The 50 Biggest Pop Culture Food Moments of 2018
Our picks for the top food stories in TV, movies, music, and more.
From the bright and beautiful pictures that flood our Instagram feeds every morning to the instant hits Netflix seems to add every week, food culture is popular culture these days. Narrowing the year's top headlines down to just 50 key moments proves to be a Herculean task as a result. Read on to walk the line between culinary-minded TV shows, books, and movies, then ask yourself one simple question: "What did we miss?" A lot, probably… Here's what did stick out, in no particular order:
1. Meghan Markle raised the bar on what it means to be a royal.
Move over, Kate; there's a new Duchess in town, one who landed several headlines on the food news front this year. For starters, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry broke with tradition and went with a lemon elderflower cake (courtesy of Violet Bakery) at their May wedding rather than a typical fruitcake. More importantly, Markle backed a bestselling cookbook that benefits the kitchen that fed and was started by victims of London's Grenfell Tower Fire. And to show that her support extends well beyond bookshelves and shops, she even did some prep work for the Hubb Community crew on Thanksgiving Eve.
2. The Great British Baking Show kept quirky and carried on.
Drama over The Great British Baking Show's new direction was cast aside when the revamped series premiered in the U.S. thanks to a Netflix deal and the introduction of charming new hosts (Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig) and a worthy Mary Berry replacement (longtime Great British Menu judge Prue Leith). Even better for American fans, Netflix shortened the wait time between the season finale in the U.K. and releasing episodes in the States, so spoilers are now a little easier to avoid.
3. Ben and Jerry's joined The Resistance.
Progressive ideas have lurked just beneath the surface of Ben & Jerry's since its low-key launch in a renovated gas station 40 years ago, but the Vermont company has never been as overtly political as they were with Pecan Resist last October. (Bernie's Yearning, notwithstanding.) Conceptualized as a "campaign to lick injustice," the limited pint featured artwork from activist Favianna Rodriguez and benefitted four different groups "focused on freedom, belonging, community and justice." As for its actual flavor, the chocolate ice cream was cut with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds — post-hippie perfection, as always.
4. Martha Stewart took a seat at the Chopped judges' table.
The question of whether Martha Stewart ever sleeps remains a mystery just three years shy of her 80th birthday. Aside from developing a multi-device app of "pure Martha," the peerless TV personality was all over the airwaves yet again, including a judge spot on Chopped, another round of revelatory desserts on Martha Bakes, and a scene-stealing T-Pain collab on Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party. What's next—a rap album called Half Baked? We wouldn't put it past her.
5. Queer Eye star Antoni Porowski rebooted the West Village diner Village Den.
The runaway success of Netflix's Queer Eye reboot—a show so popular it squeezed two seasons and a stopgap episode into a four-month time period—didn't just turn its cast members into overnight stars. It led to business opportunities like Antoni Porowski's looming "culinary memoir" and his fast-casual makeover of a longtime diner in New York (The Village Den). Yes, there's avocado on the menu, but did you really think this guacamole advocate would have it any other way?
6. Metallica endorsed a "sound aged" whiskey.
Unlike the relatively straightforward rye and bourbon offerings of Bob Dylan's Heaven's Door line, Metallica's Blackened collab with the late master blender Dave Pickerell (WhistlePig, Maker's Mark) was blasted with low-frequency sound waves right in the barrel to "shake the whiskey molecules to their core." It's not the first time songs have shaped flavor profiles—Copper & Kings "sonic aged" their brandy alongside Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, and Dock Street Brewing Company played six months of Wu-Tang Clan for its Ain't Nuthin' to Funk With saison—but it's certainly the heaviest.
7. Bagels, Guy Fieri, and bok choy all got their own emojis. (We're still waiting for white wine, though.)
The widely contested world of emojis heated up throughout the year, from the eagerly anticipated arrival of an expanded iPhone library—including bok choy, mango, and a mooncake—to a bagel in dire need of cream cheese. Meanwhile, one Brooklyn designer went ahead and made her own Guy Fieri-inspired "chef's kiss," and white wine devotees put a 15-page Unicode petition together, saying, "This won't change the world, but it will free you from using the Red Wine Emoji when what you really want is your favorite glass of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, or Pinot Grigio."
