Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rachel Ray? Give me Anthony Bourdain!

These days, to be a "celebrity chef" one needn't spend years honing one's craft in busy kitchens; indeed, all one needs are dimples, a big round butt, or low-cut blouses.

Today's Wall Street Journal tells us all about them cute celebrity chefs:

"Celebrity cooks on television are undermining one of the oldest rites of the culinary world, the long and lowly apprenticeship in a restaurant, writes Victorino Matus in the Weekly Standard (subscription required). The famous faces of cooking that emerged in the 1990s such as Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain, Mario Batali and Jamie Oliver all learned to cook in restaurants. Drawing on that experience, those chefs emphasize to viewers that craft and fresh ingredients are the key to culinary success.

"But a new generation of star television cooks have gained their fame without passing through the restaurant business. Rachael Ray, the Food Network’s biggest star, distances herself from the restaurant business, emphasizing time-saving tricks that people can use at home. (Her willingness to put her name on a wide range of products, on the other hand, continues a long celebrity-chef tradition that dates back at least to Auguste Escoffier, the famous French chef of Victorian times).

"What’s more, shows like Ms. Ray’s have persuaded some young chefs that they don’t need to apprentice themselves to master cooks to achieve fame, Mr. Matus writes in the conservative newsweekly. Bobby Flay, a master instructor at the French Culinary Institute in New York, told author Michael Ruhlman the question most asked by his students is, 'How do I get my own television show?' To Mr. Flay, the questions students should be asking are, 'How should I approach a chef? How do I get my foot in the door?'"

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