Foodie travel shows

I didn’t grow up with a lot of confidence around cooking. Being brought up overseas, we had servants who did the cooking, and when my mother tried to teach me how to cook a curry in my later teens – we had a massive falling out. I eventually taught myself to cook after moving to London to live in a flatshare, where it was pretty much a learn to cook or starve situation.

I started out with simple stuff and – at the time – the goddess of cooking in the UK was Delia Smith. You’d think an unconfident cook like myself would thrive under her guidance, instead I felt terrorised by her exactitude. Precisely this much and for exactly this long – the thought even now brings me out in a sweat. The stress was overwhelming, so I discarded her and slowly found my way to cooks who gave me a feeling of comfort in the kitchen. With them, my confidence reached a good level – I was still a cook rather than a chef – but I came to enjoy it.

Along the way, I inherited my mother’s love of cookbooks, reading them for hours – who am I kidding, for days if the need to earn a living didn’t get in the way 😉 I was building up quite the collection when a requirement to downsize meant I had to make some hard choices.

Subsequently, Himself moved in and took over the cooking. He’s a natural cook, and has been since a young age. He has skills which wouldn’t shame a professional chef; indeed he could’ve worked in a professional kitchen, if he’d a mind to. He finds it relaxing, and so I happily left it – and the planning of meals – to him a few years ago.

We used to watch a fair few foodie programmes together, from which he’d take inspiration, tinkering with meals – without written recipes – until he was happy it met his exacting standards. Our viewing also encompassed chefs travelling around this or that part of the world. But, I’ve steadily become disenchanted with foodie travel shows, mostly because I find the chef and/or producers to be tone deaf in their behaviour towards the area and the people where they’re filming. It’s not overt – or not all of it is – but it’s there…. and that’s made me uncomfortable.

Then this year, came Stanley Tucci and his programme Searching for Italy. He wasn’t someone I knew well. Previously, I’d have been able to recognise his face without being able to put a name to him with any degree of confidence, that is until I saw the reviews for his book Taste: My Life through Food and heard about his experience with cancer. I self-gifted the book last Christmas, so when Himself spotted the trailers for the programme, he said “I suppose you’ll want to see that” in what could only be described as an unenthusiastic, if fond manner 😉

And then we watched it, every single programme together – each as enthusiastic as the other – for it was the most joyous experience. This is how travel foodie programmes should be made – with love, with respect, with self-deprecating humour, with genuine enthusiasm. I may be spoilt for any foodie travel shows for the foreseeable future….

Is foodie+travel a format you like to watch? Who do you think does the format well – or badly – and why?

© Debra Carey, 2022

16 thoughts on “Foodie travel shows

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  1. So many of the food travel shows are about silly things. They may be a nice time waster now and then but I have grown disenchanted also. Cooking shows in general have gotten worse over the years. But this one sounds interesting. I like Stanley Tucci so if I ever find this show, I’d watch it. I also like the Chef Show with Jon Favreau and Roy Choi. It’s less about travel and more about cooking – Jon Favreau learned to cook so that he could look the part in the movie, Chef. It’s on Netflix and I am not anymore so I don’t know whether it’s still going but it was fun and interesting when I saw if.

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  2. I love food competition shows, not really travel and food shows. I did read Stanley tuccis memoir though which was an awesome homage to food

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  3. My spouse learned to cook from watching shows, and he’s always trying and modifying new recipes. He’s more into gardening shows now, though.

    I can’t watch foodie show myself. They make me too hungry.

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  4. Good questions. I’ve not watched many on-the-road food shows. We used to watch Man Versus Food and Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmer, but to me they seemed contrived and grossed me out. I found that I liked food less after seeing them.

    I know that years ago with watched Good Eats with Alton Brown and loved the show. And I’ve seen Ina Garten’s show too. But in those cases they were stay-at-home shows with recipes and information that I could use. They made me want to cook more.

    [Have I answered your questions or am I just rambling?]

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  5. I agree. Searching for Italy is a good show.

    My late husband was a good cook. When we were dating, he tried to impress me by cooking a big Chinese dinner for about 10 people. He even gave the the dishes poetic names with a card at each place setting. This was in the late 60s when most Americans had never tasted good Chinese food, so the dinner was a big hit.

    I’m happy when I make a delicious meal, and I’m somewhat fond of cooking, but it’s not my favorite thing.

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  6. We don’t have Netflix either Zazzy, but Himself has his ways of finding stuff, so I’ll mention that one to him.

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  7. My Mum doesn’t like cooking either Janet, but she’d watching cooking shows all day every day! Makes no sense to me, while what you do does.

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  8. While you can learn anything from watching online now, learning cooking that way makes so much sense Autumn. If only that method had been available when I was a moody teenager 😉

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  9. Ally, I was horrified by Man Vs Food, and totally get your reaction. I’ve watched Ina Garten on & off for years and I love her style. I feel absolutely no stress and would happily try anything she suggests or demonstrates as a result.

    My questions are only ever intended to be a guideline, for I enjoy a ramble more than most 🙂 That said, I’m pretty sure you answered them, although I may have to read back to find out what I asked! 😀

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  10. I’m really grateful for this post, Debs. I’ve seen the Stanley Tucci show in passing when I’m scrolling through the streaming options, but for some reason haven’t watched it. And yet, during lockdown it was his viral video on the proper making of a Negroni that inspired us to give it a try (it’s now a regular part of our cocktail offerings). My wife is an intense foodie with an ever-growing cookbook collection that I worry will crowd us out of our home. I used to fancy myself as adept and “capable” (as my mother used to put it) in the kitchen, but I’ve long been pushed away from making any creations. Lately we’ve watched some old Julia Child episodes on the public television streaming app, and those have been enjoyable. – Marty

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  11. You just know that I’m going to hunt out that Negroni video don’t you Marty! 😉 I hope that Gorgeous will adore the programme as much as both Himself & I do. I also heard recently that they’re making a new show about Julia Child & her husband. I’m waiting to hear from those who get to it first….


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