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11 Food Shows to Watch This Fall

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Bourdain, "Bob’s Burgers," "Baking Show," and more hit the airwaves this September.

Courtesy CNN

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. PBSs Emmy Award-winning The Mind of a Chef returns for its fourth season with two new chefs — NYCs certified badass Gabrielle Hamilton and Californias mercurial David Kinch — and Hamiltons eight-episode set promises cameos from the likes of Bourdain, Boulud, and Batali. North Carolinas 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 thats still making millions of dollars off Gordon Ramsays madcap, shouty persona. And two of primetimes most upbeat, family-friendly sitcoms just happen to have a food angle: Foxs Emmy-winning Bob’s Burgers brings its sixth season of hijinks with the animated Belcher family, while ABCs Fresh Off the Boat follows the semi-fictionalized Huang family as they run an Orlando steakhouse. (Thats chef/rabble-rouser Eddie Huangs 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:

A Chef’s Life with Vivian Howard (PBS)

Premieres September 3
North Carolina chef Vivian Howard returns to PBS with her critically acclaimed, confessional show A Chef’s Life, which reveals the realities behind running two restaurants in Kinston, NC (population: 21,000). As in previous seasons, the show combines documentary-style footage of Howard and her family alongside cooking demonstrations that introduce the region’s colorful characters. According to Eater restaurant critic Bill Addison, Howard’s restaurant the Chef and the Farmer is "the ideal respite after a day spent visiting the area’s barbecue icons"; here’s an inside look at its inner soul. | All A Chef's Life Coverage

Image credit: Rex Miller

The Mind of a Chef (PBS)

Premieres September 5
After a third season that split time between Louisville (with chef Edward Lee) and Sweden (with Magnus Nilsson of Faviken), the critically acclaimed series The Mind of a Chef returns with two stateside chefs queued up for season four, each representing a different coast and its cooking philosophy. In the first half of the season, New York City’s Gabrielle Hamilton takes viewers everywhere from her beloved restaurant Prune to locales in Italy. In the second half of the season, the "mind" at work is that of Manresa chef David Kinch, who welcomes viewers to his California approach. If past seasons are any indication, expect a variety of storytelling methods — from "confessional-style" narration to cooking demonstrations to fun, visual animations — as MoaC gets metaphysical. | All Mind of a Chef Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy PBS

Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking (PBS)

Premieres September 5 
This collaboration between Boston public broadcasting and Fine Cooking magazine returns for its third season, with chefs like David Kinch (Manresa), Ludo Lefebvre (Petit Trois), and Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s in Miami) joining host Pete Evans to collaborate on "pop-up events," aka meals. In season three, Evans will travel to Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, and the South, plating complete feasts around dishes like grilled king salmon, Kahaluu roast pork, wood-fired roast duck, and, in Austin, goat carnitas. | All Fine Cooking Coverage

Image credit: Michael Mori

The Great British Baking Show (PBS)

Premieres September 6
While America’s cooking competitions throw mystery ingredients, unnecessary obstacles, and a screaming Gordon Ramsay at its contestants, the UK’s Great British Bake Off — repackaged stateside into The Great British Baking Show — keeps things delightfully simple. In lieu of manufactured drama, competing bakers tackle cake, biscuit, crumble, and other alarmingly straightforward challenges, baking under a white tent that travels to different towns throughout the UK. Bonus points for judges’ use of delightful British colloquialisms like "scrummy" (apparently, slang that combines "scrumptious" and "yummy"). As like last year’s broadcast, the Baking Show hits American airwaves a few weeks after it does in the UK, so watch out for spoilers. | All The Great British Baking Show Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy PBS

Cake Boss (TLC)

Premieres September 8
Compared to the rest of TLC’s reality stars — scandal-bedraggled super-breeders, stage moms, psychotic brides-to-be — bakery owner/empire builder Buddy Valastro is relatively tame. The self-described New Jersey "Cake Boss" returns for the seventh season of his family’s reality show, promising "special" bakes like a "naked cake," a Frank Sinatra commemorative cake, and one creation for recent Oscar-winners/musicians Common and John Legend. | All Cake Boss Coverage

