Stand out scenes from food-related television you need to watch before the Emmys.
In 2017, writers, actors, and producers created from brilliant television, and much of it had to do with what we eat and why. One of the most memorable scenes took place at the hallowed space that is the dinner table, while another played on the nostalgia-inducing foods popular in the 1980s. There were shows that celebrated celebrity chefs and introduced viewers to unknown masters. Familiar faces from Gordon Ramsay to Anthony Bourdain and Martha Stewart, returned to our screens to ruminate on the politics of food and elevate the cooking competition or make comedy out of it.
All of these shows either reminded us how powerful food can be—to unite families, bring us joy, or act as a medium through which chefs express their creativity—or took us down on a path of discovery, whether we were learning from the chef everyone loves to rag about where to get the best diner food in Maui, or coming to terms with the grit and determination it takes to catch crab.
Here are our picks for some of the best moments in Emmy-nominated food television you need to revisit before the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards airs on Sunday, September 17.
Master of None, Comedy Series
The remarkable Thanksgiving episode of Master of None centers on a queer African-American woman named Denise, as she struggles to come out to her mother and aunt on one of the most fraught family holidays, from the Nineties to the present. Most years her small family—which sometimes includes Aziz Ansari’s character Dev—comes together over a home-cooked meal, but in one especially moving sequence, Denise and her mother, played by Angela Basset, who is also nominated for an Emmy for her performance, sit in a diner booth together and confront the truth about Denise’s identity.
Gordon Ramsay, Host for a Reality Competition (Master Chef Junior)
You might not know it from his reputation as a swear-happy, inpatient hard ass in the kitchen, but Gordon Ramsay is actually a big softie. With the children competing on Master Chef Junior, he’s compassionate, encouraging, and most importantly, goofy. He lets the kids douse him with syrup and drench him with flour. There’s no better way to become a fan of Ramsay’s than to watch him work with kids.
Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg, Host for a Reality Competition Program (Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party)
It might surprise you to hear this, but Martha Stewart & Snoop Dogg have a palpable chemistry on screen. In this episode, Wiz Khalifa and Seth Rogen stop by for a friendly fried chicken competition—and Martha, stealing the show among these big personalities—explains how she slaughters her own chickens on her farm. Her guests seem horrified, but she remains unapologetic. Classic Martha.
Stranger Things, Drama Series
In a show that banks at least part of its appeal on Eighties nostalgia, food plays a big role: We get to watch Stranger Things’ protagonist, Eleven, an adolescent girl who grew up locked up in a hospital where she honed her superpowers, become obsessed with Eggo waffles—that toaster-baked treat that was and is a staple of many Saturday mornings in the average American household.
Drunk History, Variety Sketch Series
This Comedy Central series has a basic but hilarious premise: comedians and celebrities get drunk and retell history. In this episode, Lyric Lewis recounts the life of Julia Child, with a strong focus on her above average height and her past as a spy.
Top Chef, Reality Competition
A classic in the reality competition genre, Top Chef never seems to get old. The suspense, Padma Lakshmi’s arresting screen presence as the show’s host, Tom Colicchio’s oddly calm judging style—year after year, it has the right ingredients to keep people watching. In this scene from the latest season, Colicchio judges Last Chance Kitchen with a degree of professionalism that gives the show an extra dose of reality.
Chef’s Table, Documentary or Nonfiction Series
This documentary series, which has covered iconic chefs from Magnus Nilsson to Dan Barber, has been the go-to show for anyone who wants to understand, on an intimate level, the motivations, and the mindset, of the people behind the world’s best restaurants. The show hit its peak in the third season with an episode focusing on Jeong Kwan, not a professional chef, but a Korean Buddhist monk, who prepares temple food for her monastery.
Parts Unknown, Informational Series or Special
Of course, Anthony Bourdain is making an appearance on this list. The daring, outspoken, adventurous chef-turned-travel-host proves himself time and again to be one of the most distinct voices on television right now. The episode in the latest season of the show when he heads to Antarctica, where presumably, there is very little in the way of fine dining, helps solidify his position as food television’s cutting-edge storyteller.
Deadliest Catch, Unstructured Reality Program
If you didn’t know what it takes to be a crab fisherman, this show—in its 13th season—might come as a shock to your system. In the first nine minutes of this episode, one fisherman gets pinned behind loose cages, and an ice flow nearly crushes workers on another boat. It’s a dramatic look at where your seafood comes from, and not for the faint of heart.
Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Structured Reality Program
Everyone loves to give Guy Fieri a hard time, but watching his long-running reality show about the best greasy, fatty, delicious diner food in America is, undeniably, pure joy. Fieri readily celebrates dishes most doctors would tell people to avoid, in all their unhealthy glory, and never tires of discovering new dishes in unexpected places. In his recent jaunt to Maui, he’s still full of that signature excitement and energy.
Bob's Burgers, Animated Program
This show already won the Outstanding Animated Program at the 2017 Creative Arts Emmys on September 9, a well-deserved award for the long running program about Bob Belcher—a harried father of four and husband to aspiring songstress Linda—who just wants to run his burger restaurant in peace. Bob may be an underappreciated culinary genius, but dressed up in a pickle costume on top of a parade float, he’s just trying his best to get through the day.