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Best and worst cooking show set designs

  • t

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

I'll start.

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.

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  1. The "set" Ina Garten uses on her current show is actually a kitchen in the barn behind her house in The Hamptons. So it is real and very nice. The old "set" was actually her kitchen in her current home.

    1. Guy's Big Bite, hub caps on the wall and a rally car paint job on your side by side fridge is not manly, it's stupid.


      1. best: tyler florence. i covet that kitchen. well, not really covet....but really, really like it. especially all the copper pots, and nice large stainless prep area.
        i used to like the two fat ladies' kitchen, too. there was nothing really "special" except the good vibe (and the aga stove).
        worst: anne burrell. can you say "clash"? i think some sort of sedative is required medication before i want to watch that program.

        1. I like the set on Boy Meets Grill (when it's filmed outdoors). Big, open space, the bridge in the background, views of the city, etc. I think look really nice. Sometimes there's a nice added effect when the wind blows a bit as well.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DexterM

            We actually designed our small backyard landscaping with that feel in mind.

            1. re: DexterM

              Couldn't agree more! Love the feel of that set! It really brings the feeling of great grilling to mind!

            2. The Tyler's Ultimate kitchen is a reproduction of Tyler's actual kitchen. He shot the pilot for the show in his apartment and FN liked the look so much they recreated it in the studio.

              1. I love Rachel Ray's retro-looking kitchen. If my husband wasn't so allergic to color I would make our kitchen up like that!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: KristieB

                  I don't think I could cope with all that orange, Kristie--although I *do* like LC's flame color and I *really* like Rachel's stove and I also like the configuration of her stovetop next to the butcher block, etc. Does hubby cook as much as you do? If not, you should get Rachel's kitchen, and he should get sunglasses. ;-D j/k

                  I tend to be a traditionalist. I like Tyler's kitchen (and the tradition of all those beautiful copper pots!), the two kitchens I can remember of Paula Deen's sets, and Ina Garten's kitchen, though I'd probably add more color there.

                  1. re: KristieB

                    All that neon would give me a headache...but I do love the broiler on her oven! Would kill for that!

                  2. Giada's house in the Pacific Palisades isn't so bad. If you look closely, you can sometimes see surfers on the sand.

                    I like Ina's new kitchen. It's interesting to see how she designed it and why things are the way they are.

                    1. As I recall , Kellers shows are filmed in his restaurants kitchens , not a set.

                      1. I like Tyler's and Ina's kitchens. My favorite though is Paula Deen's. When I was renovating my kitchen I kept saying, "I want Paula Deen's kitchen." Unfortunately my kitchen is only 8'x8' and my budget even smaller.

                        The worst kitchen is Rachael Ray's. That has to be the ugliest color scheme ever! The green tiles and the orange cabinets hurt my eyes the first time I saw them. Honestly that woman with her orange and green pans has very little taste.

                        Guy Fieri's set is dumb, but it does center on a theme. There is a certain cleverness to it, alhtough it has little to do with cooking. I don't like it, but I "get it".

                        12 Replies
                        1. re: Avalondaughter

                          Hubcaps, rally striped refrigerator, cocktail shakers, guitars, and mid century modern furniture, what's the theme?

                          1. re: KTinNYC

                            I think you just got it, KT--Mid-Century...uh, kind of. IOW, The Jet Age According to Guy. Something like that...

                            1. re: Normandie

                              Dukes of Hazard meets Austin Powers isn't really a theme, is it?

                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                LOL, I guess it is if you're Guy Fieri. Let's get serious, though. C'mon; admit it. You covet that Kelvinator, don't you?

                                1. re: Normandie

                                  It's the idea that the kitchen is supposed to be a kitchen for a man's man. There's nothing girly in Guy's kitchen. It's over-the-top and tacky, but it's sort of the anti girly kitsch. The kitchen is trying to say Guy isn't a Food Network pretty boy and he is not a froufy chef.

                                  1. re: Avalondaughter

                                    I just think it's Guy trying to tell us he's "on point" and "off the hook".


                                    1. re: Avalondaughter

                                      Nothing girly?

                                      How about Guy himself: He spends more on his 'look' than a lot of girls I know :)

                                      1. re: Tmrock

                                        You know those blondes spikes are professionally colored!

                                        1. re: FoodChic

                                          lol oh yeah, at the salon, err the uh barber yeah, the barber

                            2. re: Avalondaughter

                              I'm glad you mentioned Paula's kitchen. I love it too. I was sad to see the fireplace (?) covered by a shelf. Do you know what I mean? I'm having a hard time explaining it. Yes, she did always just seem to put flowers in it but I liked it better than the shelves.

