First TV cookery show
/ first
United Kingdom ()

The first cookery show to be broadcast on television was the black-and-white Cookery (BBC), presented by British chef Philip Harben in his iconic striped apron, which debuted at 8.55 p.m. on 12 June 1946. In the short 10-minute episode (they would later become 20-minute episodes), Harben demonstrated how to prepare lobster vols-au-vents. The series aired until 1951.

As Cookery began just after the end of World War II when rationing was still in place, Harben sometimes had to use his own rations as ingredients on the show!

Harben was known for his good nature and exuberance on camera. He came from a family well versed in the performing arts; his parents, Mary Jerrold and Hubert Harben, were both actors, as would become his sister, Joan. As well as being the first TV cook, Harben also presented cookery segments on radio, penned many cookery books and regularly contributed to magazines, such as Woman's Own.

The first American cookery show was aired just a few months later. James Beard’s I Love to Eat, which ran for eight and a half months from August 1946 to May 1947, was the first standalone cooking show to be aired on television in the USA. It was produced by WNBT, the local New York City NBC network affiliate. Cooking demonstrations were occasionally televised during World War II, such as those sponsored by General Electric on the Schenectady, New York TV station, WRGB, but Beard’s was the first dedicated cookery show. By the time his show launched, Beard was already a well-known cookbook author, and in the spring of 1946 he had appeared on televised culinary segments of Radio City Matinee with the famous chef George Rector. This show morphed into For You and Yours, a TV broadcast on which Beard regularly appeared as a cooking expert.

I Love to Eat began as a 15-minute weekly show sponsored by the Borden Company; in April 1947 Bird’s Eye Frozen Foods took over sponsorship and increased its length to half an hour. But even though the show was popular among those who watched it, television couldn’t yet deliver a large enough audience for its commercial sponsors, and I Love to Eat was decommissioned less than a year after its debut.