Saturday, 21 November 2009

Celebrity chefs

I'm not really sure about the role of celebrity chefs - there didn't seem to be that many around five years ago; now they're everywhere.

Do they exist to teach us how to cook and encourage us to be more adventurous in the kitchen? Or to make us watch in awe and get on the waiting list for their restaurants, safe in the knowledge that we can never be as good as them because we can't afford livestock and don't know where to source Szechuan peppercorns. Or what sauce to put them in.

The Heston Blumenthals are innovative; the Jamie Olivers are inspiring. The French ones scare us because of their inherent culinary expertise. Others, namely Gordon Ramsay, almost scare us before we realise they're loudmouth, narcissistic attention-seekers who shamelessly pursue celebrities in a bid to become celebrated themselves.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is almost perfect because of his lifestyle, demeanor and the fact that he still gets upset before killing an animal. He falls very neatly in the campaigning celebrity chef category because of his Chicken Out crusade.

It's a world dominated by men - apart from the straight-and-narrow charm of Delia and 'domestic godness' Nigella, who makes food in a sexy way.

The BBC recently announced that model Sophie Dahl will present a new cookery show next spring in an apparent bid to address the TV chef gender imbalance.

Where will it end? The Telegraph reckons we'll soon start seeing programmes like How To Look Good As The Naked Chef, The Eggs Factor and Strictly Come Basting.

Janet Street Porter recently wrote in her Independent column: "The cult of the celebrity chef has had a disastrous impact [on restaurants]", because the aforementioned are more concerned with "their websites, PR and their 'brand' than with the business of giving their customers good food".

Which is strange considering her long-running flirtatious on-screen relationship with Gordon Ramsay on The F Word. But there we go.

Luckily, Saturday night is free from food-related prime-time programming, apart from Come Dine With Me on Channel 4, which features normal human beings cooking on camera for normal human beings.

Obviously the food they prepare tends to be rubbish, because they're normal. So to jazz it up a bit there's the sporadic Celebrity Come Dine With Me, which gives the opportunity for highly-respected foodies such as Abi Titmuss and Rodney Marsh to have a crack at being a celebrity chef, much to the delight of the world's best narrator.

Pic credit: ChocoBricks Customs

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