Nancy Robards Thompson
Nancy Robards Thompson


archetypes, bad boys, book covers, Harlequin series, Nancy Robards Thompson, Our Books

Food is one of my favorite things in the world. I love to eat and I love to cook. In fact, my new three-book Special Edition mini-series, “Celebrations, Inc.,” which will be out September, October and November 2012, is about a catering company that finds itself at the center of a reality television show.  

As I was doing my research, watching as many cooking television shows as I could digest, I noticed that there’s an amazing crop of men in the kitchens of the various food and travel television networks.  Really, there’s a guy for every taste. I also noticed that the different chefs represented a smorgasbord of hero archetypes.

Here are some of my favorites – and I admit that most of them aren’t traditional archetypes…they’re made-up to order:

He’s so darn adorable and unassuming that sometimes I forget not only is he a great chef, but he’s also civic-minded. Through his restaurant, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, he takes an active role in helping troubled, unemployed youth gain a sense of worth and belonging in their communities by training them in the culinary arts. The training equips at-risk young adults with a career so they can look forward to a better future, and all profits from the restaurant go to the Jamie Oliver Foundation.



Alton Brown: THE SEXY GEEK

His offbeat show Good Eats (which ceased production in 2011 after a twelve-year run),  is smart and goofy. It blends equal parts nerdy humor, knowledge, history, pop culture, and science with basic cooking techniques.  Long before this guy ever appeared on TV,  he admits he used his culinary prowess to get dates.  He parlayed his wit and unique approach to food into a gig that allowed him to write, produce and star in each of the 249 episodes of Good Eats.



This Canadian claims: “I’m not a chef. I’m Italian!” In his show David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, he scoots all over Florence on a moped – and sometimes in a golf cart – exploring the city’s sophisticated cafes, trendy restaurants and lush markets. He and his friends, who are quite a cast of characters, are always dressed casually chic – and sometimes to the nines – as they prove that life is a party of pleasure and indulgence waiting to be discovered.

Anthony Bordin:  THE BAD BOY

The first time I saw Anthony Bordin on television, he was gobsmacked by a 20-course tasting dinner prepared by chef Thomas Keller. Mid-meal he and the other reverent diners took a “coffee and cigarette” break. But not in the traditional sense. Their “break” came in the form of coffee custard infused with tobacco, which Keller said he created in homage to Bordin’s two-pack-a-day habit. I thought, whoa, anyone who would inspire tobacco-infused custard has to be a bad ass. I was instantly smitten. With books to his credit titled, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and The Nasty Bits (which, incidentally, is dedicated to punk rockers ” Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone) and a television show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, that carries a viewer discretion advisory (because of his fondness for profanity and sexual innuendo), Bourdin has, in fact, proven himself to be the archetypical bad boy of food tv.


What I love about Tyler is that he delivers great food in a very unpretentious, easy going way. He also serves on the board of the national nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, an organization that works to promote and support quality after-school programs.  He reminds me of a friend’s big brother I might’ve had a tiny little crush on back in the day. Okay, maybe I’m crushin’ on Tyler just a little bit now…


What are some of your favorite character archetypes  – traditional or made-up? Or share your favorite food tv personalities.   I’ll give a special surprise to one lucky person who posts today.

25 thoughts on “The Men of Food TV

  1. Kay says:

    Hi Nancy,
    I love Gordon Ramsay, I think he would fit the bad boy quite well!

  2. Shana Shana says:

    I agree with Kay that Gordon Ramsay is great. I also like Bobby Flay.

  3. Sandi in OH says:

    I like to watch The Barefoot Contessa. She makes cooking look easy. My son and his wife love Alton Brown. We were on vacation when Denny called and asked if we could watch our grandchildren in November. Alton Brown was going to be at the Cleveland IX Center and they wanted to meet him. Nothing like asking a few months in advance. We watched the kids.

  4. Connie Fischer says:

    I like Tyler Florence as I feel he is easily understood and followed by all levels of cooks. Cooking shows are lots of fun! I have always loved to cook and bake but I always learn something from a show. It gives one different ways in which to prepare a dish or other ingredients to substitute. I don’t care how long one has been cooking, you never stop learning. Another neat thing for me is that watching these shows does not make me hungry, however, I feel quite sated. Three cheers for cooking shows!!

  5. Kirsten says:

    I love Nigella, she always looked so sexy in the kitchen, I envy her that. I’m always making a mess and are covered in flour or other substances.
    Also really like Jamie Oliver, he’s not too fuzzy with the food.

  6. CrystalGB says:

    I like Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Bree Drummond, Rachael Ray, Ina Garten,and Giada De Laurentis.

