Before Bravo crowned culinary champions or TLC ushered in cupcake fervor, one television network stood out as the lone source of culinary entertainment: Food Network. Originally called Television Food Network, the network launched in 1993 with a handful of shows hosted by established figures like Emeril Lagasse and Jacques Pépin.
Today, the network is primarily home to cooking competition shows, but we still have a soft spot for the Food Network of years past. Here are some shows (and hosts) we miss seeing on our television screens.
1. Molto Mario (1996-2004)
Chef Mario Batali hosted this classic Food Network show, which emphasized fresh, authentic Italian cuisine. During each episode, three people sat in the kitchen as Batali cooked, periodically asking questions and making conversation. Batali cemented himself as a familial, friendly figure by cooking for this small audience.
Today, Batali is ubiquitous in the food world, but Molto Mario was his first foray into food entertainment. Fans of the chef can watch him on ABC’s The Chew or dine at one of his many restaurants.
2. Good Eats (1999-2012)
Good Eats was the ultimate how-to for curious cooks. Host Alton Brown made the show both informative and entertaining, explaining the chemical processes that occur in the kitchen while crafting puns and cracking jokes. The show also provided viewers with nearly fool-proof recipes.
If you want to truly understand the science behind a souffle or the history of chicken pot pie, tune in to this classic. Want to get your own Good Eats education, but don’t know where to start? Try watching these 11 episodes perfect for college students and beginning cooks.
3. 30 Minute Meals (2001-2008)
30 Minute Meals launched Rachael Ray’s television career. The show promised to teach viewers how to make a “delicious and healthy” meal in just 30 minutes. With signature phrases like “yum-o” and “delish,” Ray created her own brand of food entertainment.
Unlike her culinary predecessors, she had no professional training and frequently described herself as a “cook” rather than a “chef.” This distinction has drawn criticism over the years, but Ray’s sunny “anyone can cook” attitude has undeniably contributed to her massive commercial success.
4. $40 a Day (2002-2005)
This food and travel show challenged host Rachael Ray to spend less than $40 on food over the course of a day in a new city. Ray sampled wine in Martha’s Vineyard, breakfast tacos in Austin, Tx., and savory pancakes in Amsterdam.
Ray was clever about sticking to her titular budget. She almost always managed to squeeze three meals out of the money, plus an occasional drink, snack or dessert. The show combined food and travel seamlessly, creating succinct, interesting guides to cities in the United States and abroad.
5. Everyday Italian (2003-2008)
Everyday Italian introduced America’s pasta-loving, pizza-obsessed culture to the wide world of Italian food and celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. The show impacted the food world in a big way; the Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef made simple, hearty Italian meals appealing and accessible to many Americans.
De Laurentiis followed the success of Everyday Italian with the equally excellent Food Network shows Behind the Bash and Giada at Home. Today, De Laurentiis is a contributor on NBC’s Today Show, as well as an author and creator of her own product line.
6. Throwdown! with Bobby Flay (2006-2010)
Boy Meets Grill star Bobby Flay starred in this humorous competition show. During each episode, Flay would learn about his competitor’s signature dish, attempt his own variation and then face off with his competitor in front of a large audience who then sampled the food. Experts determined the winner of each competition through a blind taste test.
Over the course of the show, Flay attempted to make regional specialties such as cheesesteaks, puffy tacos and chicken and waffles. His record was one tie, 32 wins and 68 losses. Fans of Flay can dine at one of his restaurants or at one of the many restaurants featured on Throwdown! with Bobby Flay.
7. Ace of Cakes (2006-2011)
Ace of Cakes showcased the fondant-covered confections of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes. Together, founder Duff Goldman and the motley Charm City Cakes staff created extravagant sugary replicas of famous people and places, such as Wrigley Field, Hogwarts and even Betty White.
Ace of Cakes fans might enjoy Goldman’s new show, Duff Till Dawn, a bakery competition show which just finished its first season. If that’s still not enough to satisfy your craving for creative cakes, Charm City Cakes also offers classes.
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