Confession time: I watch cooking shows in order to relax. There’s a calming factor in observing someone else make food—mixing up cake batters, telling you how much oil to pour in a pan. Rarely do I actually make the meals. Honestly, I don’t even watch for the recipes. It’s all about seeing the process: the chopping, the stirring, the sautéing and the eating.

I don’t think I’m alone—why else would we become a nation obsessed with instagramming our meals? There’s something really satisfying about looking at food, both as it’s prepared and in its final presentation. So for my fellow foodies out there, here are three cooking shows (and one book!) to, well, devour.

The Barefoot Contessa

Out of all the cooking shows out there, this one is my favorite. Ina Garten is poised, down-to-earth, smart, and living a magical life filled with brie and beach parties out in the Hamptons. Every other day she has some celebrity knocking on her door asking for lunch, and all her food is served on elegantly rustic tables with fresh flowers she cut from her own garden. She has an adorable husband named Jeffrey who eats her meals with abandon, and the woman is NOT afraid to cook with a little butter. Her food might not be the healthiest, but it’s not like I’m actually making it anyway. I could listen to Ina’s soothing voice talk about herbs and fresh seafood for hours.

Good Eats

When it comes to hosting a quirky food show, Alton Brown is your guy. He’s enthusiastic, fun, and makes you feel like you’re right there with him in the kitchen. Good Eats was on forever (14 seasons!) and for good reason. Funny and inventive, the show delved into the science, techniques and history behind different foods (think Bill Nye meets Rachael Ray). And Alton wasn’t afraid to put himself out there—dressing up as characters, shouting at the camera. No one loves food as much as he does, and it clearly shows.

 

Young & Hungry

OK, so it’s not technically a cooking show, but this adorable ABC Family sitcom is definitely bingeworthy. It follows Gabi (Emily Osment), a young chef who’s in desperate need of a job. But after landing a position as a private chef for millionaire tech-genius Josh (Jonathan Sadowski), she kind of ends up sleeping with him. They decide to keep working together and hilarity ensues. This is a straight-up, old-school sitcom with blatantly fake backdrops and a solid laugh track. But it’s also super charming and the first season is streaming on Netflix. Give this cute comedy a chance—you won’t be sorry, I promise.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly  by Anthony Bourdain (Ecco, 2007)

coverThere’s a reason this book has become a modern classic. For a while, it was even a short-lived television show starring a young Bradley Cooper. Bourdain’s memoir is filled with the dry wit we’ve come to expect from the infamous chef and TV personality. He’s honest, a little crass and delivers an unflinching look at what it’s truly like to be a chef. The book is also filled with practical details about restaurants—it’s how I learned to never order fish on a Monday. If you like humor, food, and insider know-how then this memoir is for you.

 

Main image courtesy: Bob D’Amico/ABC Family