It’s getting hot in the kitchen this summer! Three intense reality cooking shows are running simultaneously to keep foodies entertained through the dog days of June, July, and August. Bravo is delivering a 3rd big season of Top Chef Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET. Not to be outdone, the Food Network has rolled out a 3rd season of searching for The Next Food Network Star Sunday evenings at 9 p.m. ET. Finally, Chef Gordon Ramsay has returned for a 3rd season of tormenting star chef wannabes on Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen Mondays at 9 p.m. ET. I’m here to guide you through the world of reality cooking shows, and, hopefully, dig a little deeper into the amazing world of food and cooking today.

I first encountered the idea of reality cooking shows on a trip to England 3 years ago. There, while winding down from daytime adventures, I happened to catch the original UK version of Hell’s Kitchen putting B-list celebrities through their paces with Gordon Ramsay at the helm. The BBC was also re-running episodes of their grand cooking game show MasterChef. At that time I was not a big fan of reality shows, but I grew up in the golden era of game shows from The Price Is Right to Match Game and everything in between. Chefs and ordinary people struggling together to create new dishes on MasterChef along with celebrities simply struggling to learn how to cook under the suspect tutelage of Gordon Ramsay definitely caught my interest. Why couldn’t the TV gods at home in the US come up with shows like these?

I didn’t have long to wait. Hell’s Kitchen appeared on these shores in May, 2005, and The Next Food Network Star followed in June. Top Chef made its debut in March, 2006. All 3 have been successful enough to be carried into a third season. I didn’t have a great deal of use for reality shows that would teach me how to hang onto a pole for hours on a remote island, but I’m up for a show where contestants come up with great ideas for what to do with that leftover stuff on the party buffet table.

I’ll be bringing you recaps of show episodes, more info on contestants, judges, and hosts, and I hope to try out some of those recipes and share my experiences in replicating food from the shows. I hope you’ll join in with comments about what you see and read as well as your own adventures at the stove. I invite you to pull up a seat at the kitchen table. The competition is heating up!