8. Bob's Burgers collaborated with Blue Apron.
Is there any TV show more tailormade for promotional tie-ins than Bob's Burgers? Pop-up wise, last year's week-long New York restaurant was followed by this fall's generous drive-in giveaways (we're talking 2,800 free burgers!) in St. Louis, Atlanta, and Phoenix. As for replicating its 'recipes' at home, Blue Apron tapped Eggslut founder Alvin Cailan to develop three special meal kits, culminating in the Absentee Shallot Burger with a side of Fontina Cheese Fries.
9. Game of Thrones fans passed the time with beer and whiskey.
The first gap year in Game of Thrones' HBO run was as merch-heavy as it's ever been, from a robust White Walker rendition of a certain world-renowned Scotch to a four-part Royal Reserve Collection of craft beer concoctions from Brewery Ommegang. (We're particularly fond of King in the North, a barrel-aged, "thick and chewy" imperial stout dedicated to Jon Snow.) Home cooks should also bookmark a Binging With Babish episode built around freshly baked direwolf bread and an appearance by longtime cast member Maisie Williams. Winter is coming, after all (next Spring).
10. Barefoot Contessa channeled her inner Mary Poppins.
While we'd gladly watch Ina Garten host the Food Network's longest-running show (Barefoot Contessa, of course) with nothing but quality ingredients by her side, the second season of her new Cook Like a Pro series tapped such top-notch guests as Jennifer Garner, Nigella Lawson, Emily Blunt, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The last two of which joined Garten for a Mary Poppins-inspired lunch that'd floor any Anglophile. Time to start taking notes between that episode and the show's newly dropped cookbook.
11. Bill Murray backed a Caddyshack restaurant with his brothers.
It's taken a good 15 years for the Murray brothers—Andy, Ed, Brian, Joel, Johnny, and Dr. Peter Venkman himself—to open the second location of Caddyshack Sports Bar & Grille. Located a half hour outside their hometown on the North Shore of Chicago, it follows the "casual fun" theme of the St. Augustine original with such signature comfort food combos as baby back ribs braised in beer, a decidedly Tex Mex taco, and "crispy potato golf balls" served alongside a horseradish dipping sauce.
12. David Schwimmer stole beer to prove he didn’t steal any beer.
Friends star David Schwimmer wasn't about to wait for the inevitable rollout of a Central Perk chain to stay in the spotlight, food-and-drink-wise. Aside from appearing in a truly bizarre Super Bowl campaign for Skittles, when the Internet went crazy over a British beer thief's striking resemblance to the actor, Schwimmer posted a Facebook video of himself stealing a case of beer in New York to prove he had an alibi. While it was a well-timed, good-humored move on Schwimmer's part, local authorities actually cited his high-profile stunt as part of the reason they were able to identify and nab the culprit.
13. Avocados continued to unite and divide us.
Reckless millennials aren't the only key players (or is it pawns?) in the ongoing war over America's favorite love-or-loathe fruit. While questionable business practices caused a considerable strike along the Mexican supply chain this fall, avocados remained at the center of Dallas concession stands, a San Diego museum, several New York restaurants, and Dominique Ansel's latest buzzworthy dessert. Dubbed the "huevocado," the $22 Easter item was a dark chocolate egg filled with "fluffy honey marshmallow" and a "gooey salted caramel center". In other words, put your weapons down people.
14. Pixar devoted an entire short to dumplings.
Former Pixar intern Domee Shi wrote and directed Bao, an eight-minute film loosely inspired by her love of food and formative years in Toronto's vibrant immigrant community. (Shi was born in the southwestern China city of Chongqing.) Presented before Incredibles 2 screenings, it revolves around "an aging Chinese mom [who] gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life as a lively, giggly dumpling boy."
15. This Is Us put Crock-Pot under fire.
The long-awaited reveal of the demise of lead This Is Us character Jack Pearson drove the NBC series' diehard fans to attack his silent killer—a faulty Crock-Pot—back in January. The company responded with a short-lived @CrockPotCares handle and insisted that nothing of the sort would ever happen with today's models, but that wasn't enough to stop several entrepreneurs from selling decals like "I'm so glad we have an Instant Pot" on Amazon.
16. Someone actually made the spaghetti sundae from Elf.
In what may be the least appetizing move of the Social Media Age, Chicago restaurant Miss Ricky's cooked up a faithful recreation of the "spaghetti sundae" from the Will Ferrell movie Elf. Executive chef Moosah Reaume tried to justify its steep $15 price tag with marshmallows, M&Ms, Oreos, Fruity Pebbles, coconut, S'mores Pop-Tarts, and several different syrups and sauces, but let's be honest; it's really all about the 'gram here.
