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David Schwimmer on Celebrity GBBO: here’s our pick of 8 of the best cooking shows of all time

 (Channel 4/ Love Productions)
(Channel 4/ Love Productions)

Friends star David Schwimmer surprised some fans yesterday not only by popping up as a contestant in the The Celebrity Great British Bake Off tent, but also for wowing the judges and coming in top of the class.

The actor took part in the celebrity version of the beloved Channel 4 show which is put on to raise money for charity Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C).

“I’m here to have fun and raise money for a great charity. I lost a grandmother to cancer, my daughter lost her grandmother to cancer, my sister is a cancer survivor so it is important to me,” he said. “I am grateful I can help in a small way to help to raise awareness.”

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Channel 4 collaborates with SU2C for a whole month, putting on a range of special fundraising programmes including celebrity versions of The Circle, Hunted and Gogglebox.

This year’s Celebrity Bake Off cast includes Gemma Collins, Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson, Olympian Tom Daley, and Dragon’s Den’s Deborah Meaden as well as Schwimmer.

Ellie Taylor, Judi Love, Rose Matafeo, Mike Wozniak, Lucy Beamont, Tim Key, Jessica Hynes, Tom Davis, David Morrisey and Joe Thomas have all signed up, as have Paddy McGuinness, AJ Odudu, Coleen Nolan, Jay Blades, and Adele Roberts. Each week a different group of the celebrities bake off, and the winner gets to be Star Baker.

In last night’s competition, in which Schwimmer competed against Nelson, Matafeo and Davis, the celebrities had to bake six savoury pies, six macarons, and a 3D meringue.

At the end of the show, Schwimmer said: “What a lovely, lovely thing to do. I’ve been watching for many years... It doesn’t get better than this. I’m inspired now to do more, I really am.”

The news that David Schwimmer is signing up to Bake Off has reminded us just how much we love cooking shows.

So from cooking competitions, to cooking tours of Italy with charming actors (Stanley Tucci, we’re looking at you), here’s our pick of nine of the best cooking shows of all time.

The Great British Bake Off

 (Channel 4/ Love Productions)
(Channel 4/ Love Productions)

Cooking competition shows are always high-stakes affairs, but somehow The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) manages to keep audiences on the edge of their seats, while simultaneously enveloping them in a huge warm hug. In it, baking enthusiasts take part in increasingly difficult baking challenges, which are then judged by specialists from the world of baking.

Whether you prefer BBC’s original series with Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins or the new Channel 4 format with Paul Hollywood, Sandi Toksvig and Noel Fielding, there’s no doubt that GBBO has hit the bullseye in tone and charm when it comes to cooking shows.

Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy

Stanley Tucci has come into his own over the last couple of years – it’s no exaggeration to say that his cocktail videos were one of the highlights of our lockdown. While we may, admittedly, be stretching the definition of a cooking show here – Tucci’s Searching for Italy is much more of an eating show – it had to be included on the list. Few presenters talk so delightfully about food.

In Searching for Italy, which was released in 2021, Tucci takes audiences to Naples, Rome, Bologna, Milan, Tuscany and Sicily. It did so well that a second season came shortly after: Tucci then went to more incredible Italian spots including Venice, Umbria, Piedmont and Sardinia.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Our favourite of the late chef Anthony Bourdain’s cooking-travel shows, Parts Unknown follows Bourdain as he travels the world discovering the food and culture of the different places he visits. The series was so popular that it ran for a massive 12 seasons, in which Bourdain went everywhere from Libya to Congo, Tokyo to Russia and Thailand to Jamaica. Not only is it fantastic to travel the world vicariously through Bourdain, but it’s a wonder to see the world through his eyes, as he enjoys music, politics, people, and, mostly, food.

Chef’s Table

This incredible cooking series from Netflix, which is now in its eighth series, focuses on different top chefs from around the world. Each episode is a stand-alone deep dive into the chefs’ lives, backgrounds and careers, and so each episode, naturally, has a very different tone.

What’s so astonishing about the series is the range of first-class chefs that Netflix were able to feature. The first episode of the first series, for example, focuses on Massimo Bottura, the chef patron of three-Michelin-star Modena restaurant Osteria Francescana. Other chefs in the series include Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in the US to achieve three-Michelin-stars (for her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn) and Alain Passard, the chef and owner of the three-starred L’Arpège in Paris.

Our favourite episode of the show is about Jeong Kwan, a Seon Buddhist nun who makes exquisite food. For Kwan, food is an extension of her spiritualism, which makes for a wonderful watch.

MasterChef: The Professionals

Yes, MasterChef is a great show, but MasterChef: The Professionals is much better. The stakes are as high as ever as some of the country’s most talented chefs compete for the trophy, being judged by Michelin-starred chefs Michel Roux Jr. (in the early seasons) and then Marcus Wareing alongside top chef Monica Galetti and foodie Gregg Wallace. The standards are impossibly high and the judges – particularly Wareing – can be quite harsh, which makes it all the better when the competing chefs are praised.

Hell’s Kitchen

You need to have a tolerance for yelling in order to enjoy Gordon Ramsay’s cooking competition show – and a tolerance for very dramatic American video editing, too. But once you’ve got over these mini-hurdles, Hell’s Kitchen can be great fun. Everything is so dramatic and Ramsay is often so furious, that you’ll likely be on the edge of your seat for the show’s duration and won’t be able to help but binge the whole series.

Salt Fat Acid Heat

Chef and food-writer Samin Nosrat’s theory is that the four elements you need to make delicious food are salt, fat, acid and heat. Her 2017 book, which went into the techniques of harnessing these four culinary components, was described as the Food Book of the Year by The Times, was named Cookbook of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and won the 2018 James Beard Award for Best General Cookbook.

In this spin-off Netflix show she takes her theory out into the world, with each episode dedicated to a different element. For fat she travels to Italy, for salt she travels to Japan, for acid she travels to Mexico and for heat she travels to California. The food looks absolutely delicious, and effervescent Nosrat makes an excellent host.

Bake Off: The Professionals

Some were initially trepidatious about the idea of a professionalised Bake Off – after all, so much of the fun of the original show is the fact that the contestants are amateurs. But Bake Off: The Professionals quickly proved itself as being a fantastic show in its own right. Its endearing judges, Benoit Blin, Claire Clark and the sensational Cherish Finden are part of its winning formula, but it is also simply a joy to watch people being so good at making dessert and pastry.

Top Chef season 1 to 19 can be watched on Amazon Prime via Hayu