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The evolution of TV cookery programmes: why are they so popular?

30th July 2018 Print

With the BBC celebrating a peak of 4.6 million viewers for the last series of Celebrity Masterchef, the UK appears to be obsessed with kitchen TV. But it’s not just Celebrity MasterChef that has the UK hooked, as our TV schedules are filled with foodie television right now. 

From MasterChef and the Great British Bake Off to Sunday Brunch and Come Dine With Me, it’s no surprise that Brits are now said to spend more than five hours a week consuming ‘food media’. Furthermore, a recent survey by Lurpack revealed more than half of people admitted they would rather watch a meal being cooked on TV or online than cook one themselves. 

Nisbets, retailers of Bakery Equipment, look closely at TV ratings to investigate why this genre of TV has proven so popular and the effect it is having on UK cooking habits. 

Research reported on by The Guardian suggests that the average Brit cooks on five out of seven evenings, spending around 49 minutes cooking. But how much of this is influenced by the ‘food media’ that we consume? 

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), TV viewing is a Brit’s number one leisure activity, but cooking doesn’t even make the top ten. However, with over 435.5 hours of food TV aired a week across multiple channels, research suggests that it is significantly influencing our habits for the better. 

Seven in 10 Brits admit to enjoying watching cookery programmes, and half of those say they are inspired to cook a recipe that they have seen on the TV. The Guardian reported that Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals is the most influential cooking show on our TV, with 21% of survey participants influenced by the TV chef’s speedy dinners. But what about the more recent cookery shows? 

The Great British Bake Off was named the second most influential cooking show, and is the most popular TV cooking show, with over 7.3 million viewers tuning in to watch the finale of the 2017 series aired on Channel 4. Whilst still impressive figures, they don’t compare to the 14 million viewers who tuned in to watch the 2016 finale on BBC One. 

The change in channel and TV presenter shake up are said to be the main reasons why viewings dropped. However, The Guardian’s report still suggests that 19% of survey respondents are influenced by the GBBO – with more than a quarter of us baking bread within the last year and almost a third making pastry from scratch.  

The second most popular TV food programme is Masterchef, according to The Telegraph. With 16% of survey respondents admitting their cooking is influenced by Masterchef, it appears Brits are attempting to recreate recipes that are usually served in restaurants by professionals. 

This is reiterated with figures that reveal one in five Brits admit they only make dishes at home to take a photograph and share on their social media accounts. The presentation of our food has become significantly important to many – whether they are eating at home or eating at a restaurant. 

The ability to be able to photograph it has become an important part of ordering a dish – and for the catering industry, good presentation is now an opportunity for free marketing. Make your dish look different, quirky, and delicious, and your customers will photograph it and share it with friends. 

Come Dine With Me scoops third place in the top ten most popular TV cooking shows, and again the importance of presentation is apparent. With votes dependent on food quality, hosting and food presentation, all hosts strive for the perfect presentation of every course they serve. The Channel 4 show supposedly influences the cooking habits of 13% of us – and most recent figures from January 2018 suggests that around 790,000 of us were watching Come Dine With Me on TV.

The competition behind our most loved TV cookery shows is what encourages the flair amongst viewers – a drive for them to be a part of the competition and show their culinary skills on social media. 

Shows like the Great British Bake Off and Masterchef could also be encouraging young budding chefs to start a career in the catering industry. Watching fellow young chefs taking part and becoming a success is what many need to give them the motivation to push themselves further – and it comes at the right time as Nisbets’ Pulse survey results reveal that the catering industry have experienced a struggle when recruiting new staff. 16% of the survey respondents said they had experienced difficulties recruiting a head chef, and 9% recruiting a commis chef. TV cookery programmes could be the boost that the industry needs to solve the recruitment issues. 

Masterchef and Masterchef: The Professionals have shown young chefs that opportunities are out there. Professional competitions off our screens follow a similar format – the opportunity to show off and develop your skills whilst working with some of the best in the industry. 

Young chef David Scarpato of Scarpatos Catering – newly sponsored by Nisbets – is an example of one chef who has grabbed his opportunity in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 competition with both hands. You can read more about the 2018 semi-final rounds here.