                              1. re: Boudleaux

                                Fireplaces are wonderful in kitchens. Something about them--a fireplace *really* makes a kitchen the "heart of a home".

                              2. re: Avalondaughter

                                Paula Deen's kitchen is beautiful!!!! And I think Guy Fieri's set kind of suits his personality - I like looking around when he walks around the set - lots of stuff going on their.

                              3. I like Ming's setup on the beach. That would be cool if I could cook there everyday. Back to earth, I like Alton's setup with the space and the multiple windows. While not liking the kitchen layout of Guy's set, I'll certainly take the guitars.

                                1. I like Rick Bayless's home kitchen. I want to live there!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. I'm curious - how many of these are 'real' ktichens vs. set kitchens. It looks like the RR is a set. Same for Ann Burrell. I think Ina Garten is a hybrid - she built a larger ktichen type set in the barn. What about the others?

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: wintersummer

                                      Hell, I want Martha Stewarts kitchen!!

                                      1. re: wintersummer

                                        i think they're all set kitchens, even if inspired by real kitchens. If they were real, they'd have things like range hoods and windows views that changed with the seasons, weather and time of day.

                                        1. re: taos

                                          paula deen's first shows were done in her producer's kitchen (the english guy, whose name escapes me, but it is "follow productions").
                                          giada's first shows were done in a friend's home's kitchen in california, iirc.
                                          alton brown's first shows were done in his home, and the neighbors complained so much that they had to go to a set.
                                          ina garten's kitchen is her home kitchen.
                                          i'm pretty sure michael chiarello's kitchen is his there in napa valley.
                                          the neely's kitchen i'm pretty sure is theirs in their home.

                                          i'm sure there are more instances of "real" (i.e., not "set") kitchens on tv.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            alkapal...that's Gordon Elliot you're thinking of!

                                        2. re: wintersummer

                                          They've mentioned some on the behind the scenes specials. RR, Guy, and Sunny Anderson are all sets in New York. I'd guess Aida, Clair Robinson, and Melissa d'Arabian are sets too. Anne Burrell's kitchen looks like a set but I think Alex Guarnaschelli might be in her own Apt.

                                          Giada for her old series used rented houses. Not sure about the new one. Good Eats is a set in Atlanta but was, at one point, his producers' house.

                                          1. re: wintersummer

                                            I saw RR's kitchen on a TV show not too long ago. Might have been Law & Order or CSI. It took me a minute to realize why it looked so familiar.

                                            I love Ina's set. I love all of her cookware too.

                                          2. Love Giada's, Ina's and Rick Bayless's kitchens - I love Mexico, so probably Rick's kitchen is the most comfortable for me, but I could live in any of them.

                                            There's also a Canadian show - French Food at Home - I like her kitchen, very homey.

                                            1. I have always loved Jamie Oliver's kitchens - from the early tiny London Naked Chef series to the latest country kitchens with the big garden - love it!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: stellamystar

                                                There was on Jamie Oliver series where he opened up his kitchen window to cut herbs from a window box. I thought that was cool.

                                              2. I have to throw Tyler into my likes, along with Alton Brown and Laura Calder. Weak sauce kitchens - Guy's and the Chopped set design.

                                                I don't get RIck Bayless on Foodtv Canada. I need to google it now, as I'd like to see it.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: raidar

                                                  Bayless's shows are on public television (PBS) in the US, rather than the Food Network.

                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                    Thanks Caitlin. I don't seem to get him on my regular weekend PBS feed of cooking shows either then. Strange, as I get Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen, Joanne Weir's Cooking Class, Lidia's Italy, Chefs A' Field, America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country, Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie on KCTS..hmmm

                                                    1. re: raidar

                                                      Just might not be in the current rotation your PBS station shows, or between seasons. Here's some info on the show (including the recipes): http://www.fronterakitchens.com/telev...

                                                      I think you can find eps or clips on YouTube or Torrent, though I don't know if you can access those shows in Canada.

                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                        We're on Bell ExpressVu, and we get Rick Bayless on the PBS station from Washington state but not from Boston. I often do a search to find his shows and every once in a while, I get lucky and find it.

                                                2. I love Alton Brown's kitchen, it's so simple and clean and everything is so efficient. Especially love how he have magnetized tools so it's easy access omg!

                                                  I really dislike Rachel Ray's kitchen...so...orange o.o...and her oven just confuses me. HOW DOES IT WORK?!?!? AND WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT?!

                                                  1. Giada's by far - must have lots of natural light.

                                                    Otherwise I'd pick Tyler Florence's - I like that guy's style.