Thursday, April 9, 2009

More on Why We Shouldn't Daydream About Owning a Gourmet Restaurant

When looking at he world of celebrity chefs, I can't help but notice a kind of spectrum of chefs. On one extreme side, you get very refined and very packaged. When I mean refined and packaged think;

Giada Delaurentis
Nigella Lawson
Jamie Oliver
Andrew Zimmern

They are all very clean, never curse, barely break a sweat.

Then there is the opposite extreme, the bad boys of the celebrity chef world;

Gordon Ramsay
Anthony Bourdain
Marco Pierre White

Neither of these three make any effort to hide their crassness or rough edge. In the cases of Ramsay and Bourdain, they profit from their crudeness.

There is also a third group. I like to think of these guys/girls as bad boys whom the Food Network/Travel Network sent to a finishing school, manhandled into a shell of respectability, but occasionally let slip their rough edge. They fall somewhere in the middle.

Rachele Ray (yes, I know, everyone hates her)
Bobby Flay
Mario Batali

Batali's rough side slips out in writings by food writers and other chefs who know him personally. Flay is supposedly quite abrasive.

The Bad Boys understandably irritate many foodies. As much as I love Bourdain's show and his books, I don't think I can handle a road trip with him. His sarcasm could get old very quickly. But the more refined of the celebrity chefs (Lawson, Delaurentis, Oliver), they are bad in that they give foodies this delusion that producing gourmet food is somehow not painful, or difficult, that you can run a quality restaurant without being an absolute a-hole.

The Marco Pierre Whites/Gordon Ramsay/Anthony Bourdain's remind us of just how hard this line of work is, the physical toll this line of work takes over the span of decades, and how it shouldn't be overly romanticized.

They also remind us that we shouldn't just respect the Great Chefs for their artisty, but for their grit, their perserverance, and their mental and physical toughness.

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