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If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Those words ring more true than ever on today’s top cooking competition shows. They are becoming so popular that it wouldn’t be surprising to see providers with TV offers and packages specifically for cooking shows like there are for sports.
What has led to our competitive kitchen obsession? Let’s peel back the layers to see why reality show cooking competitions get millions of viewers every week.
Why Americans Can’t Get Enough of Food Competition Shows
It all started with Iron Chef. The Japanese cooking competition made it’s way to the U.S. and captured our attention rather quickly. The idea of pitting chefs against each other was deliciously entertaining. Right away viewers were hooked for three good reasons.
Food Connects Us
Food is a basic necessity of life. We all eat it, and we all enjoy it – well most of it. It’s also a way that we share our culture and express ourselves. It’s so interconnected to the human experience that anthropology courses now offer food studies as a part of the curriculum for a degree.
Think about all the meals that you have shared with others over the years. The dinner table is a place where people come together. The kitchen is a place where we experiment and excite our senses. Every person has a connection to food, and these competition cooking shows tap into that.
Competition is Suspenseful
Let’s face it. Americans are a competitive bunch. From a young age we’re instilled with the idea of working hard to get up the corporate ladder, and because of that our country is the best in the world. Cooking competition shows blend our love for food with that competitive nature. We love the suspense of seeing which chef can come out on top.
They also get us involved and invested. Each viewer has their favorite competitors either based on their personality, the dishes they dream up or a combination of the two. Some reality shows even allow viewer participation with voting and online forums.
The Creative Intrigue
Just when you think you’ve tasted it all, the chefs on cooking competition shows turn it up another notch. Your tried and true tomato salad turns into a Moroccan tomato salad. Burgers are much more than Angus beef between two grilled patties.
Many of us tune in every week just to see what innovative dishes people will create. And of course, we curious chefs have to test them out in our own kitchens.
The Selection of Cooking Competition Shows Keeps on Growing
The Food Network, Fox and even EsquireTV are among the many networks that have created cooking competition shows over the last decade. Tasha Oren, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee did a study of the Food Network’s growing list of competition shows. In 2005 there were just two. As of 2014 a total of 16 cooking competition shows were airing on the network.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the current food competition shows on TV:
- Master Chef
- Top Chef
- Hell’s Kitchen
- Knife Fight
- The Next Great Burger
- The Next Food Network Star
- Rachel vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-off
And these are just some of the top shows that are still running new episodes. There are many more shows from past seasons that can still be enjoyed On Demand and with reruns.
Young Protégées Prove Kids Can Master the Kitchen Too
If you thought The Food Network and other foodie-friendly channels couldn’t concoct any more cooking competition shows, think again. The latest trend has been to create junior versions of today’s most popular cooking competitions. A few that have made their way to television in recent years include:
- Master Chef Jr.
- Chopped Jr.
- Kids Baking Competition
It’s encouraging to see kids that are so enthralled and talented at whipping up dishes. These shows are also a great way to get your own kids interested in helping prepare family meals and learning more about essential cooking skills.
Whether you love them or hate them, reality show cooking competitions clearly aren’t going anywhere. If anything we can expect to see more shows in the future that continue to push the culinary boundaries.