The famous food review show refers to a popular TV program that features food critics traveling to different restaurants and writing reviews about their dining experiences. This type of show gained prominence in the early 2000s and has become a staple of food-related content on television. Some of the most well-known food review shows include Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Man v. Food, Best Thing I Ever Ate, and The Best Restaurant in America.
What makes food review shows popular?
Food review shows attract large audiences for several reasons:
- They showcase delicious-looking meals from restaurants around the country and world. Viewers enjoy living vicariously through the critic’s dining experiences.
- The shows often provide useful recommendations for restaurants to try in the viewer’s hometown or in destinations they plan to visit.
- Watching restaurant reviews is an entertaining way to learn about new cuisines and food trends.
- Viewers feel like they get an insider’s perspective on a city’s best eateries from knowledgeable food experts.
- The shows build suspense and drama around which restaurants will receive good or bad reviews.
- Food is something that most people can relate to on some level, making food-focused shows broadly appealing.
The food, travel, and entertainment elements combined make for an engaging viewing experience for audiences. Food review shows have become ingrained in popular food culture.
When did food review shows first emerge?
While local restaurant reviewers have existed in print for decades, the concept of a nationwide televised food review show was pioneered in the early 2000s. Some early examples include:
- Molto Mario – Mario Batali’s show featured the celebrity chef reviewing Italian restaurants across America. It aired from 1997-2004 on Food Network.
- Dining Around – Food Network program (2001-2003) with several hosts reviewing restaurants in major U.S. cities.
- $40 a Day – Rachael Ray visited different cities and reviewed eateries where a meal could be purchased for around $40. The Food Network series ran from 2002-2011.
However, the first breakout hit food review show was Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives which debuted on Food Network in 2006. It remains one of the most popular examples of the genre to this day.
The Most Famous Food Review Shows
While many food review programs have come and gone, these are some of the most famous long-running shows that have left an indelible mark on American food television:
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives
- Hosted by Guy Fieri
- Airs since 2006 on Food Network
- Features mom-and-pop style restaurants across America
- Known for highlighting delicious, indulgent comfort foods
- Famous for Guy’s catchphrases like “Flavortown” and “That’s gangsta!”
Why it became famous:
- Lovable spiky-haired host Guy Fieri struck a chord with audiences
- Show taps into viewers’ nostalgia for classic American dining spots
- Makes people feel like they’re taking an awesome road trip stopping at beloved eateries
- Exposure on the show can make a restaurant become wildly popular
Man v. Food
- Originally hosted by Adam Richman
- Aired from 2008-2012 on Travel Channel
- Richman took on outrageous eating challenges like giant burgers and spicy wings
- Also reviewed local hot spots in the cities he visited
Why it became famous:
- Watching one man take on over-the-top quantities of food made for riveting viewing
- Appealed to male viewers with the theme of man vs. food competitions
- Made fans crave the amazing calorie-laden dishes featured
- Inspired many knockoffs and food challenge imitation shows
The Best Thing I Ever Ate
- Hosted by various Food Network celebrities
- Aired from 2009-2015
- Each host shared their favorite dishes from restaurants around the country
- Spanned all types of cuisine from barbecue to seafood and beyond
Why it became famous:
- Having different hosts kept the show feeling fresh
- The “best ever” dishes seemed like must-try culinary bucket list items
- Watching the hosts savor their favorite bites made viewers hungry
- Enabled viewers to discover amazing hidden gem restaurants
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern
- Hosted by chef and food writer Andrew Zimmern
- Airs on Travel Channel since 2006
- Zimmern travels the world exploring unique and sometimes terrifying local specialties
- He’s sampled everything from roasted guinea pig in Ecuador to giant water bugs in Thailand
Why it became famous:
- Provides a vicarious thrill for viewers who enjoy living dangerously through Zimmern’s adventures
- Satisfies curiosity about obscure foods from remote regions
- Zimmern’s fearlessness and enthusiasm makes the bizarre foods seem appealing
- Blends exotic cultural experiences with entertaining food reviews
Other Notable Food Review Shows
While the shows above are arguably the most famous long-running food review programs, many others have become popular over the years:
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
– Hosted by revered late chef/author Anthony Bourdain on CNN (2013-2018)
– Won 5 Emmy awards for Outstanding Informational Series
– Featured both food reviews and cultural immersion in interesting locations worldwide
The Best Restaurant in America
– Food Network competition show (2017-2019)
– Judges reviewed restaurants across America to determine #1 spot
– Built suspense over who would take the top honor each season
The Zimmern List
– Andrew Zimmern’s latest show on Travel Channel (since 2020)
– Zimmern revisits cities and gives updated reviews on favorite spots
– Provides a local insider perspective on restaurants and food experiences
– Long-running Travel Channel show (since 2007)
– Profiles the most delicious, indulgent dishes served at restaurants across America
– Categories covered include burgers, pizza, barbecue, comfort food, and more
Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back
– Gordon Ramsay visits failing restaurants and tries to turn them around (Fox, 2018-2019)
– Known for his aggressive and blatantly honest reviews of terrible food
– Shows Ramsay’s cooking demonstrations and surprise renovations to upgrade restaurants
What Makes These Shows Successful?
