These days, pop-culture obsessives are quick to point out that the ongoing "television renaissance" is actually happening on platforms like Netflix and Amazon, leaving primetime and even cable networks in the dust creatively. But when it comes to food-related television, something odd is happening. It’s the major networks (and notably, the Public Broadcasting Service) that are picking up the slack left by ostensibly food-focused cable channels, where food competitions judged by the same six-person line-up of celebrity chefs are in constant rotation. Quality food programming — both scripted and documentary — is flourishing in primetime.
Quality food programming — both scripted and documentary — is flourishing in primetime.
And this fall is no exception. PBS’s Emmy Award-winning The Mind of a Chef returns for its fourth season with two new chefs — NYC’s certified badass Gabrielle Hamilton and California’s mercurial David Kinch — and Hamilton’s eight-episode set promises cameos from the likes of Bourdain, Boulud, and Batali. North Carolina’s Vivian Howard brings the third season of her confessional, Peabody Award-winning PBS show A Chef’s Life, which offers a rare earnest glimpse into Southern cooking. The most uplifting, least-catty cooking competition on TV (MasterChef Junior) is on Fox, the network that’s still making millions of dollars off Gordon Ramsay’s madcap, shouty persona. And two of primetime’s most upbeat, family-friendly sitcoms just happen to have a food angle: Fox’s Emmy-winning Bob’s Burgers brings its sixth season of hijinks with the animated Belcher family, while ABC’s Fresh Off the Boat follows the semi-fictionalized Huang family as they run an Orlando steakhouse. (That’s chef/rabble-rouser Eddie Huang’s semi-fictionalized family, of course.)
But of course, food-TV's biggest gun — hero-to-millennials Anthony Bourdain — is still holding down the fort at CNN, with the sixth season of his travelogue Parts Unknown slated for a late September debut. Here now, a look at what to watch this fall on food TV:
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