A cooking show is a television program that presents the preparation of food in the kitchen on the studio set. The host of the show, usually a celebrity chef, prepares one or more dishes over the course of the show, taking the viewing audience through the food's preparation showing all intermediate stages of cooking. The cooking shows are often intended to be at least partly educational, as the host teaches the viewing audience how to prepare different meals with each episode of the show; though some cooking shows are intended simply for entertainment.
While rarely achieving top ratings, the cooking show has been a popular staple of daytime TV programming since the earliest days of television. It is generally very inexpensive to produce, making a cheap and easy way for a TV station to fill a half-hour (or sometimes 60 minute) TV episode.
A number of cooking shows have run for many seasons, especially when they are sponsored by local TV stations or by public broadcasting. Many of the more popular cooking shows have had flamboyant hosts whose unique personalities have made them into celebrities. For example,
Good Eats is a television cooking show created and hosted by Alton Brown that airs in North America on the Food Network. Likened to television science educator Bill Nye, Alton explores the science behind the cooking, the history of different foods, and the advantages of different kinds of cooking equipment.
The show tends to focus on familiar dishes that can easily be made at home, and also features segments on choosing the right appliances, and getting the most out of inexpensive, multi-purpose tools. Each episode of Good Eats has a distinct theme, which is typically an ingredient or a certain cooking technique, but may also be a more generic theme such as Thanksgiving, or "man food."
The French Chef was an influential early television cooking show created by Julia Child, and produced and broadcast by WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1963-1973. It was one of the first cooking shows on television. The French Chef introduced the art of cooking in France to the United States at a time when it was considered expensive restaurant fare, not suitable for home cooking. Child emphasized fresh and, at the time, unusual ingredients. The show grew out of some special presentations that Julia had done based on the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which she had co-authored, and went on to become the most recognized pioneering cooking show.
The show was done live to videotape from start to finish, leaving little room for mistakes. Later, errors were still used as "teachable moments". Certain elements became leitmotifs: Julia's fondness for wine; her staunch defense of the use of butter; her standard issue "impeccably clean towel"; and her closing line at the end of every show, "Bon appetit." Child was neither French nor a chef, but had studied and taught cooking in France.
The French Chef was in production and aired on the WGBH station of National Educational Television (which became PBS) in Boston from 1963 to 1973. Reruns continued on PBS until 1987. A 1971 episode of The French Chef was the first television show to be captioned for deaf viewers.