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Best and worst cooking show set designs

taos Nov 15, 2009 04:41 AM

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. jouleman RE: taos Nov 15, 2009 06:23 AM

    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. k
      KTinNYC RE: taos Nov 15, 2009 12:01 PM

      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. alkapal RE: taos Nov 16, 2009 05:22 AM

        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. d
          DexterM RE: taos Nov 16, 2009 06:12 AM

          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
            Midlife RE: DexterM Nov 19, 2009 09:53 PM

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

            1. re: DexterM
              FoodChic RE: DexterM Dec 3, 2009 08:21 AM

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

            2. d
              dsquarefla RE: taos Nov 16, 2009 11:22 AM

              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. k
                KristieB RE: taos Nov 16, 2009 09:15 PM

                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
                  Normandie RE: KristieB Nov 17, 2009 10:37 PM

                  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
                    FoodChic RE: KristieB Dec 3, 2009 08:23 AM

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

                  2. Azizeh RE: taos Nov 17, 2009 11:06 PM

                    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. c
                      celeryroot RE: taos Nov 18, 2009 05:49 AM

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

                      1. a
                        Avalondaughter RE: taos Nov 18, 2009 01:08 PM

                        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
                          KTinNYC RE: Avalondaughter Nov 18, 2009 01:13 PM

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

                          1. re: KTinNYC
                            Normandie RE: KTinNYC Nov 18, 2009 02:43 PM

                            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
                              KTinNYC RE: Normandie Nov 18, 2009 05:01 PM

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

                              1. re: KTinNYC
                                Normandie RE: KTinNYC Nov 18, 2009 09:54 PM

                                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
                                  Avalondaughter RE: Normandie Nov 29, 2009 02:59 AM

                                  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
                                    Normandie RE: Avalondaughter Nov 29, 2009 07:51 PM

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


                                    1. re: Avalondaughter
                                      Tmrock RE: Avalondaughter Dec 3, 2009 11:43 AM

                                      Nothing girly?

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

                                      1. re: Tmrock
                                        FoodChic RE: Tmrock Dec 4, 2009 05:27 AM

                                        You know those blondes spikes are professionally colored!

                                        1. re: FoodChic
                                          Tmrock RE: FoodChic Dec 4, 2009 06:43 AM

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

                            2. re: Avalondaughter
                              Boudleaux RE: Avalondaughter Nov 18, 2009 05:50 PM

                              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
                                Normandie RE: Boudleaux Nov 18, 2009 09:56 PM

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

                              2. re: Avalondaughter
                                jeanmarieok RE: Avalondaughter Nov 24, 2009 04:21 AM

                                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. JohnE O RE: taos Nov 18, 2009 03:04 PM

                                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. coney with everything RE: taos Nov 19, 2009 04:21 AM

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

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: coney with everything
                                    Caitlin McGrath RE: coney with everything Nov 19, 2009 07:51 PM

                                    It is very inviting, isn't it?

                                  2. w
                                    wintersummer RE: taos Nov 23, 2009 10:03 AM

                                    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
                                      melly RE: wintersummer Nov 23, 2009 09:04 PM

                                      Hell, I want Martha Stewarts kitchen!!

                                      1. re: wintersummer
                                        taos RE: wintersummer Nov 24, 2009 04:12 AM

                                        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
                                          alkapal RE: taos Nov 24, 2009 04:28 AM

                                          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
                                            FoodChic RE: alkapal Dec 3, 2009 08:22 AM

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

                                        2. re: wintersummer
                                          annet RE: wintersummer Nov 24, 2009 10:11 AM

                                          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
                                            southernitalian RE: wintersummer Dec 3, 2009 09:10 AM

                                            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. s
                                            SusanB RE: taos Nov 24, 2009 02:33 PM

                                            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. stellamystar RE: taos Nov 28, 2009 07:36 PM

                                              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
                                                taos RE: stellamystar Dec 3, 2009 08:57 AM

                                                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. raidar RE: taos Nov 28, 2009 09:17 PM

                                                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
                                                  Caitlin McGrath RE: raidar Nov 29, 2009 11:52 AM

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

                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                    raidar RE: Caitlin McGrath Nov 29, 2009 01:25 PM

                                                    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
                                                      Caitlin McGrath RE: raidar Nov 29, 2009 01:44 PM

                                                      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
                                                        SusanB RE: Caitlin McGrath Dec 3, 2009 11:02 AM

                                                        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. a
                                                  AngelSanctuary RE: taos Dec 2, 2009 07:44 PM

                                                  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. s
                                                    Sui_Mai RE: taos Dec 4, 2009 05:15 AM

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

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

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