17. The most famous song about Margaritas landed on Broadway.
Theater critics tearing into the Broadway musical Escape to Margaritaville is about as surprising as rock critics blasting Jimmy Buffett's actual records, but that doesn't diminish the sucker punches several writers landed in March. The New York Times, for one, said "if ever there were a time to be drunk in the theater, this is it." Which is kind of the point, if you think about it.
18. Hello Kitty expanded her wine line.
Grownups who are down with the Sanrio universe now have two more reasons to run to their favorite liquor store or the brand's online shop: a Hello Kitty Prosecco and Pinot Grigio, which round out a "Lucky 7" lineup that includes such previously announced varietals as a Pinot Nero, Pinot Noir, sparkling rosé, and "sweet pink". Collect 'em all for just $188.20, because nothing says quality wine quite like cutesy cartoon characters.
19. Gordon Ramsay solidified his place as the king of cartoon chefs.
As if he wasn't busy enough saving chefs and restaurateurs from themselves on major television shows, Gordon Ramsay has also quietly built up his resume as a reputable voice-over actor for such iconic cartoons as the Smurfs and Simpsons. And then there was this year's two-episode "The Stink of Fear" arc on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which somehow involved a Pie of Doom and Mario Lopez of Saved By the Bell fame. Ramsay also got behind the mic to voice a character alongside Alton Brown on the TV adaptation of Disney's Big Hero 6. A star turn as a Scooby-Doo villain would be the next logical move, though Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay and Marcus Samuelsson may already be on the case.
20. Chicago got its very own pizza museum.
Unlike the pricey ($35!), some-would-say-ridiculous 'Museum of Pizza' that hit New York City in October, The U.S. Pizza Museum actually exhibited "menus, rare pizza boxes, vinyl records, vintage ads, toys, video games, and more" during its Chicago run at the Roosevelt Collection. And while founder Kendall Bruns admits he's not the first slice addict to attempt such a thing (Philadelphia's Pizza Brain has been around for years), his genuine enthusiasm for the topic is as welcome as a cheese and pepperoni pie.
21. BrewDog got into the TV and boutique hotel businesses.
August was a big month for BrewDog, beginning with the opening of its boutique hotel The DogHouse. Building upon the local footprint of last year's new brewery in Columbus, Ohio, "the hoppiest place on earth" features 32 rooms and never-before-seen views of the production floor itself. Not to mention shower beer fridges and personal IPA pints. BrewDog's other major development was the launch of its own digital network, offering more than 100 hours of craft-beer content for $4.99 a month. William Shatner may or may not be involved.
22. Snoop Dogg wrote a cookbook.
Poor Snoop Dogg. Less than six months after setting the Guinness World Record for "the largest paradise cocktail" (gin and juice, in his case), a Miami bar called Sweet Liberty raised the stakes even further with 580 liters of the good stuff. (Snoop's Hendricks-heavy drink was 550.) But the rapper still won 2018 with the release of 50 of his favorite recipes (including you know what) in his "dipped and whipped" From Crook to Cook book. Martha Stewart must be proud.
23. Kentucky Fried Chicken's publicity stunts got personal.
It's nearly impossible to keep up with all the craziness in Kentucky Fried Chicken's universe these days. That goes for everything from a fully authorized Drunk History lesson of Colonel Sanders' backstory to a self-contained site devoted to soothing "KFChill" sounds like frying chicken, sizzling bacon, and simmering gravy. But nothing tops the parents who named their daughter after Colonel Sanders and banked $11,000 from the brand as a result.
24. Nailed It! emerged as one of Netflix's breakout food shows.
Queer Eye wasn't the only show that earned a quick renewal order from Netflix this year. Comedian Nicole Byer and pastry chef Jacques Torres scored an immediate hit with Nailed It!, a battle royale between amateur bakers with a biting sense of humor and two seasons already in the bag. Actually, make that three; a holiday run also dropped in December, giving us all hope for the ill-fated cakes, pies, and pastries in our near future.
25. LA's leading food podcaster ghostwrote a recipe for The Simpsons.
Whether it's with punchlines or plot points, food has always played a supporting role in The Simpsons. Season 29 (!) was no exception; in the span of two April weeks, Homer's estranged mother shared her secret apple pie recipe (credited to Good Food host Evan Kleiman) during a flashback sequence and he demolished some of New Orleans' most beloved dishes during a whirlwind tour of more than 30 iconic spots around town.
