3. Iron Chef
1993 - 1999
For American viewers, the hilariously dubbed Iron Chef was a dense, intriguing labyrinth of fast-talking commentators, synthetic smoke, dramatic backstory, and almost perplexing culinary skill. We saw the chef-challengers as dueling titans, even though we didn't really know what was going on half the time, or whether to believe the crazy-sounding history between them. This is the show against which all cooking competitions are judged (probably by an old fortune teller, which is actually who they brought in half the time anyway).
2. Good Eats
1999 - 2011
Alton Brown doesn't have a background in cooking. But while watching his show, you might think that he's got some experience in... MAD SCIENCE?!?! Strangely not set in a laboratory overlooking a town that misunderstands his genius, Good Eats combined practical technology with a desire for the best food possible. You could count on every episode to include at least a few geeky pop culture references, random bits of history, or bit-part actors pretending to be a butcher, baker, or... an ancient Greek philosopher. In a grocery store. Giving a lecture about grapes.