Courtesy of Rocco DiSpirito, Author of Rocco’s Healthy + Delicious

Top Chef, he says, has "been iconic since the first season"

Charlie Heller
December 14, 2017

In 2003, the launch of NBC's The Restaurant helped kick off a wave of food-centered reality TV that has since conquered the airwaves (and streams). The show, which ran two seasons, chronicled the first two years of famed NYC chef Rocco DiSpirito's restaurant Rocco, and it was one of the first iterations of modern food TV, paving the way for several of the most popular shows today.

After stopping by the Food & Wine test kitchen for a newer kind of broadcast based on a recipe from his latest book, DiSpirito shared his thoughts on the state of the medium today. While he has multiple favorite shows, DiSpirito says that the show that most resembles what he attempted with The Restaurant is Top Chef, which "has been iconic since its first season," and "really set a standard for what reality food competitions can be." Considering that many of the producers of The Restaurant went on to work on Top Chef, the similarities make sense.

DiSpirito also has good things to say about a broader development in the medium. "We're starting to see a lot of the very kitschy or gimmicky reality shows go back to where we're talking about cooking more," he says, believing viewers were starting to get overwhelmed by more novelty-based shows, which caused the recent turn in tide. Though he admits he does also love Guy's Grocery Games, which "doesn't take itself too seriously."

Of course, he also loves the Great British Bake Off, because who doesn't? "They're so earnest on that show," DiSpirito says of GBBO's cast—"there's a sense of camaraderie" across the competition that separates it from the winner-take-all feel of much American reality TV. So ultimately, the food TV pioneer seems happy with the way things are going.

"That's what Food Network was all about in the beginning," he says of the back-to-basics trend. "People who are legitimately interested in learning how to cook."