Bravo may have lost Project Runway to drab ol’ Lifetime, but it still has reality-competition drama to burn (sauté?) in Top Chef—and host Padma Lakshmi makes Heidi Klum look like a discarded schnitzel. (Co-host Tom Colicchio is no Tim Gunn, however, but who’s gonna notice with Padma around?) Likewise, Top Chef’s contestants are even more passionate and driven than Runway’s designers, and the dishes, win or lose, are always more edible than those “dresses” are wearable. Top Chef is so good, The Only TV Column That Matters™ will even forgive that ill-conceived Top Chef Masters spin-off with the annoying ant-faced hostess—Padma or nothing, Bravo!
Mondays (Travel Channel)
After Don Draper, Anthony Bourdain is the coolest cat on cable: Erudite, well-spoken, punk-rock literate and fearless—if the locals eat it, he’ll have two and a beer. No Reservations is ostensibly about globetrotting and cultural immersion (hence, Travel Channel), but Bourdain’s all-in gusto for chowing down on anything new and possibly fatal is almost as impressive as his ability to pull off wearing an earring in his 50s (as does our dashing publisher, who would never fire me over a silly line like that). Think Paula Deen would hire Queens of the Stone Age to play a holiday TV special? Ha!
Ace of Cakes
Thursdays (Food Network)
Sure, Duff Goldman’s colorful team of confection constructionists and decorators are an uber-twee bunch of hipsters (hair nets, anyone?), but the cakes they turn out are marvels of pure artistry and physics. And, even though six seasons on the Food Network has made Charm City Cakes famous enough to field orders from as far and wide as Hollywood, Alaska and outer space (well, NASA), the bakery and the show are still all about mad hometown love: Anything you didn’t learn about Baltimore from The Wire, you can pick up from Ace of Cakes. On an unrelated note: Elena ... call me.
Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives
Mondays (Food Network)
Guy Fieri’s been to Salt Lake City (most recently filming at Pat’s Barbecue, Moochie’s Meatballs and Blue Plate Diner), and wasn’t mistaken for a strip-club bouncer once! Despite Fieri’s over-the-top bleach-bag persona, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives is a useful domestic travelogue for those who don’t have Anthony Bourdain’s resources, passport or kamikaze tastebuds—true to the title, it’s all about local eateries you’d otherwise never search out yourself (all of the SLC joints featured saw big up-tics in business after their respective episodes). But, sellout demerits must be awarded for Fieri’s spokes dude gig with … TGI Fridays.
Tuesdays (Food Network)
It’s Top-ish Chef, with no Padma—but it does have host Ted Allen from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (remember that?) doing his best gastronomic Tim Gunn impersonation. The Food Network must be pissed that Bravo, of all cable channels, has the best cooking-competition show on TV in Top Chef, but to crank out this flavorless knockoff is like saying “Yeah, we gave up—but at least we don’t have to deal with Kathy Griffin or that house-flipper wacko. Burn!”
30 Minute Meals
Sundays (Food Network)
Rachael Ray is the antichrist. I know, I know—before, I’ve said it was Ty Pennington, then Mary Murphy, then Tyler Perry—the list goes on. But at least those assclowns have a modicum of talent within their respective (albeit evil) fields; RR can’t even cook, nor is she a pleasant presence on TV—unless you consider a voice that sounds like Kathleen Turner gargling nicotine, creepy-tiny Smurf hands and a Satanic smile that says “Go ahead, jump into the hellfire—I brought Hamburger Helper! Yummo!” pleasant. Still on the fence? Try cooking one of her 30 Minute Meals in 30 actual minutes. Not even Anthony Bourdain would eat it.
More fun with food:
Dining Guide: City Weekly’s annual round-up of the Top 100 Utah restaurants