26. Chloe Kim won our hearts at the Olympics with her food Tweets.
In the spirit of the limited Wheaties boxes that have landed on grocery shelves since the 1930s, snowboarder Chloe Kim ended up on a Gold Medal Edition of Kellogg's Corn Flakes in February. Jimmy Fallon broke the news on The Tonight Show, but failed to give Kim a much-deserved award for her Twitter skills. The social media star has a food-centric feed that references everything from "bomb churros" to the finer points of Chipotle and Hot Cheetos.
27. Al Roker made a web series about sandwiches.
Two of Al Roker's favorite topics—sandwiches and summer grilling—became the focus of several online endeavors this past summer. First up was Cold Cuts, a Today-related web series that launched with a Cheech and Chong interview about chicharrones, knife skills, and marijuana reform. Meanwhile, Bluprint added Roker to its digital instructor team with a class that revolves around sun-baked recipes like grilled potato salad and a healthy but heady signature burger of ground turkey and pork with sesame oil, scallions, ginger, and garlic.
28. Golden Girls lived on in hot sauce and cereal form.
If there was ever any doubt about the enduring popularity of Blanche, Sophia, Dorothy and Rose, it was quickly dispelled by two different food products this year. The first was also the most fitting: Always Fit's hot sauce line, which ranges in heat from Desert Rose and Bea Spicy to Sicilian Fire and, err, Hot Slut. A little more tame in the licensing department was a limited Golden Girls cereal (a.k.a. FunkO's) that flew off the shelves at Target despite costing $7.99 per box.
29. Gold chicken became a thing thanks to a familiar face from Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
High and low culture had quite a head-on collision in April when The Ainsworth—an upscale sports bar—tapped Instagram/Keeping Up With the Kardashians star Jonathan Cheban (a.k.a. Foodgōd) for a gold-covered food collab. The 24 Karat Wings cost anywhere from $30 (for 10) to $1,000 (for 50 and a fancy bottle of Champagne), and featured a coconut butter brine, chipotle seasoning, honey batter, and gold flakes. Similar in spirit but costing just $5 (including six wings, a side, and a biscuit!) was Popeyes' own version, which was hand-battered with Champagne and dredged in its own blinged-out mix.
30. Starbucks redefined "customer" and outlined its porn ban.
Coffee seemed to be the last thing on Starbucks' mind this year. While longtime CEO Howard Schultz resigned from the company to write a book and consider a presidential run, the politics of online porn and public restrooms played out in new policies that blocked the former and expanded the reach of the latter to non-customers. "We don't want to become a public bathroom," Schultz said at the time, "but we're going to make the right decision 100 percent of the time and give people the key."
31. Craft beer continued to find collaborators in the music industry.
What was once a staple on the riders of rock stars—decent beer—is now a part of marketing plans throughout the music industry. Not any old lager, either. The National asked Mikkeller to make them a perfectly balanced "clear and crisp" pilsner; Def Leppard went the pale ale route with a holy trinity of Cascade, Simcoe and Chinook hops; and Run the Jewels followed their absurdly fresh Stay Gold IPA up with stout and porter variants of a winter warmer called Panther Like a Panther. The year's strangest craft-beer collab has to be Dragons & YumYums, however. Described as an "intensely tropical—yet subtly bitter—pale ale", it found Dogfish Head channeling the psychedelic side of Flaming Lips with dragonfruit, yumberries, passionfruit, pears, and black carrots.
32. Sesame Street did a street food episode, complete with a cameo from Padma Lakshmi.
In a fitting sign of solidarity between several international Sesame Street productions, characters from China, South Africa and India came together on a special episode featuring street food and an important lesson for children afraid of eating outside their comfort zone. (Rudy, a puppet for picky eaters, wants to cop a corn dog instead of trying wontons, udon or tamales.) Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi also staged a cheese battle between Elmo, Oscar the Grouch, Prairie Dawn, and Cookie Monster, who also runs a Foodie Truck these days.
33. The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Black Panther got turned into pop-up bars.
Vintage arcade games aren't the only nostalgia trip packing 'em in at Chicago's Replay bar. The Lincoln Park staple continued its pop culture pop-ups with detailed renditions of Paddy's Pub from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and the entire Dundies episode from The Office. Replay captured its Chili's setting with gift bags, a scripted 'awards ceremony', and massive Presidente Margaritas. Happening elsewhere in the country was the Enter Wakanda event in Washington, DC. The Black Panther-inspired bar was held at a secret location on U Street, channeling the area's rich cultural history with "art installations, interactive set pieces, food, and drink specials."
