Every good travel show needs a great host. And "Ainsley Eats the Streets", a show that’s streaming on Netflix, works so well because it has a fantastic host in pop musician turned-chef-turned British TV fixture Ainsley Harriott.
He’s gregarious, charming, and, unlike some American travel show hosts, not afraid to tell the viewers at home when he doesn’t like something, albeit in the kindest way possible (“It’s almost like my taste buds are rejecting it,” he says after one particularly unsavory bite in the pilot episode).
As Harriott explains at the beginning of each episode, he’s spent a lot of time working in kitchens, but never learned much about street food. In an effort to fill in the gaps of his culinary knowledge, he wanders through the world’s great open-air markets and no-frills restaurant districts conversing with vendors and diners, while taking bites of whatever catches his fancy.
The first season of the show features him eating his way through 10 culinary destinations, including Madrid, Barbados, Istanbul, and Penang.
A few times in each episode, Harriott enters the kitchens of his new favourite restaurants to cook riffs on their specialties.
This could easily be the set-up for a condescending game of culinary showmanship, but he clearly has no intention of one-upping his colleagues - he merely wants to play around with these new flavours and techniques he’s learning about.
Most of the time, his fellow chefs end up patting him on the back after sampling his creations, but sometimes, they also throw him a bit of playful side-eye and tongue-in-cheek.
Unlike culinary shows like "Parts Unknown" or even "Ugly Delicious", Harriott’s programme doesn’t really delve into the politics or history of these great culinary hubs – it’s really all about cooking and eating comfort food around the world – with a particular focus on the food often overlooked by tourists.
And like its UK TV counterparts, "The Great British Bake-Off" and "The Big Family Cooking Showdown", "Ainsley Eats the Streets" is mellow enough to help you unwind, but engaging enough to keep you watching for hours at a time.
If you’re just looking for one episode to watch as a test-run, skip ahead to the Osaka trip, which features a dazzling array of skewers, pancakes, and crispy treats.IOL