2018 was the year of big, bold food television, with shows like Salt Fat Heat Acid and Ugly Delicious leaping onto the screen and creating conversation. This year has carried that momentum forward and put the narrative focus in the hands of locals to drive the story.
And Alton Brown is back. Because everyone loves Alton Brown.
Where to Watch It:PBS
Los Angeles chef Roy Choi became a nationwide sensation for really unleashing food truck culture in America through his Korean taco empire Kogi. He not only created the foundation for what a successful food truck could be like, but also highlighted how food could be intensely creative, yet affordable.
With Broken Bread, Choi takes the opportunity to dive into the city that raised him in a way that few other food shows have. The show features interviews with individuals that are creating community change in Los Angeles — such as Mar Diego, whose business hires homeless children in the city and gives them a new lease on life in the “Transformation” episode, or Robert Egger’s LA Kitchen business, featured in the “Waste” episode, which utilizes restaurant leftovers to feed those in need. The episodes are less about the chef host and more about the incredible motivation of individuals in the L.A. community to find their own answers to the city’s greatest economic issues, from food insecurity to climate change to racial discrimination.
Broken Bread is an inspiring, thoughtful show that puts a distinct spotlight on food issues.
Where to Eat Afterward:
The Cafe at Richland Library,
1431 Assembly St.
Few people in Columbia blend the social change seen in Broken Bread and Roy Choi’s eclectic style than City Grit team/husband-and-wife duo Aaron Hoskins and Sarah Simmons. Their hospitality workforce development program provides non-college-bound youth an option for a living-wage job with training in not only the culinary arts, but also marketing, money management, hospitality and more. The Cafe in particular provides simple, honest food similar to that featured on the show, all in a space within Richland Library, which is ripe with opportunities to discuss community change.
Good Eats: The Return
Where to Watch It: Food Network
When Good Eats premiered in 1999, it was almost too ahead of its time in the way that it intellectually tackled food. Unlike its siblings on the Food Network, cooking a dish was almost secondary compared to the unrelenting amount of time spent understanding all the elements that make up the featured dish and how things work to get from point A to B. Alton Brown became a legend for his monologues, skits and incredible passion for sharing food knowledge.
Brown shut down the show after 249 episodes in 2011 to tackle other projects including touring, a successful podcast and other adventures on the Food Network. Brown, however, maintained that he would return to Good Eats when the time was right.
After nearly a decade away, with time to think about changes in the food world, Brown decided to revive the show to share new stories and ideas he’s had bubbling away over the past several years.
Good Eats: The Return, despite ultimately using the same formula, feels incredibly fresh. Years of technological development have done wonders for the show, providing Brown with lots of fun new toys and camera perspectives to utilize as he takes on old favorites like chicken parmesan and more recent fads like ancient grains. For all its new modern touches, though, the bouncy jingle and Brown’s sharp wit and constant charm are still central to what makes Good Eats so damn fun.
Where to Eat Afterward:
Dano’s Pizza (chicken parmesan), 3008 Rosewood Dr.
Barring the urge to bolt past Dano’s to Publix to gather the ingredients for Brown’s incredibly mouthwatering version, Dano’s features a quick and homey take that’s sure to fit the bill in a pinch.
Where to Watch It: Netflix
If there was a food trend that truly stood out during the past decade, it’s the explosion of Mexican street tacos. From carnitas to al pastor to chorizo, street tacos are nearly common language in everyday eating thanks to the rise of chains like Chipotle and more and more taquerias becoming fixtures in the community.
The popularity of taco culture led Netflix to devote an entire Chef’s Table-esque series to the food.
It’s immediately apparent that despite copping the look and feel of Netflix’s popular Chef’s Table series, Taco Chronicles establishes its own distinct quirk within the first minute: meat narration.
From pastor to barbacoa, each episode features a narrator, the meat itself, guiding you through its own story. Through six episodes, viewers are taken on a journey through the different types of popular street tacos through interviews with historians, locals, cooks and chefs.
Taco Chronicles is without a doubt one of the most beautiful, creative food television shows to arrive this year. The combination of history, use of local input, and visual creativity is stunning.
Chef’s Table set the standard for visual excellence in food television. Taco Chronicles sets a new standard for how food stories can be told.
Where to Eat Afterward: Cayce/West Columbia Weekend Mexican Food Tour including La Estrella, El Mariachi, Panaderia Odalys, and Pollo Jarocho
From tacos at La Estrella and El Mariachi, baked goods at Panaderia Odalys, and the incredible charcoal chicken at the Pollo Jarocho cart at Meeting Street, weekends in Cayce and West Columbia are our closest portal to the streets of Mexico.