What is up with our culinary obsession?

Winner: Great Australian Bake Off winner Sunny Nasir Ahmad and her geometric layer cake. Photo Foxtel

Winner: Great Australian Bake Off winner Sunny Nasir Ahmad and her geometric layer cake. Photo Foxtel

We have a veritable smorgasbord of cooking shows across the free-to-air and streaming networks, with SBS and Foxtel providing us with channels completely dedicated to food.

There are the culinary competition programs - the top two of which are MKR (My Kitchen Rules) on the Seven Network and MasterChef on Network 10. Iron Chef Australia (2010) was based on the original Japanese Iron Chef, but wasn't anywhere near as funny as watching the stern-faced chefs of Japan cook against one another, with subtitles. It was a failed attempt by the Seven Network to outdo the MasterChef juggernaut.

For those with a sweet tooth, Zumbo's Just Desserts pits amateur bakers against one another in an attempt to recreate some of Australia's famed patissier Adriano Zumbo's creations. English celebrity cook Rachel Khoo provides the chatter as Zumbo is a man of few words. Season 2 aired in December on the Seven Network, not exactly a bumper ratings period. One wonders if this was already in the can shortly after Season 1 was filmed and aired back in 2016.

It was initially a hit, but ratings flagged as the season went on. Zumbo's reputation also flagged in the ensuing three years before the second season was resurrected, which might explain the hiatus. Will there be a third season? That's something to chew on.

Foxtel's Food channel features The Great Australian Bake Off judged by beloved South Australian chef Maggie Beer - a superstar at 74 - and mega chef Matt Moran. On this show inflated egos have no place, and although it's a competition to find the best amateur baker, there is a much more good-natured rivalry than the sniping, tantrum-throwing pairings of MKR. Twelve bakers start the contest with Beer and Moran discovering tasty morsels about the inspiration behind their recipes.

The winner of Season 5 was a 26-year-old scientist from Sydney. Her "geometric" cake featured a staircase to fulfill the requirement of a pattern that created an illusion over a minimum of three tiers. Perhaps it was her skill as a scientist that gave her the edge.

The masterpiece consisted of layers of vanilla and cacao nib sponge, with caramelised white chocolate ganache and raspberry jam filling, and a Swiss meringue butter cream frosting. The staircase was made of marshmallow fondant. I thank my lucky stars, as I type, that the mountain of calorie-laden sweetness is nowhere within reach of my grubby fingers.

The good news is the casting net has been thrown out for new contestants to bake up a storm for Season 6 in 2020. What cuisine will be the best influencer on the next batch of bakers and whose choux pastry will fall flat?

Apart from all the food fights there are plenty of informative cooking programs to help us eat well, choose ingredients that are better for us, and even teach us how to grow things we can eat. Yes, little Johnny, not all food comes from the supermarket.

One such episodic treat is Gourmet Farmer from SBS Food. Season 5 saw host Tasmania's Matthew Evans of Fat Pig Farm pose a challenge to leave his land in a better condition than what he found it for future generations. He embarked on various projects from digging swales to trap water, companion planting, and crop rotation.

If you missed it, you can catch up with his inspiring ideas and recipes at SBS On Demand and be the better for it. Let's hope there's another crop of sensible sustainable sessions with Evans in 2020.

Runner-up on MasterChef in 2009, Poh Ling Yeow has had a couple of cooking shows to date and will feature in a new as yet undisclosed program next year. We saw her on ABC for three seasons of Poh's Kitchen, and on SBS with Poh & Co., which introduced viewers to her venture Jamface at Adelaide Central Market. That stall is now closed, due to her return to her "media and art career". Watch this space.

Another young and personable presenter of food is chef Luke Nguyen. His latest combo of travel guide and street food sees him board a train to traverse ten locations from the spectacular coastline of Hoi An to the majestic mountains of Sapa, Vietnam.

This SBS program offers his insight into the culture and practises of these exotic places cooking with many locals using unusual ingredients to challenge the most seasoned palate. On the January 2 episode he dishes up a snakehead fish recipe in Hue. Not quite my cup of tea, but who am I to judge. The earlier episodes are on SBS Food.

No yarn about our obsession with food would be complete without mention of Jamie Oliver. Over the years we have watched Oliver grow from a fresh-faced lad from Essex on The Naked Chef through more than 30 different programs across 20 years. He has opened and closed restaurants in Australia and Britain, tried to revolutionise school cafeterias in the USA, published cookbooks, and continues to try to influence people to eat well.

His latest offering, albeit a repeat, is Jamie's Ultimate Veg on Network Ten. It takes viewers to markets and hole-in-the-wall restaurants around the world where vegetables are king. I have to admit my mouth was watering as he conjured up a delicious puff pastry vegetable pie in a short amount of time. However, I must admit to jealousy as he sits down to tuck into his creations, yet remains inordinately trim.

Whether it's Curtis Stone, Pete Evans, Adam Liaw, Kylie Kwong, Peta Kuruvita, Miguel Maestre, Ed Halmagyi, Karen Martini, Justine Schofield, Matt Sinclair, Shane Delia or any of the aforementioned celebrity chefs who tickle your tastebuds, one thing is for sure, you will never be short of inspiration for your next meal thanks to TV.