The TV Cooking Shows that Conquered the World
“gordon-ramsay-7” (CC BY 2.0) by gordonramsaysubmissions
There was a time when TV cookery shows were low-budget productions aimed at daytime TV viewers. They were seen as niche shows for home cooks looking for new recipes, but the whole idea of food as entertainment was relatively unexplored until after the turn of the millennium.
There were a few exceptions of course. Certain chefs gained the public’s imagination with their presenting styles and flamboyant personalities. But the format of the shows was similar to a studio kitchen and a walk-through of recipes.
Breaking the Mold
One of the first to break the mold was UK chef Keith Floyd who led the trend for taking cooking shows out of the studio back in the 1980s. He preferred to cook in real restaurants or set up a mobile kitchen in bizarre locations, such as on fishing boats or over-looking spectacular scenery. But the real explosion in popularity of TV cookery shows came with the launch of competitive cooking shows such as MasterChef, Iron Chef, Top Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen.
The First Big Hit
The first of those to hit the screens was MasterChef, which launched on the BBC in 1990 and ran for 11 seasons before being dropped from the schedule in 2001. The show was revived with a new format in 2005, and soon became a primetime hit after switching from BBC2 to BBC1. The show was so popular it was soon exported to more than 40 countries worldwide and broadcast to viewers in over 200 regions. The Australian version became the most-watched TV show in the country, with the finale of the second series gaining the third-highest audience in Aussie TV history.
The Gordon Ramsay Effect
Around the same time that MasterChef was revived, Hell’s kitchen was also launched, first in the UK and a year later on Fox in the USA. The show was created and hosted by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay who left the UK show after one season but has appeared in every season of the US version. The show has been exported to 19 countries and has also spawned a series of video games. In 2008, Hell’s Kitchen: The Game was launched on the Nintendo Wii and DS devices, along with PC and Mac versions. More recently, the Hell’s Kitchen video slot game was released on popular casino platforms such as Fruit Kings, which utilizes key motifs and images from the popular TV show, including Gordan Ramsey’s likeness himself. There is also even a Hell’s Kitchen game on Facebook!
The Baking Phenomenon
The latest phenomenon in the sector is TV baking shows. The Great British Bake-Off was launched in the UK in 2010 and has run for 11 series. The show originally aired on the BBC before it was switched to Channel 4 in a multi-million deal in 2017. The finale of last BBC show attracted 14 million viewers, the highest of any show that year and a number usually only achieved by major sporting events. The show has spawned over 20 international versions and has sparked a home-baking craze across the globe.
Looking back, it was the launch of MasterChef in 1990 which heralded the arrival of the cooking competition format and paved the way for the avalanche of TV food shows that followed. It’s incredible to think that original presenter Lloyd Grossman battled to even get the show commissioned.