Food shows in the UK: Which one is most popular?

The Staff Canteen

Cookery shows have been around for well over half a century and have created many famous faces, launching the careers of chefs and presenters alike, as well as giving the general public their fifteen minutes of fame.

Simple cookery shows of the 1970s, such as Delia Smith’s Cookery Course, developed into travel and documentary style productions – think Keith Lloyd – and more recently reality TV and cooking competitions have become all the rage. Let’s have a look at the top food programmes on your screens and give you a run down of the most popular from ten to one.

At number 10:

Dinner Date

(averaging under 1 million, 0.78m on Thursday 2nd January 2014, source Blending food and romance, Dinner Date’s title is fairly self-explanatory: one lucky lady or gentleman is treated to an evening meal at three suitors’ homes. This person then decides which one of the three interested competitors they would like to take on a date to a restaurant, basing their choice on both the chemistry between them and the cuisine – think Come Dine with Me crossed with Blind Date! Having already aired for three successful series and almost 100 episodes, a new season of Dinner Date will be back on ITV later this year and you can catch up with old episodes on ITV player now.

Next at 9:

Come Dine with Me

(1.07m 13th July, source BARB) Probably most liked because of the narrator’s sarcastic commentary, Come Dine with Me is Channel 4’s cooking competition in which five members of the public take it in turns to host a dinner party and rate each other’s success, with the winner taking home £1000. The show has come in for criticism for a variety of reasons, but with 31 series and weekday episodes watched by around a million viewers, expect to hear more of Dave Lamb’s irony coming your way.

At number 8:

Food Unwrapped

(21st July 1.28m, source BARB) Now into its fourth series, the programme which reveals the secrets behind what we polish off unwittingly on a daily basis has become a Channel 4 Monday night number one. An alternative look at the food industry, presenters Jimmy Doherty, Kate Quilton and Matt Tebbutt have been making over a million consumers more food savvy on a weekly basis, travelling across the globe to unearth the little-known reality and facts of what lands on our plates and how it gets there.

And at number 7:

Food and Drink

(20th July 1.48m, source BARB) Food and Drink is a popular BBC Two show, and the first to explore cuisine without exhibiting cooking techniques and recipes, although later episodes have included chefs demonstrating dishes. A host of famous presenters and chefs fronted the show which ran from 1982-2002 and was resurrected in 2013, with Michel Roux Jr co-presenting with Kate Goodman. Series two is currently showing and gaining over 1.5 million viewers.

Next at 6:

Great British Menu

(series 9 peak 2.2m, source Wikipedia via BARB)  Another BBC production based around food, this series pits top professional chefs from across the country against each other. They compete to have their dishes included on the final menu for a large, public special occasion, such as banquets for the Queen and Royal Family, celebrations for the London Olympics, and the 70th anniversary of D-Day. With up to 2.5 million people watching, it is clear to see why nine series of the programme have been made.  

At 5 is:

Hairy Bikers

(Asian Adventure 20th February 2.73m, source Wikipeadia) Love them or loathe them, this pair of riding northerners seems to have the recipe for success. Episodes of their latest offering The Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure took an audience share of over 10%, and they have presented more than ten different programmes together and have travelled across the globe sharing their compelling passion for food and bikes.  

Next at number 4 is:

Saturday Kitchen

(record peak 3.5m, averages just under 3m per episode, source This slightly more gentle cookery show, which is broadcast live on BBC1, has been running for over a decade now bringing in strong viewing figures in the millions. Mixing live cooking and celebrity guest interaction with pre-recorded and archive clips, the show serves up a healthy portion of everything related to good food and cooking, and is one of the more successful Saturday morning TV shows.

And now into the top 3 UK cooking shows:

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

(UK series 1 averaged 5m viewers, USA series 6 averaged 2.77m source Costa Del Nightmares yet to be broadcast) Having shot 12 series in the UK and the USA, including episodes featuring restaurants in Europe, Gordon Ramsay announced in June this year that he would be ending the show. The UK and USA versions, broadcast on Channel 4, have been huge successes; the first episode broadcast was watched by 5.7 million people and it has been sold to over 150 territories, with 30 countries making their own local series. There will be one final hurrah: Costa Del Nightmares is currently being filmed as the last series. However, don’t expect this to be the end of Ramsay’s television career. He is now to be found on MasterChef and MasterChef Junior in the USA, and has previously produced Hell's Kitchen, The F Word, Boiling Point, Hotel Hell and many more programmes. Rumours have it that he will be collaborating with ITV again in the future.

And at number 2:


(5.53m Celebrity MasterChef 27th July, source BARB) “Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this!” – or so the tag line goes. Presenters John Torode and Gregg Wallace have been haunting contestants and viewers alike with their carping comments entwined with the occasional approving observation. MasterChef, relaunched in 2005 in a new format, is another BBC food favourite, with the main show and its derivative Celebrity MasterChef regularly hitting over 4 million viewers and episodes in May 2014 receiving an audience in excess of 6.5 million.  

And at number 1 - the most watched UK cooking show (accurate at time of publish) is:

Great British Bake Off

This has become a firm favourite which has run for four series, with the fifth one starting today (6th August). It has become such a success and so popular amongst viewers that the programme has been moved from BBC2 to BBC1’s prime time 8pm slot, and a spin-off show called ‘An Extra Slice’, to be hosted by Jo Brand, has been commissioned to accompany the main show. Last year a total of 13,000 people applied to be on the programme, and the final episode, which saw Frances Quinn crowned champion baker, drew in a fraction under 9.5 million viewers. It has also been produced in 11 other countries and was the BBC’s second most exported show behind Strictly Come Dancing in 2012.

We've had a look into these type of shows and asked the question - "Are they inspiring you to cook?".

See the feature here.

By Mark Savile

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th August 2014

Food shows in the UK: Which one is most popular?