Celebrities grace the covers of our favorite magazines and books. They narrate television commercials and show up for special events on red carpets. Celebrities infiltrate every niche of media existence, from politics to fashion…and perhaps most recently, to our food. Indeed, celebrity chefs may be somewhat new to the limelight, but their influence is far-reaching.
How Do Chefs Gain Celebrity?
Typically, a celebrity chef has the training, expertise, and background fitting for a career in cooking. Sometimes, chefs earn their celebrity by way of restaurant success, such as earning an award or a rave review. Chefs may also have a certain demeanor or dynamism that makes them perfect for the spotlight.
Gaining Fame the Old Fashioned Way
Not all celebrity chefs are television celebrities. Many are known because of consistently excellent reviews, awards, or avant-garde techniques that put them ahead of the competition. Wolfgang Puck gained celebrity through his cookbooks, his successful restaurants, his television presence and his philanthropic efforts. His Beverly Hills restaurant, Spago, has been deemed one of the Top 40 in the country since 2004, and has earned several James Beard Awards. [Source]
Television Takes the Cake
Televised cooking shows, reviews and competitions have given celebrity status to many an aspiring chef/actor. Multiple chefs—many already renowned for their background, cooking abilities, and successful restaurants—have improved their reputations and made a name for themselves through television media.
More Celebrity Than Chef
Not all chefs that we see on television started out by going to culinary school or building a successful restaurant in the heart of a foodie metropolis. Many were discovered almost accidentally, like Giada De Laurentiis. The Food Network’s Everyday Italian star had no professional training, but grew up in Italy cooking with her family. It wasn’t until a Food Network executive discovered her in a magazine feature that her celebrity chef status really blossomed. [Source].
What Makes a Celebrity Chef?
Well-known celebrities have a certain flare, pizzazz, or message. Cooking shows are especially geared toward eager audiences looking for a peek into the industry and perhaps even tips on how to manifest their own culinary dreams.
Celebrities are interesting because they have unique styles. When it comes to cooking, many chefs are known for certain methods or cooking techniques. For example, Food Network personality Alton Brown’s style is to educate viewers on the history, science and social impact of cooking, as well as DIY methods of cooking like a pro at home.
Cooking shows have fueled viewer interest often because the stars themselves are likeable. Many celebrities, like Giada De Laurentiis and Rachael Ray, perform in front of cameras on sets that look jus like real kitchens, encouraging viewers to break out the apron and get our hands dirty. Although many chefs are widely acclaimed and maintain a separation from the masses, other celebrities—many of whom had humble beginnings—are loved and respected for how relatable and “human” they are.
This is a fun aspect of many TV personalities. Celebrity chefs in particular may rely on a few verbal cues now and again to keep things interesting while waiting for a pot of water to boil. Emeril Lagasse, an enormously successful restaurant owner and TV personality, is well-known for his catch phrase, “Bam!” from his Cooking Channel show, Emeril Live. Rachael Ray, another popular Food Network star and cookbook author, is famous for coining the term “E-V-O-O” (extra virgin olive oil).
Chef Gordon Ramsay has perfected the art of merging the culinary world with drama. In his shows, Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay is called in to salvage reputations, menus and staff relationships in struggling restaurants. Before this, however, he had earned legitimate success with his Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which earned three Michelin stars, the most esteemed award in the restaurant world.
Regardless of background, looks or nifty phrases, the celebrity chef needs to know their way around the kitchen. Great chefs and restaurateurs do not earn awards and fame by accident. Even the Food Network relies on talent and skill to execute a meal that, when presented on a flat screen, will make mouths water.
Celebrity chefs have brought the word of restaurant operation and gourmet cooking to our televisions, cookbooks and hearts. Celebrities have done well for the restaurant world, exposing local eateries and chefs and garnering attention for their own successful restaurants around the country. Yet, celebrities give people impetus to cook at home, and to appreciate new and interesting ingredients with a shared passion for food and cooking.