If you're like me, there is more to enjoying a cooking show than the cooking. The set design, (appliances, even the cookware -- even the lighting ) also play a role.
It's not about the chef, or the cooking, or the food, or about what you learned. It's about the aesthetics of the show. What you could get from watching with the volume turned down.
Pick your favorite and least favorite, past or present
BEST (in no particular order)
Tyler Florence: "Tyler's Ultimate." I really like the underground look, the hanging copper pots, the green subway tiles and excellent lighting. Overall a really good look.
Ina Garten: "The Barefoot Contessa." Beautiful airy natural kitchen. I'm not sure if this is actually shot in a real kitchen and that's the actual outside (doubt it), but it does a good job of mimicking it. Also does a great job of showing off her shiny stainless steel cookware.
Emeril: "Essence of Emeril." I'm not much of an Emeril fan and do not like his live "bam!" show at all, but I like the design of this show, especially the big window with all the greenery outside. Really nice videography. The only quibble I have is that he uses non-stick cookware more than I'd prefer.
WORST (also no particular order)
Hubert Keller: "Secrets of a Chef." It pains me to include this on the Worst list. I love Keller, who doesn't, but everything about the visual design of this show was awful, from the bland set design to the generic lighting to the glass cooktop to ubiquitous non-stick pans.
Sandra Lee: "Semi-Homemade." I do give her credit for color-coordinating the set decoration with the food with her clothes with the Kitchen-Aid mixer. However, the general set remains me of my grandmother's kitchen. And that's not a compliment. Sorry grandma.
Ingrid Hoffman: "Simply Delicioso.." The show is deeply flawed on many levels. Its set aesthetics are just one of them. The set is so cluttered that I wasn't even sure it as shot in a kitchen.