When it comes to food-centric television, we're often forced to choose between homogeneous cooking shows and formulaic kitchen competitions. The genre may never hold as many surprises as its diverse subject matter, but, luckily, tasty gems do occasionally pop up around the dial and, increasingly, online. Here are three new programs that'll help satisfy your hunger for culinary straight talk, NSFW nutrition humor, and sweet, sweet food porn.
Culinary hedonist Anthony Bourdain is no stranger to withdrawal symptoms, which might explain why he hasn't left his legion of fans hanging now that his groundbreaking Travel Channel series No Reservations has gone to that big TV set in the sky. On Monday, the network welcomes the Kitchen Confidential author back for a second go-round of The Layover, which finds the host racing against the clock to ferret out the best restaurants and bars that particular cities have to offer.
The Mind of a Chef (PBS; Fridays at 10 p.m., but check local listings)
But Bourdain's influence is also a main ingredient in PBS's The Mind of a Chef, and not just because he's the 16-episode series' executive producer. Like his other shows, the action here follows a straight-shooting celebrity chef on a worldwide quest for audacious food experiences—but the titular chef is not who you'd expect. While Bourdain does provide narration, he hands the reins to Momofuku empire-builder David Chang, an irreverent Gen Xer who can boast a friendship with Parks and Recreation jokester Aziz Ansari (who appears in tonight's episode, which you can preview below), has an obvious affection for Monty Python-esque animated interstitials, and has no end of fresh cooking ideas, such as cacio e pepe made with instant ramen noodles.
Fresh Off the Boat (Vice.com; new webisodes monthly)
Chang and Bourdain are plenty ballsy, but they can't match the recklessness of Eddie Huang, the forked-tongued shock-chef behind New York City's Taiwanese bun spot BaoHaus. The Vice network recently signed up the aficionado of hip-hop, Jeremy Lin, and Four Loko to translate his hilarious blog Fresh Off the Boat into a Web series of the same name, and early results are promising. Tune in to see Huang bum a hit off a joint in the streets of San Francisco on the way to a Vietnamese seafood market, ruminate with highly colorful language on pretty much any topic that crosses his mind, and look on as a rabbit is killed and skinned for dinner. You're not going to see that on Paula Deen's show anytime soon.
Classy Ladies With Alie and Georgia (CookingChannelTV.com; new webisodes weekly)
You might require some booze after witnessing that bunny murder, so chase Fresh Off the Boat with Cooking Channel's Web-only series Classy Ladies With Alie and Georgia. Inventive recipes and witty double entendres abound, but the two funny dames in vintage dresses are the real draw. Your hosts, Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, first rose to Internet fame by creating a monstrous cocktail known as the McNuggetini, equal parts chocolate milkshake, vanilla vodka, and chicken nugget, all served in a glass rimmed with barbecue sauce. This time out, they're visiting various locations that inspire them to make alcoholic drinks with marginally less insane ingredients, such as peanut butter and beets, which they then serve up to you with a wink and a hangover, like Martha Stewart after a bender.
—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him @kwagstaff.
• • •