The Dumbing Down Of Cooking: Celebrity Chefs

Years ago the only chefs on TV were people like Julia Child, James Beard, and a few other professional chefs. Nowadays of course, there are what seem to be hundreds of people, cooking sometimes nasty looking stuff, on dozens of networks. There is even a network devoted entirely to food.  But the problem is that many of them aren’t real chefs. When Jacques Pepin says something about cooking, you can take it to the bank. But when some moron spouts off about food on her own cooking show, when her last gig was as an extra on a sitcom, and her only claim to fame is a lovely body, you can safely ignore it.*

Maybe I am being harsh, but cooking shows without the benefit of professionals are just silly. Here is an article in SmartMoney magazine I found through the website of a local media company’s food blog (they used to be called newspapers): 10 Things Celebrity Chefs Won’t Tell You. There is nothing shocking in the piece, but it skewers most of the shows, and that is just fine with me.

*In the interest of full disclosure, if some “media company” offers me a cooking show or a book deal, I will smile, say “thank you very much,” and run all the way to the bank to cash the check before they realize what fools they are.

6 Replies to “The Dumbing Down Of Cooking: Celebrity Chefs”

  1. i see no difference in people who have never run a professional kitchen (i.e., “chefs”) having a TV show with someone who has never run a professional kitchen writing a blog or a book or a newspaper column on food and cooking.

    you either trust/enjoy the person’s recipes or you don’t, credentials aside. actually, that’s even a bit ridiculous: it’s entertainment. that’s it. i really don’t see any problem whatsoever, and can’t imagine why people spend so much time trying to prove that there’s something inherently wrong with FoodTV and its contents.

  2. and i don’t mean iamnotachef specifically when i say “people”, just in case you thought that was directed toward you!

  3. If you consider these shows as essentially sitcoms in a kitchen then I agree. Who cares! But the tone of many of these shows is pedantic, and I prefer to be taught by people who actually know what the hell they are doing. If anyone wants to hold me accountable because I write something about food or cooking that is demonstrably incorrect, have at it! I welcome the criticism. I don’t hold myself up to the world as a paragon of cooking skill and knowledge.

    And you will have to do a lot better then that to insult me.

  4. i don’t think the tone of these shows is any more serious than the tone of any blog or any conversation with regular people. what do you consider these shows? how can you consider the programming on a lifestyle channel on television to be anything more than entertainment with some instruction and a bit of common knowledge sprinkled in?

    the issue as i see it is that people build up FoodTV to be some sort of educational tool and then the knock down that straw man by pointing out its perceived flaws. why bother?

    i guess i don’t turn on the TV when I want to get my learn on, so I’m not so upset that I’m still stupid when I turn it off. others, I suppose. turn to TV to learn. Even for those people, I can’t imagine that you can’t learn something from TV, or from FoodTV. If you already know more than all of those nice people then I suspect you shouldn’t be watching FoodTV to begin with.

  5. When a professional chef with a significant track record of producing excellent, inventive food speaks about cooking, I am going to take it seriously, or at least listen. But that happens rarely. When an amateur chef whose only qualification is that he or she has a good TVQ speaks about cooking, I chuckle and reach for my martini.

    You make a good point about building up FoodTV as a televised Cordon Bleu and then criticizing it. But when every dish turns out perfectly, and the timing is perfect, who is responsible for the air of perfection?

    The article I linked to is more about the celebrity chefs, and popping the bubble around them. And to the extent that they try to portray themselves as simple chefs who occasionally emerge from their restaurant kitchens to impart some great and secret knowledge to their adoring fans, I say pop that bubble!

    I watch these shows every once and a while, and sometimes I get good ideas for cooking. But the shows that seem to be the most educational are those of the chefs who actually cooked in restaurants! Bobby Flay may be an ass and a publicity hound, but he does know how to cook. Mario Batali is a great chef, and a fantastic TV personality, and I watch what he cooks with more interest than most. Even Giada De Laurentiis with her lovely cleavage is an accomplished professional chef. But most of the others? Nope. And the trend is away from the real chefs (who cost real money) and toward the amateurs who know how to smile for the camera. I can get that kind of cooking from my neighbors. So why bother?

  6. if your neighbors have a smile (and boobs) like Giada then you need to invite me over.

    “But when every dish turns out perfectly, and the timing is perfect, who is responsible for the air of perfection?”

    It’s TV.

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