Just like most people in the food world, I am taken in by the car wrecks and the killers of the culinary arts world. I’m speaking of the competition cooking shows. It doesn’t really matter which one specifically, just any of them that contains a screaming british guy or chefs without hair.
It may be a bold statement but I have my reasons. I will be the first to admit that I had a major hard-on when the first Top Chef show was aired way back in the day. It had everything. Hack cooks, great cooks, Padma, challenges, real cooking situations, new ideas and some really bad ones. I remember you could sit and watch the show and actually say “I’ve worked with a dude like that” or, in my case ,”I’ve work with that dude” and claim rightly, “and he sucks!”. I wanted to be a contestant. But now the purity has turned on these shows.
I was watching TV the other night in a hotel and Master Chef or something like that was on and Gordon Ramsey was, as always, involved. The contestants were given the challenge of recreating a dish from another chef restaurant. OK, not a bad test but here is the rub. The dish was described as “this is the dish President Obama ordered ” as if it gave the dish more credibility. WHO GIVES A SHIT?! This is nothing about Obama, it’s about name dropping and creating pointless self promotion for a chef to feel good about himself because someone of importance ate his or her dish.
Call me old school, but isn’t presenting a perfect dish reserved for ALL of your customers? Really, do you change how you cook or put more effort into a dish that you are serving to a celebrity than you would for your tried and true clientele? If you do, you’re a dick and a suck up.
I have never been a big fan of the restaurants that put up pictures of the famous people that they fed. It seems…..cliche’. The ONLY restaurants that can get away with it are 60 years old or older with an owner that looks like he belongs on the Sopranos or Goodfellas and that’s about it. That’s when it’s cool…period.
I was reading our local Alt mag the other day which comes out weekly called The Westword. They cover all of the happenings in music, culture, entertainment and food. I grab it every week to see what’s up and to read the food section. They usually do restaurant reviews, which is pretty much always the same (hated it, loved it, I slept with the chef, would have tasted better if it was free) and then a short Q and A with a local chef. It can be interesting (until the terms ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ get used too much) but it always bugs the hell out of me when they ask ” So…what celebrities have you cooked for?” or something along those lines. Why? What if he said Geets Romo? Would you care? I bet not.
My question is simple. What makes any celebrity endorsement a key to a chef’s ability? Does Brad Pitt have a more sophisticated palette than you? Is VP Joe Biden more educated in how a piece of Ahi should be sliced? Why should they get preferential treatment because they made a good movie or that one hit on the radio? I would love to hear Mr. Ramsey say once, “This dish is the exact dish chef fill in the blank has built his reputation on. Can you duplicate this?”
This will never happen so I now placate my TV addiction with The Walking Dead…at least it’s realistic.