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I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here

The burning question of the moment is when is a chef not a chef? Well, since you ask, when he or she's a cookery teacher, food writer, TV presenter, columnist... we're asking can a chef these days ever be just an honest-to-goodness chef content to stay in the kitchen?

The Great British Menu is back on BBC2 presenting a variety of chefs showcasing their variable talents on national TV for the honour of cooking a banquet presided over by the Prince of Wales and a bushel of local producers, whatever that means. It led us to thinking about the kitchens across the country once again denuded of their own-grown talent as the chefs vie with each other for the distinction above – and, not least, for a little telly time. If you don't catch them there, you're sure to find them on Saturday Kitchen, cooking up a usually chaotic storm, or indeed on Daily Cooks Challenge, Ready Steady Cook, Feed the Desperate Celeb and other daytime hits.

And it doesn't stop there. These days your restaurant ain't a restaurant unless you've got a cookery school attached – or you're running evening and weekend 'Masterclasses' – and the reception is filled with branded cookware and signed copies of your latest cookbook, your mug beaming out from the glossy cover as you waffle faithfully on about the importance of seasonality and good local produce, while your menu offers asparagus mousse in February. You might even have your own little deli or farm shop selling your endorsed produce to discerning clientele.

Of course these days, it pays to diversify; any means by which you can get money through the door has got to be a winner, but it begs the question who is doing the cooking and when is cooking ever enough? The sudden national desire to be famous and on t'telly has infiltrated our nation's kitchens like an outbreak of norovirus. The story of El Gordo and his receding restaurants is a warning to the wary but you can be sure agents across the land are dripping poison into their naive cheffy clients' ears with tales of fame and fortune from TV land. Yet to witness some of them as stiff and unyielding as supermarket smoked haddock in front of Saturday Kitchen's camera is to realise that fame is not a suit of clothes that fits just anyone.

So do you think that all these digressions add to your experience of eating in a restaurant? Have you ever bought a restaurant cookbook hoping it will reveal their kitchen secrets and been sadly disappointed? Do you care if the chef is cooking or is it just a case of following a recipe?


John - April 29, 2010

I do not want Celebrity art on a plate, I want ordinary proper satisfying meals.

Fred Jones - April 23, 2010

Restaurateurs and chefs alike are well within their rights to showcase their talents on TV as it is a great way to promote them and their company. The trick is not to let the standard of the establishment slip, this is where a great team and great training are paramount. Its about progression, some chefs haven’t cooked a full service for years and to be honest you probably wouldn’t want them to. They are the figureheads of the company bringing in the punters - very talented but the machine is well oiled and runs very smoothly without them. That said others have tried to make the jump without the backup (mr heathcote springs to mind). It takes time and patience to recruit the right people. And if we are going to watch chefs we may as well have people who can actually cook, so goodbye AWT, Ainsley, Brian Turner, in fact anyone who has ever been on Ready Steady Cook, you are required to overcook and under-season food in a 5 minute challenge at little chef!

C - April 21, 2010

Too right, get back in the kitchen and get cooking! They are supposed to be chefs making food not poncing around on the box. I find the celebrity chef thing ludicrous. Well I actually find the whole celebrity thing laughable. Whenever I am fortunate enough to eat in a top class venue with a "famous" chef I always check if he is actually going to be in his whites that night in his kitchen, cooking!

Mookie - April 21, 2010

I don't think the celeb chef culture is such a bad thing actually. All this airtime on national TV is a huge contrast to a generation ago when all you had was Fanny Craddock and the Galloping Gourmet. I'm sure it helps position the hospitality industry as more of a 'cool' career choice and the more Gordon effs and jeffs, the more young talent will enter the kitchen.