Why have food review shows continued to thrive and captivate audiences after over 20 years on the air? There are several key factors that contribute to their ongoing popularity:
- Food is universal – Everyone eats, so shows featuring delicious grub have innate mainstream appeal.
- Living vicariously – Viewers enjoy experiencing amazing restaurants they likely can’t visit through the hosts.
- Reviews are useful – Recommendations from critics can actually help viewers choose where to dine.
- Entertaining hosts – Lively, charismatic hosts like Guy Fieri draw fans who tune in for their personality.
- Drama and spectacle – Over-the-top food challenges or Gordon Ramsay blowups make for riveting television.
- Food porn appeal – Sumptuous food cinematography stimulates viewers’ appetite and gratification.
- Adventurous spirit – Shows like Bizarre Foods satisfy viewers’ sense of curiosity and adventure.
The formula of mixing food, travel, and engaging hosts continues succeeding in the reality TV era. Food review shows have become an expected staple of food-centric channels.
Impact of Food Review Shows on Restaurants
Being featured on a popular syndicated food review program can make a tremendous difference for a restaurant’s success and visibility. The impact of getting a glowing review from a famous food critic includes:
- Skyrocketing number of customers – Many places see business spike drastically after airing on the show.
- Increased profits – Sales and revenue can often double or more in the months following an appearance.
- Months-long waitlists – The surge in demand can lead to long wait times for tables after the episode airs.
- National Recognition – A place can be vaulted from a local spot to famous nationwide destination.
- Tourist and foodie attraction – The restaurant may become a “must-try” spot and draw more out-of-town patrons.
- Brand building – The exposure can raise a chef or owner’s national profile and public image.
However, this boon and instant success is not without its challenges:
- Trouble meeting demand – Many restaurants struggle with being inadequately staffed and equipped to handle the rapid influx.
- Potential quality decline – Some places receive backlash for declining food/service quality under pressure of volume.
- Increased competition – Similar restaurants nearby try to replicate winning dishes/concepts.
- Difficulty retaining regulars – Locals who supported the spot from the start may stop coming due to long waits and crowds.
- Eventual slowdown – Many restaurants see a steep drop-off in hype and sales in the months after airing.
Appearing on a prominent food review show can be a mixed blessing, and restaurant owners must strategize how to leverage the exposure while managing its impact and pressures on day-to-day operations.
The Future of Food Review Shows
Looking ahead, what does the future hold for the food review show format? Some potential directions include:
- Greater focus on sustainability – Showcasing eateries focused on environmental stewardship and ethical practices.
- More diversity in hosts/cuisines – Moving beyond traditional Eurocentric cuisines/hosts and featuring more cultural diversity.
- Elevated cinematography – Continuing evolution toward more refined, dramatic visual stylistic approaches befitting the streaming and 4K TV era.
- Online/social media integration – Enabling viewers to digitally interact with shows and hosts in real time.
- Transmedia extensions – Expanding shows into podcasts, web series, books, merchandise etc. for multiplatform branding.
- Embracing virtual/augmented reality – Providing richer, immersive vicarious dining experiences for at-home audiences.
- Increased brand collaborations – Partnering with major brands for integrated marketing opportunities and crossover episodes.
Food review shows have already progressed from lower-budget local access programs to slick, cinematic productions. As new technologies emerge and viewing habits evolve, expect food review shows to continue leveraging fresh formats and digital experiences to provide mouthwatering entertainment for years to come. The appeal of getting insider access to the tastiest bites around will never go out of style.
Food review television shows have become ingrained in American pop culture for over 20 years and counting. Series like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Man v. Food sparked a formula of blending food, travel, and compelling hosts that has inspired countless imitations. Watching chefs and critics sample delicious grub from around the world satisfies viewers’ appetites while also providing useful dining recommendations. Though appearing on these popular programs can be a mixed blessing for restaurants, the exposure also presents tremendous opportunities for profit and brand building. As preferences shift, food review shows will adapt with new hosts, cuisines, technologies and platforms. But the universally appealing concept of experiencing amazing eateries from the comfort of home will continue driving fans to tune in, whetting their appetites for delectable vicarious dining adventures.