  7. CateS says:

    I’ve always enjoyed watching Ted Allen…

  8. Melody May says:

    To be honest the only time I watch a cooking show is cupcake wars. I love that show, but I think it has to with my sweet tooth. However, I do love how character archetype chefs. It was a lot of fun to read n

  9. Kathleen O says:

    I love Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri. ALton Brown is a hoot and but I love Emirle.. He is the orginal BAM man…

  10. Anne says:

    Jamie Dean is great to watch. easygoing and special. Nice personality and lovely person.

  11. Cindy Kirk Cindy Kirk says:

    Great post, Nancy!

    We only have regular TV so I don’t see much of these guys….but I’ve always been attracted to the boy next door type.

  12. catslady says:

    I can’t think of their names but I really enjoy watching The Chew (one is the daughter of Dr. Oz). They all have wonderful senses of humor.

  13. LOVE Gordon Ramsey! Love him! Imagine all that energy directed…elsewhere. 😳

  14. Kay, Shana and Kristan – I was thinking of Gordon Ramsy as I was typing the words Bad Boy! And Kristan…Hahahaha! My thoughts exactly! 😀

    Sandi in OH and CrystalGB – I adore Ina Garten! Did you know she worked for the Department of Defense before she became the Barefoot Contessa? How cool is that? 😉

    Connie – Hip hip hooray!! I, too, get an enormous satisfaction from watching them prepare the food. Vicarious eating? I think I’ll list that as a hobby. 🙂

    Kirsten – Nigella was one of my first foodie heroes (heroines?). I’ve also discovered Laura Calder, who does the show French Food at Home. She’s quirky and fun. I love most of her recipes. In fact, last night I made her tarragon chicken. Here’s a link:

  15. CateS – Ted Allen is wonderful! I remember him back from his Queer Eye days. Now, I love him on Chopped. Secretly, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a show like Chopped, but I would probably freeze under the pressure. Some of the dishes they pull off in such a short amount of time are amazing! 🙂

    Melody May – I’ve never seen Cupcake Wars! I can’t believe I haven’t. I will definitely look for it. 🙂

    Kathleen O – The original BAM man! I love that!! 🙂

    Anne – I’m a fan of Jamie Dean and his mama. She obviously raised him right. 🙂

    Cindy – Yet another thing we have in common! 😉

    Catslady- I love The Chew! Carla Hall is one of my favorites! She’s a hoot! I’ve been a big fan of hers since her Top Chef days.

  16. bn100 says:

    Fun post. I like Bobby Flay.

  17. Susan Frank says:

    I like Guy Fieri a lot, and love Alton Brown. I got to meet him a couple years ago when he did a talk and booksigning at the Smithsonian in DC. Definitely a fun and interesting guy.

    But I think my all-time favorite is Anthony Bourdain. I love his show and the way he goes behind the scenes and off the beaten path – no chain restaurants for him! My favorite thing about him though, is the respect he has for our military. I loved the show he did where they ended up being evacuated from Beirut, and the things he had to say on that trip. I met him at another Smithsonian event where I had a chance to talk briefly with him about that show. He then thanked my husband for HIS service, which I thought was very neat. He’s definitely a “bad boy” but a class act all the way.

  18. Na S. says:

    A couple of my favorite TV shows include MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen. Gordon Ramsey is definitely a force to be reckoned with! He’s tough, no-nonsense and very direct – to the point. I like this and also he’s nice. There are moments when he’s not being THE Gordon Ramsey person where his down to earth, regular guy comes through.

  19. bn100, one time when sister Quill Katherine Garbera and I were in New York together we had dinner at Bobby Flay’s restaurant Bar Americain. We also enjoyed Mario Batali’s Babbo. Good eats! Wait, that’s Alton… 😉

  20. Susan, I saw the Beirut episode and it deeply strengthened my respect for AB. He certainly is a class act. I love his take on things – even if he is a little jaded at times. I really love listing to the narrative of No Reservations. He has such a way with words. I find that extremely sexy. Oh, and I just remembered – did you see that episode where he was in Italy enjoying lunch at an off-the-beaten path restaurant and he wouldn’t divulge the name of the place because he didn’t want the masses to descend and ruin what he thought was perfection? That was vintage Bourdain.

  21. Na S, I really enjoyed watching Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares show – the one where he goes in and fixes “broken” restaurants and sets them on the right path. I really saw the human side of him come out on that show.

  22. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a cooking show! But I’ve seen Fabio Viviani(sp) on Yahoo, and we’ve had a bit of a dialogue on twitter. He’s got some great recipes, and I love his manner!

  23. Seriously, Margo?! 😀 I’ve loved him since his Top Chef days! He was such a character on the show. I think he was voted “Fan Favorite” that season.

  24. I still like Emeril — I never felt threatened by him or his cooking – LOL!


  25. Cathy P says:

    We don’t have cable TV so we don’t get to watch cooking shows. I like the boy-next-door type and friends to lovers.

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