34. Pearl Jam and Jon Bon Jovi made some of the year's most popular wines. (No, really.)
Want proof that Pearl Jam fans will buy just about anything to support their favorite band? How about the $150 "Home X Away" wine sets that sold out within 12 minutes of being announced last July? The benefit project managed to raise $67,500 for the Vitalogy Foundation and shine a spotlight on two of Washington's most progressive independent producers (Mark Ryan Winery and Sleight of Hand Cellars), so it's not like we're talking about Two-Buck Chuck here. Slightly more affordable and equally surprising in the acclaim department was Jon Bon Jovi's Diving Into Hampton Water rosé. The 2017 allotment of the $25 bottle was sold out among suppliers weeks before its April release. Guess that whole "Livin' on a Prayer" thing worked out.
35. Mean Girls inspired a cookbook and milkshake.
The Instagram superstars over at Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer outdid themselves with their Mean Girls milkshake special in September. Ringing in at a rough $19 and yet somehow totally worth it, the pastel-tinged promotion featured strawberry Pop Rocks, frosted sugar cookies in the shape of a "burn book" and "fetch" shirt, and one gigantic marshmallow. You won't find its recipe in Jonathan Bennett's (a.k.a. Aaron Samuels) Burn Cookbook, but the collaboration with LA chef Nikki Martin does include Fetch-uccine Alfredo, You Go, Glenn (Hot) Cocoa, and Just Stab Caesar Salad, so there's no shortage of puns and film references here, either.
36. Chef’s Table readied and released three new seasons.
Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix's globetrotting Chef's Table show finally tackled dessert last April with segments on such visionary pastry stars as Christina Tosi, Will Goldfarb, and Jordi Roca. It switched back to savory dishes in September, however, highlighting a wide array of world class cooks from Philadelphia (Cristina Martinez), Bangkok (Bo Songvisava), Istanbul (Musa Dağdeviren), and Barcelona (Albert Adrià). Expect further trips down to Savannah, London, Nashville, and Panzano, Italy sometime next year.
37. Alton Brown pored over the past, present and future of Good Eats.
Rather than a rush an imminent reboot of his seminal Food Network show Good Eats, Alton Brown first ran a fine-toothed comb over 13 of its classic episodes with the Cooking Channel series Good Eats: Reloaded this fall. Or as the Iron Chef host put it a few months back, "I really wanted to go back to the very early days and do some renovations, so to speak." In other news, Brown returned to his musical roots with a weird power trio record called Bitter Like Me. Believe it or not, it has a rap song called "TV Chef" and a country-fried cut by the name of "Airport Shrimp Cocktail."
38. Magnolia Bakery toasted the late '90s launch of Sex and the City.
If artisanal cupcakes seem like old news these days, it's probably because the blockbuster show that made them famous (Sex and the City) turned 20 this year. Magnolia Bakery marked the occasion by giving 50 of its vanilla Carries (featuring pink pastel buttercream and an edible daisy) away at each of its nine locations. Turns out they're still going strong, countless hype cycles later.
39. Mickey Mouse turned 90 and celebrated with a bunch of birthday treats.
Speaking of birthdays, Mickey Mouse hit 90 this year and everyone seemed to have their own special way of celebrating. Sam's Club, for starters, which unveiled a three-tier buttercream cake, all dressed up in 3-D detailing and red, black and yellow fondant. Not to be outdone were Disney World and Disneyland, which rolled out out such noteworthy special items as confetti and cookie butter-laced churros, a truly strange cucumber salad, and a push pop filled with pastry cream and layers of cake crumbles and glitter.
40. Wawa unlocked the power of secret menus.
Pennsylvania's favorite convenience store may not be the first place you think of when people talk about Instagrammable food items, but Wawa went to great lengths to change that with its myriad secret menus. It all started with birthday cake shakes and smoothies last April—for the Philly-based chain's 54th anniversary—and continued with creepy Halloween combos and a rainbow bagel cut from the same colorful dough as the ones that drove Brooklyn crazy last year. Groundbreaking? No. Better than your average 7-Eleven? Most definitely.
41. Nintendo based an entire game around conveyor belt sushi.
Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido imagines the unthinkable: a world without sashimi or special rolls. Hope can be had, however, as you tear through the color-coded plates in this Nintendo Switch title and put an end to the game's dystopian Empire. May we suggest a celebratory meal at a conveyor belt classic like YO! afterward?
