5. Top Chef
2006 - Present
Top Chef revolutionized food on TV when it originally aired, and while subsequent seasons have seen diminishing returns, it will always be the first cooking show that drew us in with personal stories, inventive challenges, and unfamiliar locales, like Survivor for the set who wanted to see people eat something other than bugs.
4. East Meets West with Ming Tsai
1998 - 2003
Ming Tsai’s easy-going approach to food -- and early entrance onto the scene in 1998 -- bridged two formerly disparate worlds (cooking and being cool... what did you think we meant?), and introduced a new generation of aspiring food fans to Asian-influenced ingredients.
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).