Lucky for me, I came of age at the height of the supermodel era. I'm talking about cindy crawford, christy turlington, naomi cambell, and christy brinkley to name a few. Bombshells. These statuesque female specimens graced many a magazine and catalog that I was fortunate enough to find lying around the house as a young man. They paved the way for current models to have their own tv shows, blogs, and movie rolls. Although beautiful, and incredibly compensated, today's models are not, in any ways, super.
Which brings me to a term which really grinds my gears...celebrity chef. Wow, really? If I compete on a cooking game show (yes, they are game shows) and do well, I earn the label of 'celebrity?' And, some "celebrity chefs" didn't even do that much. OK, a few are legit and just have a desire to show off, prove a point, or promote themselves. But a lot of them are merely personalities with a staff of cooking professionals behind the scenes doing the real work. Once again, this has not always been the case.
Around the same time that I met Cindy and Co., I also became aware of Emeril, Yan, Ming, Jacques and Julia. Just, in a much different way. Their shows, along with others, and the beautiful Great Chefs series on PBS, cemented my future in the culinary world. They not only entertained, they educated! They were teaching people (me especially) not only how to cook, but introducing us to new ingredients, equipment and technique. I was mezmerized. I would watch Great Chefs everyday after school. What I loved about Great Chefs, is that there was no glitz or glamour. It was a chef, his signature dish and a narrator. That's it. Most of the time they wouldn't even speak or it was in another language. There was no secret ingredient, no challenge, no judges. Just amazing cooking. (The original Iron Chef was an exception)
When I finally got to culinary school the Food Network was just blowing up. My first instructor told us to look around at each other. He said that 2/3 of us would never become chefs, and that the Food Network was misleading many young people into thinking that they would. Most of us thought, "jeez, somebody is bitter." But he was right. No longer are chefs rising through the ranks of the kitchen brigade. They want to be chefs as soon as they finish school, a lot of times without any practical experience. The Food Network has gone the way of MTV, chasing profits. Making money is important, but at what cost? Sure it's entertaining to some, but that's all it is, entertainment.
I went to merriam-webster to define 'celebrity' and the definition was: the state of being famous; a person who is famous. I also asked looked at the definition of 'chef', and it was: a professional cook who is usually in charge of a kitchen in a restaurant. So what does that mean? It means that although there are chefs that grace the television screen most of them are merely celebrities.
So let's pay homage to the pioneers of the industry, to the chefs who are virtually unknown in today's mainstream. Here is a new definition:
Ce-leb-ri-ty Chef- noun: a professional cook who works in, or has worked in, and manages a kitchen, usually in a restaurant, and is famous for doing so Ex.- Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Ferran Adria, Joel Rubuchon,Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Jean-Georges, Michel Richard, John Shields, to name a few. And of course, the originals, Escofier and Carême.
There are a ton of great professional chefs out there that don't get the credit they deserve outside of their field. They are the real deal. The fact that these yahoos on tv are credited with being chefs is disrespectful to those of us who quietly shed blood, sweat, and tears to make good food for you. Here is my advice to young people who aspire to become chefs: start as a dishwasher and take it easy on the 'C' word.