I'm rather tired of the cult of the celebrity chef

Celebrity chefs have been around for some time now, but they seem to have exploded all over the place in the last decade, mainly through food related TV shows.

The restaurant food world is becoming similar to the world of fashion. There are the actual restaurants, most of which are too expensive for the majority of the population - people without generous expense accounts or oodles of money - other than for a rare treat. These are the couture studios (as in real couture, not ‘couture’ as it’s used to describe anything that’s not a plain t-shirt these days) of the food world. Then you have all the merchandising, from cookbooks to dodgy cookware to frozen dinners bearing a chef’s name. Those are the perfumes and bags and H & M special-designer label lines of the food world.

Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, a lot of the time the supermarket products bearing those star chefs’ brands are pale shadows of the ‘couture’ level food at the restaurants. The Gordon Ramsay chocolates I got last year at Waitrose in England were vile. The Jamie Oliver ‘herb mixes’ that are even sold here in Switzerland come in useless self-grinding plastic bottles and are laughably overpriced. And there’s that horrible cement mortar and pestle bearing his name. The various chef-endorsed prepared foods I’ve tried are nothing special in any way. But as people become more exposed to the Celebrity Chef, the sale of such items will probably keep growing.

Oiling the whole machine and providing Publicity and Exposure are food reality shows and the like. I used to enjoy these shows quite a bit, and they formed a large part of my TV watching schedule. But now, I’m getting tired of them. I understand that chefs these days are supposed to be rock stars or something…but you know, a lot of them are just boring (or worse…plain annoying), aside from their cooking skills. For many of them I just want them to limit themselves to the ghost written cookbook and be done with it. But I suppose even a poorly rated TV show gets more eyes than a book.

I feel over-exposed to all these Celebrity Chefs, to the extent that I want them all to go away, for a while anyway. I’m inclined to seek out the un-celebrity chef who quietly produces great food. Or just stick to my own cooking.

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maki, i cannot agree with

maki, i cannot agree with you more! i have had so many disappointing meals at restaurants driven by the celebrity chef, and the products that some of them endorse seem more for show than actual kitchen usage. and the food! i haven’t tried many things, but i once had something that said ‘batali’; i swear, from its inedibility, it could have been ‘boyardee’ on the label….having said that, i recently had a very memorable meal from ludo lefebvre. i don’t know if he was burned from his maximum exposure, or if it was all just hype—he turned out to be a nice man, and although it was a simple meal, it was exquisitely good.

santos. | 6 October, 2007 - 09:39

Re: maki, i cannot agree with

Hmm, where do I start. Have any of actually been a chef or cook in a restaurant? It is very hard work. I have been a cook and worked in offices so I know what it like to be on both sides. People come into your restaurant or cafe they sometimes expect miricles. I have been cooking for full busy restaurants in the past, obviously alot of people are eating, but some customers still expect their food in 15 minutes, impossible. I work hard and take pride in my work, I move fast and pay attention to detail, I am on my feet all day sometimes it is like a marathon as the customers never stop,I have to mutlitask several different things all at once at a fast pace and I dont get paid very well at all.
If I compare the work that I have done in the kitchen to that of office people who are getting paid more, it is grossly unfair, and its usually office worker who come in to restaurants and are rude. Maybe Chefs and cooks really need the encouragement and respect, so that we are not tempted to throw the food at the customers, and walk out saying, 'here like to see you do my job better'.

atrax | 21 June, 2011 - 07:19

I have so much to say I don't know where to start

I watch food network channel so I understand the meaning of celebrity chef. Yes, most of them are overrated but there are some of them who are not. Let’s start with Rachel Ray shall we. Everytime I think about how famous she is, I can’t stop thinking that if somebody with cooking skill like her can be famous, why can’t I? I don’t understand the society who support Rachel Ray to the way she is now. Excuse me very much but no, not her thank you. The only way for me to support celebrity chef is by buying their cookbook, watching their cooking show or visiting their restaurant. Never will I buy any of their kitchen utensils product even if it’s still all-clad with emeril name on it. If I’m ever going to spend a fortune on all-clad, you bet it’s because it’s all clad, not because it’s emeril’s. Okay maybe I was overboard with Rachel Ray, afterall she is not a chef but a cook, comme moi. I watch Iron Chef America and judging from Batali and Flay culinary skills (not their personalities or persona), I think they deserve the reputation as a famous chef, maybe overrated but definitely not to be underestimated. Of course saying that, I haven’t tried eating at any of their restaurants but then again what are the odds they are the ones who will be cooking your food even at their own restaurants, right? I watch Made To Order on Fine Living channel with Guy Rubino and I think he deserves the reputation of being a famous chef, again this is my opinion from watching him cooking without actually ever being able to afford tasting his menu. My point here is, yes most celebrity chefs are overrated for wrong reasons like cooking utensils product, but for their culinary skills, SOME of them deserve it to be famous. I have to stress the word some because there’s just not much chefs on food network channel that I can think they deserve the reputation they have, i.e.: Emeril, Cat Cora, Morimoto. On the other hands, some cooks are underappreciated because, well, they are cooks, not chefs i.e.: Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson (hot hot hot). Sorry for ranting so much but as much as I talk about this topic to hubby, he is just not a culinary person and well your post just triggers what’s inside me all this time to burst out. Thank you for making the post.

kuchu | 7 October, 2007 - 02:53

Too many cooks?

Hmmm, I’m not overdosed yet, being in Japan, where I mostly don’t understand who is a celebrity, except for Harumi, who if her recipes are any indication, looks to be a good cook.

The overseas shows I get are limited to Martha Stewart, who is really not that much of a chef, though a celebrity, old Jamie Oliver shows where he’s cooking in his “kitchen” and entertaining friends, Delia from England, who I enjoy mainly for her accent and beautiful kitchen, and occasionally we get an often-repeated about 4-episode set of Nigella. I enjoy them all, but the ones I really crave are the old Julia Childs. I’d love to see a re-run of all of them from the very beginning. I could watch then for as many years as it took. And I am addicted to Iron Chef America, just too much drama for me to resist.

But then I’m not over-killed with anything here. Maybe forced rationing is best? :)

vegetablej | 13 October, 2007 - 09:08

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