Saturday, 13 September 2014

Are celebrity chefs a good or a bad thing?

There are many ways in modern society to get rich and famous with what seems like relatively little effort – join a band, become a model, TV presenter, or… a celebrity chef! Just recently, there seems to have been a huge spate of kitchen-lovers on the TV, not least due to the vogue for old-fashioned British cuisine.

Mary Berry, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay are all good examples of chefs riding this trend.

On the one hand, they may inspire people to cook different foods or motivate them to be healthier. People can be exposed to different cultural foods through cooking programmes or cook books, and try something they never would have discovered on their own, like Moroccan food.

Some people might not have been brought up to enjoy cooking, because they may have had parents who were too busy to cook, preferred not to or didn’t know how. Celebrity chefs may provide a much-needed role model to get people to think that, they, too, can do it.

Jamie Oliver spearheaded a health campaign in the UK, promoted in his television show Jamie's School Dinners with the aim of improving school dinners for schoolchildren. A particularly infamous aspect was his call to ban the turkey twizzler. This campaign permanently changed food standard requirements across the UK, influencing government policy, and the show crossed the Atlantic to the to try to improve American eating habits.

On the other hand, overly complicated recipes and exotic ingredients may put off the average person. Too many kitchen appliances, unpronounceable dishes or five-hour long recipes. Watching cooking shows on TV is not quite the same as doing it yourself, and the irony is consuming a greasy take-away whilst sat in front of Ready, Stead, Cook. Trying to copy a celebrity chef can end up in a bit of a mess, too.

Equally, the cult of celebrity means that some people may become celebrity chefs without actually possessing a passion for cooking – or love being famous even more than food. Chefs have been accused of promoting ‘money-saving’ techniques, which come across as hopelessly middle-class and miss their target audience.

It can become a race to be the next big thing, and obscure the fact that the origins of the joy of food comes from eating a delicious, well-prepared meal  - with people you love. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not that expensive to cook with basic, fresh ingredients. A single onion shouldn’t set you back more than 10 pence from the grocer, or a 1k bag of pasta can be less than £1 from big supermarkets.

Be your own celebrity chef, and develop a cooking style all your own.

By Catherine Heath

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