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Why your addiction to reality cooking shows might be a good thing

When it comes to television to get your teeth into, it's reality TV - more specifically, reality cooking competitions - that win us over

Reality TV: The Final Table

I've got a confession to make: I'm really into reality TV cooking competitions. Probably an unhealthy amount. You can keep your intense Nordic dramas and your six-part docu-series about twisted serial killers – give me a frazzled 30-something whisking like their life depends on it any day of the week.

Just like the best food shows and movies on Netflix, they're the television equivalent of comfort food, something warm and mindless that you can let wash over you after a hard day's work, but they also present a concept so antithetical to the inherently compassionate nature of cooking that I can't help but get sucked into each individual narrative. Whether it's the high-end culinary skills on show in the likes of The Final Table or the overwhelming naffness of Celebrity MasterChef, there's something I find entrancing about getting a load of strangers to cook in direct competition with one another.

Watching Joey Essex fabricate a stirotto (a cross between a stir fry and risotto) and serve it up to a salivating Gregg Wallace might not be the height of prestige television, but it's at least a nice way to make you feel good about your own skills in the kitchen. That chance to develop your own culinary smarts is another reason I find these cooking shows so appealing. They're actually… useful. All you need to do is look at the various office bake-offs going on across the country right now to get a gauge of just how influential these primetime programmes are. And anything that's able to motivate Craig from accounts to try out something new in the kitchen can't be doing much harm in my eyes.

They're the television equivalent of comfort food, something warm and mindless

The Great British Bake Off, for my money, is the pick of the bunch and has seen some exceptional talents come through the hallowed tent over the years. Nadiya Hussein is now a household name and the likes of Edd Kimber, Ruby Tandoh and many others have also seen themselves experience huge success in their respective fields.

Unlike Love Island – which, as entertaining as it is, seems to be little more than some kind of grad scheme for influencers – cooking competitions favour talent and effort over drama or storyline. They're safe spaces where Joey Essex can receive a meaty pat on the back from a grinning Gregg Wallace for a misguided attempt at fusion cuisine. And, when you boil it all down, isn't that what cooking is all about?

Lucas Oakeley is editorial assistant at Foodism and The Foodist column author. Follow him on Twitter: @lucasoakeley

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