42. The Chew got canceled, but that didn't slow Carla Hall down one bit.
ABC put an end to The Chew's seven-year run in September—less than a year after the firing of Mario Batali—but chef/restaurateur/soap opera star Carla Hall didn't let the news derail her latest round of plans for world domination. Namely a new cookbook centered around Southern comfort dishes (Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration), and all of the discussions, demos, and dinners that go along with it.
43. Roy Choi created recipes for Beastie Boys and Cheetos, alike.
Having kicked the year off with a line of sauces for Williams-Sonoma, Roy Choi put his head down and plowed right through 2018. And not just with new restaurant concepts, either. The self-made superstar also contributed recipes to the Beastie Boys' sprawling memoir, took the reins of Cheetos' second restaurant concept (this time a Flamin' Hot pop-up in L.A.), and penciled in plans for next year. The public television premiere of Broken Bread is set to air in early 2019, with the ambitious goal of establishing "a quest for goodness. A place where we can highlight amazing people doing amazing things... A show with a lot of food, but not necessarily a food show."
44. Marcus Samuelsson hosted a travel show with a higher purpose.
"We're all basically immigrants here," Marcus Samuelsson said at this year's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. "Food is the biggest window into another culture. That's why I want politicians to go to the immigrant parts of town to eat Iranian-Persian rice, Korean kimchi, Swedish herrings, [and] German sauerkraut." Maybe not the easiest plan to pull off given the country's mercurial climate these days, but the first season of Samuelsson's No Passport Required show was a mighty fine start, highlighting everything from Ethiopian food in Washington, DC, to the Arab cuisine of Detroit.
45. Samin Nosrat translated Salt Fat Acid Heat into a Netflix hit.
Anyone unwilling to wade through the nearly 500 pages of foundational cooking in Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat now has Netflix to thank for its four-part crash course in culinary greatness. Full of tips from the award-winning author and stunning travelogue shots of Italy, Japan, Mexico, and California, it makes a convincing case for going back to the book and demanding another season that hammers the very same points home again.
46. Sweetbitter's TV adaptation premiered on Starz.
While it's technically a work of fiction, Sweetbitter doubles as Stephanie Danler's thinly veiled look at New York's vibrant restaurant industry. And as Starz proved with its premium cable premiere last spring, it was also tailor made for television. "I hope people see how honest it is," Danler explained in a Food & Wine interview. “There are a lot of fairy tales and romanticized New York shows, and a lot of chefs yelling in restaurant shows. That’s not our show. What it is, is really honest about this young woman’s journey, and about her quest for family."
47. David Chang served a visual feast on Ugly Delicious.
What we lost with the sudden demise of Lucky Peach last year we gained with David Chang's similarly minded Netflix show Ugly Delicious. Brash and brutally honest, with a healthy sense of humor, its first season tackled everything from Houston's Viet-Cajun hybrid to the many international meanings (Peking duck, brisket, yakitori, donkey burgers) of barbecue. Here's some good news, too: Chang's mom Sherri confirmed season two over the Thanksgiving break.
48. "Justin Bieber" showed America how not to eat a burrito.
In an attempt to prove people will believe just about anything, YouTubers Yes Theory punked us all with a meticulously staged viral shot of a Justin Bieber lookalike eating a burrito sideways, fooling even legitimate media outlets into covering the ire-inducing method for enjoying Mexican food. The creators said they "wanted to prove a point" by pulling a proverbial rug from beneath The Internet, and we've gotta say: mission accomplished friends, right down to a reporter who actually said, "if you're not offended [by this video], you're not American."
49. President Trump continued to confound us with his food choices.
It doesn't matter what your politics are. President Trump's palate continues to be all over the place, whether he's offering lamb, jambalaya, and all-American wine to the president of France (a one-sided 'sign of unity' between the two countries); having a scoop of Häagen-Dazs alongside North Korean leader Kim Jong-un; or demanding well-done steak in Saudi Arabia.
50. We lost a legend.
The final season of Anthony Bourdain's globe-trotting CNN series Parts Unknown show faded to black the way he would have wanted it: with a wild rush of noise, choppy video clips, and Johnny Thunders' says-it-all-really single "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory." Sentimental, not saccharine, and melancholic yet matter-of-fact, it's a scrappy reminder of the seize-the-world-by-its-horns spirit Bourdain left behind when he was found dead in a French hotel room last June. What else is there left to say? A true icon has left us. May he live on forever, in hawker stalls and street carts and meals that are so much more than sustenance or your next social media post. They're how we connect as humans—something Bourdain understood better than anyone else in the food world.