Food Network Secrets: The Food on Cooking Shows Isn’t Always Prepared By the Host

Home chefs and foodies have often turned to the Food Network for inspiration for their next dish. 

Over the years, fans of the Food Network have voiced their favorite chefs and cooking shows. The one mystery fans always wonder is, how do the hosts turn out beautiful dishes so quickly?

The answer to this secret may surprise you. Whether it’s Bobby Flay, Rachel Ray, or any other the numerous world-renowned chefs and cooks appearing on widely watched cooking shows, they all shared this Food Network secret at some point. 

Popular Food Network shows

Ree Drummond
Ree Drummond | Tyler Essary/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Food Network fans tune in to watch their favorite cooking centered shows or find a new favorite. Chopped has been a long-standing cooking competition show on the Food Network along with Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and Guy’s Grocery Games. 

The cooking competitions keep fans entertained as they watch with suspense to find out which chefs make the cut. Other aspiring chefs flip to the Food Network to learn tips and tricks from the well-known cooking show hosts. Ree Drummond from The Pioneer Woman and Trisha Yearwood from Trisha’s Southern Kitchen are fan favorites to learn country cooking secrets.

While Barefoot Contessa is popular with foodies for the simple, but sophisticated recipes Ina Garten creates on the show. 

The hidden kitchen on cooking shows

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Executive chef of the Food Network Kitchen, Rob Bleifer, revealed that the cooking show hosts are not the only person handling the dishes seen on the TV, even though it looks that way to viewers.

According to Trib Live, Bleifer said, “There’s an entire kitchen behind the kitchen on one of our cooking shows.”

There is indeed a huge behind-the-scenes kitchen that features five separate kitchen areas that have been designed to function just like a typical home. These kitchens are where all the ingredients are actually prepared for the cooking show hosts to use on-air.

The publicist for the Food Network, Michelle Betrock, said that “between 15 and 20 people are involved just for the culinary elements of a basic cooking show,” and the number drastically increases with the larger Food Network shows.

While the hosts make preparing food dishes look easy for home viewers, in reality hosting a cooking show is much harder than the meal prep and directions involved. Jill Novatt, an executive culinary producer for the Food Network, talked about how hosts must cook while listening to the culinary producer giving cues in their earpiece, while still paying attention to which camera they need to face.

It is definitely a lot for one to take in during the heat of cooking, but luckily the host has a team behind them to help keep them on track. 

Cooking shows are prepared with ‘backup food’

Since it would be inefficient for the TV crew to wait around while each dish completely cooks on each show, there is “backup food” that is used at different stages of the recipe’s completion.

The culinary producer of the show is responsible for planning each of the “swap outs” at each step to flawlessly make it look like the same dish throughout the episode. The “backup food” is a secret that takes stress off the host by knowing each dish will always end up looking beautiful.

Since each recipe is tested by a food stylist beforehand, the audience will have peace of mind that they work and that the host is giving easy-to-follow directions. 

While many fans have assumed that cooking show hosts have dishes pre-prepared to show the different steps within the allotted time, they may be surprised to find that it is not really the hosts’ dishes seen on-air.

Maybe that’s why it was so refreshing when the hosts turned to cook in their home kitchens when the pandemic disrupted the on-set filming of cooking shows.