for the kitchen or a few hours' "visit" to a delicious destination, THR's TV critics have got you covered. Here's our "Netflix & Grill" list of ten food-centric shows that'll make your quarantine slightly more delectable, no matter your definition of food (ahem, Hannibal).  

  • 'Better Things' (FX)

    'Better Things'
    'Better Things'
    FX

    As our weeks of quarantine viewing recommendations stretch on, it will be my regular challenge to contrive different reasons to tell you to watch Pamela Adlon's FX gem. While Better Things clearly isn't really a show about food, Adlon's foodie interests have become a regular part of the show's family tapestry, especially this season, which has already seen Adlon's Sam make a lavish English breakfast and Hannah Alligood's Frankie prepare an early morning carbonara feast. If you've already seen Better Things, a show with even more food and a similar easy-going blend of tones might be Master of None, but this list surely doesn't lack for Netflix shows. — DANIEL FIENBERG

  • 'Bob's Burgers' (Fox)

    'Bob's Burgers'
    'Bob's Burgers'
    Courtesy of Fox

    I badly wanted to include Fox's short-lived Anthony Bourdain comedy Kitchen Confidential on this list, but the former Hulu acquisition is currently too difficult to stream legally — so in its place, I offer a different, much more successful Fox comedy in Loren Bouchard's Emmy-winning favorite, which offers 180+ episodes to binge if you haven't yet. That's 180+ exterminator jokes, 180+ Burgers of the Day, 180+ opportunities for Tina to rave about butts, 180+ closing-credits musical numbers and one talking toilet voice by Jon Hamm, whose name is also food-related. If you haven't watched this animated gem, Bob's Burgers requires an episode or two before you get comfortable with its goofy voice, but once you do it's a wild, absurd celebration of exactly the sort of neighborhood restaurant you should honor with a takeout order or at least a gift card. — D.F.

  • 'Chopped' (Food Network)

    'Chopped'
    'Chopped'
    Photofest

    Chances are, you're playing a home version of Chopped in your kitchen already — combining a few random ingredients and hoping for the best. So why not let this long-running cooking competition — involving cheftestants across the country and celebrity-chef judges — inspire you with some new ideas? At a time when we're all asked to do the most with what we've got, no show channels the current ethos more than Chopped— INKOO KANG

  • 'Hannibal' (NBC, now streaming on Amazon)

    'Hannibal'
    'Hannibal'
    Brooke Palmer/NBC

    Everybody makes such a big deal about how often "man" is the main course in the delightfully ambitious culinary masterpieces prepared by Hannibal Lecter, but what about all of the intricate plating and sumptuous saucing that's largely human-free? Perhaps the most lusciously shot series in the medium's history, Hannibal consistently struck a unique balance between food porn and psychological terror as its sociopathic gourmand of a main character whipped up dishes from suckling pig to venison entrecôte to Oysters Rockefeller to an exquisite preparation of the delicate ortolan. Rarely has the question, "Would I devour another person if the preparation was right?" been so easy to answer in the affirmative. — D.F.

  • 'Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories' (Netflix)

    'Midnight Diner'
    'Midnight Diner'
    Courtesy of Shogakukan/Shinya Shokudo Film Production Committee

    The highest compliment I can probably give this gentle anthology dramedy is that it's the closest Japanese analogue to High Maintenance that I know of. Set at a late-night diner (with the slightly seedy clientele you'd expect to be out at three in the morning), each episode follows a different customer as they search for what's missing in their lives — and champion their favorite second-dinner meals. Collected together, their stories add up to a mosaic portrait of a weird, wistful and heartwarming Tokyo. — I.K.

  • 'Nailed It' (Netflix)

    'Nailed It!'
    'Nailed It!'
    Adam Rose/Netflix

    Food is a lot of things, but it's rarely funny. Maybe that's why Nailed It — the amateur baking competition hosted by comedian Nicole Byer and world-class chocolatier Jacques Torres — felt like such a breath of fresh air when it debuted in 2018. Given the impossible challenges — and with no professional reputations on the line — Nailed It is gloriously stakes-free, which makes Byer cackling at the malformed cakes and cookies in front of their bakers hilarious, rather than cruel. (Don't worry, the contestants are usually giggling along.) If there's a better evening to be had than a Nailed It marathon while stoned (cannabis dispensaries are considered essential businesses, at least in California!), I don't know it. — I.K.

  • 'Street Food' (Netflix)

    'Street Food'
    'Street Food'
    Jisang Chung/Netflix

    Ditch the stultifying luxury porn of Chef's Table to embrace creator David Gelb's much better but far less appreciated chef-profile series, Street Food. Country-hopping all over Asia (with an upcoming spinoff set in Latin America), this half-hour travelogue showcases plenty of mouth-watering dishes, but also takes the time to discuss the cultural, historical and economic roles that these foods and vendors play in their respective countries, especially in preserving traditions that modernity would prefer to sweep away. Plus, it's sure to grow your list of travel destinations — once it's advisable to fly again. — I.K.

  • 'Top Chef' (Bravo)

    'Top Chef'
    'Top Chef'
    Nicole Weingart/Bravo

    I'll admit that even as a dedicated Top Chef fan, I have found that several of the participants in the current All-Stars season have slipped through the cracks in my memory. But there's still a pleasant serendipity that the Mercedes of cooking reality shows has returned in this moment of great need. Top Chef is reliable comfort food as a TV series. Its rhythms rarely vary, so it's full of moments that guarantee both drama and high cuisine, whether it's the stressful "Time's Up!" at the end of a Quickfire or the inevitable screw-ups of Restaurant Wars. Be it Tom Colcchio's jovial self-promotion or Padma Lakshmi's always justified scorn, Top Chef is appetizing and guilt-free TV. — D.F.

  • 'Treme' (HBO)

    'Treme'
    'Treme'
    HBO

    It's nearly impossible for a TV show to capture every aspect of a city, but David Simon and Eric Overmyer's three-season chronicle of post-Katrina New Orleans comes pretty close, with its mixture of artists, musicians, politicians, activists, Mardi Gras Indians and more. And since you can't depict New Orleans without a focus on food, Kim Dickens' Janette Desautel is front and center, struggling to keep a restaurant afloat and the city's foodie culture alive. Real-world chefs and restaurateurs like David Chang, Tom Colicchio and Eric Ripert abound in this often overlooked series that suffered mostly from not being The Wire— D.F.

  • 'Ugly Delicious' (Netflix)

    'Ugly Delicious'
    'Ugly Delicious'
    Courtesy of Netflix

    Chef David Chang's travelogue-documentary hybrid is widely considered the new gold standard in food TV, and for good reason. Ugly Delicious catches its ever-curious, forgivably bro-y host at a crossroads, as Chang himself grapples with many of the truisms and wishful thinking that surrounds foodie culture — especially when it comes to questions about appropriation, authenticity and social justice. Each episode — about tacos, barbecue, Indian curries — seeks to expand our preconceived notions about what these dishes look like, where they came from and why we think what we think about them. After just a few episodes, it's impossible not to know a lot more about certain specialties, or to appreciate the fact that the world is so much bigger, more complicated and more delicious than we could have ever guessed. — I.K.