I am simply shocked I had not heard of this show until I moved to the US. Robert Irving is like a slightly more lovable Gordon Ramsay. Unlike the US edition of Kitchen Nightmares which focuses on family meltdowns and drama drama drama Restaurant Impossible works on the fundamentals of food businesses. Good food, health code compliance, dish budgeting and service management all feature. Irving with his gruff manliness and delightful sledgehammer wielding ways don't hurt either. I love this show so much I watched 6 Seasons back to back.
Anthony Bourdain highlights whirlwind foodie adventures in hot commuter locations like Singapore, Atlanta and Los Angeles. Places you get stuck with no time, no idea what's going on and a 6am airport deadline. As a regular traveller and a Bourdain fan this is perfect content and less derivative than Bourdain's other current TV shows.
Gruff but successful business men seems to be the formula America loves but this show is a watchable and somewhat terrifying look into food businesses. The premise is a "when the cats away" scenario where the owner of a business calls in the restauranteur host to identify problematic staff and processes. Armed with many hidden cameras and a series of mystery diners presenting 'challenges' like allergies, forgotten wallets and dropped orders they identify thieves, gamblers, drinkers and shitty servers time and time again. Watch for the episodes where someone is running another business from the owner's restaurant.
Famous for being the reality competition show that launched the stellar career of Guy Fieri Food Network Star is not a cooking competition per se but a media personality search akin to Idol or X Factor. They're looking for someone who can host a TV show, not necessarily someone who is an amazing foodie. Be ready for some cringe inducing camera tests and the occasional fame hunter. That being said it's a great insight into the behind the scene creation of a great TV host and you get to see some interesting food along the way.
The gourmet food truck revolution is one that I welcome with open arms. Eat Street is a 'best pick of the litter' guide to awesome trucks from all over the US. They take real small business owners and walk through great recipes and snacks.
So you do get a little sick of it on repeat day in and day out but the format is very watchable, Fieri is charismatic and enthusiastic and the food is down home comfort delicious. There's nothing high faluting here but if you like sandwiches, dumplings and great diner food this is very upbeat feel good foodie TV. They also have a great food map for finding locations throughout the US.
Shows to avoid
There is a lot of food TV out there and that means there's a lot of bad food TV. Sometimes bad shows happen to good people. Here are the runts of the litter.
- The Taste - Trying to turn The Voice format into a Food competition based on what amounts to an amuse bouche. Embarrassingly bad.
- Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell - This woman is like a train wreck. Her voice, her hair, her food. It's like Phyllis Diller the Food Star.
- Chopped - This show just seems pointless to me. They run an entire food competition end to end in 1 hour, meaning you have no opportunity to care about the contestants.
- Unique Eats - You know I *want* to love this show about unique food and boutique eateries but the reviews are scripted by the stores themselves and then read by Cooking show hosts. Painful in its delivery.
- Sandwich King - The premise is simple and awesome. Find, make and eat great sammiches. I love sammiches! Unfortunately the hosts speaking style makes me want to eat my own face.
- Mystery Diners - This wants to be Restaurant Stakeout but the host is clueless and the 'mystery diners' are 4th rate actors that stand out like a sore thumb.