Image credit: Zoran Milich/Getty Images

Uncommon Grounds (Travel Channel)

Premieres September 14
Todd Carmichael, founder of the multimillion-dollar coffee brand La Colombe, once again brings his coffee-sourcing adventures to the Travel Channel. But this time, he hedges on the Dangerous nature of the gig to bring Uncommon Grounds in its stead. On this extended bean-sourcing trip, Carmichael swaps Myanmar and Colombia for locations like Paris, Havana, and in the premiere episode, Japan — where he goes on a quest to find a specific glass brewing device known as "the dragon." | All La Colombe Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy Travel Channel

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)

Premieres September 22
NYC chef Eddie Huang has publicly wrestled with ABC’s family-friendly interpretation of his 2013 memoir Fresh Off the Boat, but even if the sitcom version does stray a bit far from its source material, the show does provide a rarity in the overall TV landscape: a warm, funny portrayal of an Asian-American family in primetime. Season one’s scenes at the Huang family’s steakhouse, Cattleman’s Ranch, varied in terms of quality — this certainly isn’t a realistic restaurant portrayal (outside the constant allusion to pending financial disasters). But the actors, particularly Jessica Huang (Constance Wu) and young Eddie (Hudson Yang), portray the Huang family with endless charm. | All Fresh Off the Boat Coverage

Image credit: Jordin Althaus/ABC

Bob’s Burgers (FOX)

Premieres September 27
Television’s best animated show about a burger restaurant has steadily become one of television’s best — and funniest — animated shows, period. Centered around the Belcher family, whose patriarch heads up a struggling burger joint, the hijinks in Bob’s Burgers are (almost always) created by everyone but the straight-man titular character. Bob’s family — hyperactive Louise, sadly deadpan teenager Tina, enthusiastic wife Linda, weirdo son Gene — are alternately hysterical, hilarious, and oddly familiar when compared to the characters in your own life, while Bob himself (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) remains the heart. | All Bob's Burgers Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy Fox

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having (PBS)

Premieres September 28
He’s perhaps an unlikely food-TV host, but Phil Rosenthal — best known as the Emmy-winning creator of Everybody Loves Raymond — tries his hand at becoming the next (less profane) Anthony Bourdain in this new PBS show. "There were things I never tasted growing up — like food with any flavor," Rosenthal says in the opening credits’ voice-over. "When I went into the real world, I was like a man coming out of the desert." Each hour-long episode sees Rosenthal traveling to a new locale, joining chefs and other celebrities to gleefully try each country’s delicacies. In the first six episodes, Rosenthal meets up with the likes of food writer David Lebovitz and chef Alain Passard (in Paris), chef Roy Choi and actress Allison Janney (in Los Angeles), and LA chef Nancy Silverton (in Italy), providing his animated voiceovers throughout. | All Ill Have What Phils Having Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy PBS

Parts Unknown (CNN)

Premieres September 29
He’s back. Professional tourist Anthony Bourdain returns to CNN with the sixth season of his wildly popular travelogue Parts Unknownkicking things off with a trip to Cuba. As of press time, CNN is remaining coy as to the other locations, but careful stalking of Bourdain’s Twitter account reveals stops in Malaysia, while Eater SF noted a Parts Unknown crew was spotted in the Bay Area in late June. | All Parts Unknown Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy CNN

MasterChef Junior (FOX)

Premieres November 6
The cooking competition targeted at pint-sized overachievers returns in late fall, and season four will mark the first with newish judge Christina Tosi, who stepped in to replace Joe Bastianich on this and the "adult" (but not necessary more mature) version earlier this year. As in previous seasons, contestants under the age of 13 compete, earnestly using phrases like "my cooking career" and easily making you feel terrible about your own lacking kitchen skills. One thing to look to in season four: Perhaps a young woman will finally take home the MasterChef Junior title this year — allowing Fox to catch up to the fictional American Girl version of the show. | All MasterChef Junior Coverage

Image credit: Courtesy Fox

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