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Food Based Television Shows 

Case Study



While watching Man Vs Food struggle to ingest the “hottest wings in the world” I found myself wanting to taste the heat he so eloquently described. I realized a vast disconnect between food based television shows and their viewers. Television as a medium is ill equipped for culinary shows; it does not target the proper senses. As a result, the industry has developed work arounds including beautifully shot close-ups of food and articulate yet verbose hosts describing the nuanced flavors and textures. Yet, no matter how well the host describes the mouth watering, tongue tickling burger with the creamy, spicy ranch sauce and the crunch of fried onions, the viewer can only imagine how it might taste. 

How might we bridge the sensorial disconnect between the food featured in culinary shows and the viewing experience of the audience?

Three Types of Culinary Shows

(e.g. Rachael Ray) Hosts work in a studio kitchen, instructing viewers on how to make assorted dishes


(e.g. Top Chef) Multiple contestants participate in cooking challenges where judges decide the winner after tasting dishes


(e.g. No Reservations) Hosts visit various regions or establishments exploring the cuisine and culture

Sensorial work in Montessori schools is used to help children develop their senses into tools of perception. The core concept is that, by having structured play for each of the senses, the students will study their enviornment in a richer manner and develop a deeper understanding that is directly linked to their experiences. 

A survey of thirty culinary show enthusiats regarding their viewing and eating habits lead to some interesting findings.


The primary reasons for watching fell into two main catagories, education (recipes, techniques, facts/information etc) and entertainment (personalities, competition, drama).

Viewing habits tended to be erratic and spontaneous. The majority find random episodes when flipping through channels; and while 66% DVR episodes of their favorite shows, only 20% watch episode premieres live. 

Every single one strongly dislikes the quality of frozen foods. 



For the next phase I decided to focus on Travelogue shows. The travelogue style has viewers living vicarously through the hosts, as they experience new locations, foods and drinks. (explain how travelogue is the best opportunity for multi-sensory watching experience) 

Design principles (for lack of a better term)

The experience of eating along with the television show should be educational. Viewers live vicarously through the hosts, introducing them to new flavors and dishes.

When designing this experience we need to be mindful that users actively dislike frozen food. The preservation reduces the quality of the food and increases the percieved distance between the food on the television and the one on the viewers plate.

With changing viewing habits, users rarely plan on watching these television shows in advnace. The solution should be both readily available and easily stored.  

"Walking through a wood, a city dweller will be blind to a multitude of things which the trained naturalist will see without difficulty."

Aldous Huxley

When it comes too food, it must be experienced. There is a significant amount of tacit information taken in through our sense of taste and smell that cannot be conveyed through words. 


By creating a unique experience that harnesses our users' sense of taste and smell, we can provide concrete experiences for them to achor to their learnings. This not only increases their sensory knowledge but it changes how they experience food in the future, allowing them to pick up on subtle nuances they otherwise would have missed. 

Proof of Concept

As a proof of concept I asked a dozen individuals to participate watch a short clip of a sommelier discussung the characteristics of four wines as they tasted along.

The participants reactions were overwhelmingly positive and it was unanimously enjoyed. The information, facts about why each wine had certain flavors, was the most cited reason for enjoying the experience. One particular moment when the sommolier mentioned the acidity tingling the side of her cheeks recieved affermitive nods and comments from every participant. The abstract idea of acidity in the wine was tied to a sensorial experience that each participant now understands in a much richer way than simply watching the clip. 

To learn more about our users we went on a shop along with a few participants. 

Most of the participants had a simple binary responses when asked about different beverages, unable to recall why. Their vocabulary in the space seemed very limited. 

The top taste-related considerations when making a purchase were the brand of the alcohol, color of the wine and sometimes the varietal.

I designed a concept for a beverage delivery service to be paired with the Thirsty Traveller. The drinks highlighted in each episode would arrive a day before the premiere of each episode, but can be easily stored, fitting into our user's unpredictable viewing habits.



Initially overlooked, this beverage based food show features host Kevin Brauch as he travels to the world’s greatest beverage producing regions. He visits vineyards, distilleries and breweries while also exploring the history and culture of the drinks and surrounding areas.

*****Importance of culture and history in learning about a beverage/food etc***

***Multi-sensory education***

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