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Out of Their Elements
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 | posted by Mike

Kitchen ConfidentialWell, I hoped to get some conversation going with our topic of the week, and it looks like Dan of The Hungover Gourmet is weighing in on the issue of food, big business and celebrity chefs.

In addition to his comments on one of the posts below, Dan has a thoughtful and interesting post up with his point of view on the issue. I don’t want to put too many words into his mouth, so go and read his post (don’t worry…I’ll wait). My takeaways, however, are that he really doesn’t like chains co-opting “The Food Nation” ethos and he has a significant problems with the recent track record of food celebrity “cross-over” attempts.

I agree with him on both points (and he’s right about Kitchen Confidential being pretty good, too), but I think there are really two forces at play here.

Yes, institutions without foodie credibility trying to buy their way into respectability are doing nothing but pandering, and chefs that sign on to these deals are open to questions about their motivation.

But the other factor, the one that is bringing us the talk shows and sitcoms and cookbook tie-ins, is coming from the Food Nation side of the table. These are all examples of everyone’s favorite 90’s business buzzword – synergy – and they’re largely being driven by the celebrities or the network.

We enjoy the shows and the chefs because we appreciate watching them do what they do best, and we bristle when we see them out of their elements. Although, much of you would argue that Rachael Ray will be doing what she does best when she’s hosting a talk show…a sentiment that would be held by fans and detractors alike, and maybe Rachael herself.

As Dan says, there is money to be made, and so we should expect this trend to continue. But I think we’d be all right with it if were still able to get what we want: programs that are truly about cooking. We just worry because we see these commercials and new programs and it seems to be another symptom of the move away from cooking and towards “lifestyle.”

Thanks to Dan for his thought-provoking post!

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