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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Feb. 22, 2024

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7 new food-centric shows you should be watching right now

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Next spring – that’s how long fans will likely have to wait to see the estimable Kristen Kish take over hosting duty from Padma on the next season of “Top Chef.” (Filmed in … Wisconsin?)

But in the meantime, the TV landscape is hardly a desert. There are new shows about Iron Chef-quality sushi, José Andrés and his family touring Spain, a five-star luxury hotel’s fancy kitchen and so much more.

In no particular order, here are seven shows about food you might want to start watching tonight.

  • ‘Searching for Soul Food,’ Hulu

There’s no tireder food trope than calling soul food simple. It’s a complicated cuisine with a history spanning generations and continents. Here to unravel it is Alisa Reynolds, a classically trained chef from L.A. on a quest to investigate the “trauma and drama” of soul food.

The results are more upbeat than that sounds, thanks to Reynolds’ effervescent personality and comedic timing. The first season starts in Mississippi, where we learn how slaves transformed “elevated pet food, the scraps” into scrumptious recipes that persist to this day. The show’s interspersed with interviews, animations and historical reenactments – we meet James Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s ex-slave chef, who put French fries on the American menu. And things literally take off when Reynolds gets in a jet to hunt for international soul food such as pizza in Naples, jerk in Jamaica and native-Japanese fusion Nikkei in Peru.

  • ‘Morimoto’s Sushi Master,’ Roku

Do you have what it takes to serve delicious sushi to the Iron Chef himself? That’s the challenge on this new show in which Masaharu Morimoto, writer and chef Kenji López-Alt and “Top Chef’s” Dakota Weiss judge the sushi mastery of contestants vying for a $25,000 prize. (Tip: When serving raw fish, remove the scales first.)

Knives fly and sweat pours as contestants butcher fish, season rice and arrange plates of oceanic delights, all under Morimoto’s clucking supervision. Viewers might pick up handy tips – like how to open a live urchin with scissors – or recipes for kelp-cured kampachi and chirashi with hay-smoked aji.

“Sushi Master” is a visual delight for those who love Japanese cuisine. At one point, a chef holds a fat hunk of fish to his cheek and announces, “I love ahi tuna!” After watching all the close-up shots of glistening, artfully cut sushi, you will, too.

  • ‘Lessons in Chemistry,’ Apple TV+

Oh, the indignity of being a female chemist in the 1950s. When your male colleagues aren’t calling you “sweetie” or mistaking you for a secretary, they’re suggesting you drop your life’s work to enter a beauty pageant. But scientist Elizabeth Zott has another future in store – one in which she’ll use her knowledge of amino acids and the Maillard reaction to helm a TV-cooking show, in this adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’ popular 2022 novel.

To say that “Lessons in Chemistry” takes a turn after its initial setup is an extreme understatement. There’s a descending stairway of head-spinning twists — and to go any farther would be spoiler territory. Let’s just say, Brie Larson nails her character of a quirky savant fighting the patriarchy, one who at home puts 70-plus experimental trials into baking the perfect lasagna. Oh, and there’s also a tear-jerker episode told from the perspective of the family dog, played by B.J. Novak. (You read that right.)

  • ‘The Great British Baking Show,’ Netflix

Now in its 14th season, “The Great British Baking Show” isn’t new. But it does have a new host this season — Alison Hammond. A presenter on the U.K.’s “This Morning,” Hammond is the first person of color to host or judge the show. She replaces former host and comedian Matt Lucas.

Judging by the first several episodes of the season aired so far, Hammond is a supportive and calming presence in the notoriously stressful bakers’ tent. She appears to have restored the show’s hallmark friendliness and warmth, which has been noticeably absent in recent seasons. Last season drew widespread criticism on points that ranged from non-baking challenges to tone-deaf episodes such as last year’s controversial “Mexico Week.” Showrunners have announced they’re dropping nation-themed episodes and going back to basics.

  • ‘Five Star Chef,’ Netflix

The Langham is a five-star luxury hotel in London and, by George, guests must have the fanciest of foodstuffs! Enter seven contestants vying for head chef at the hotel’s Palm Court restaurant – but first they must impress Michel Roux, a two Michelin-starred chef. He’s a stickler for classical technique and prone to ding a bad dish by lamenting, “It pains me.”

Sometimes, he’s right to be pained. Each chef has a unique vision for the restaurant, whether it be Caribbean, Nordic or “Theatrical Dining Experience.” The latter chef serves things like Bondage Lobster (with tied-up claws and seaweed blindfolds) accompanied by gesticulating circus performers, mortifying every judge at the table.

The show’s a bit like “Top Chef,” but the focus is luxury food. Americans will learn a lot about British food and dining traditions, and by the end might agree with one judge that “this is not a Battenberg!”

  • ‘Restaurants at the End of the World,’ National Geographic/Disney+

Want to learn more about Kristen Kish, the new “Top Chef”’ judge? Check out “Restaurants at the End of the World,” a four-part series hosted by Kish that’s part adventure travel and part culinary spotlight with all the gorgeous visuals you expect from NatGeo. Each episode highlights a different restaurant and the remarkable lengths their chefs must go to as they source local ingredients in very remote locations.

How remote? The restaurants include Panama’s Hacienda Mamecillo, a hike-up restaurant which sits high atop a mountain in a cloud forest. Svalbard’s Isfjord Radio is perched on an island in the Arctic reaches northwest of Norway. Maine’s Turner Farm sits in the middle of Penobscot Bay, reachable only by boat. And Brazil’s Sem Pressa is a boat.

Kish rappels down a waterfall in Panama to source fresh watercress and digs in Brazilian mangrove muck for sururu, a bivalve mollusk, to make the perfect seafood meal. In Svalbard, she snorkels in freezing water for sea urchins and snags fresh ice from a glacier, before getting to work in the chefs’ kitchen making reindeer tongue and melon appetizers and passion fruit-kimchi sorbet.

  • ‘José Andrés and Family in Spain,’ Discovery+, Max and weekly on CNN

You may know José Andrés as the visionary chef who popularized Spanish cuisine in the U.S. through restaurants like Zaytinya (which is expected to open a location in Palo Alto in 2024), or perhaps as the philanthropist whose nonprofit World Central Kitchen provides meals to people amid global disasters.

What the six-part “José Andrés in Spain with Family” shows is that he’s also a pretty goofy dad, whose knowledge and enthusiasm for Spain and its food is infectious even to his toughest critics: his daughters. As he gushes over each bite at the world-class eateries the trio visits – many at establishments operated by his friends – Andrés’ adult daughters, Inés and Carlota, respond with the occasional good-natured eye roll or “OK, Dad,” although they’re clearly having fun, too.

Seeing how this family travels together is almost as inspirational as the meals themselves. The Andres family seems to float seamlessly from one stop to the next, powered by tapas and Cava.

Each episode highlights regional dishes, including Pastas del Consejo, cookies invented for a young prince at a royal bakery in Madrid; a fine-dining spread for the ages at Disfrutar, a restaurant by chefs who, like Andrés, previously worked at El Bulli; and a calcot (a vegetable that’s a mix between a spring onion and a leek) barbecue at a vineyard belonging to one of Andrés’ friends. Father and daughters also explore local nonfood traditions on their travels, from human tower-building in Catalonia to flamenco dancing in Andalusia.

This show might just make you want to eat your way through Spain alongside family, too.

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