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Bruni on Celebrity Chefs on FN and Top Chef

Phaedrus Oct 3, 2007 05:10 AM

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/03/din...

Typical Bruni I think, but he speaks truths. I found his comment on Des Jardin lack of confidence in doing prep work somewhat jarring but reasonable, these chefs DON'T do all the dirty work any more. In fact I am reminded of the comments by one of the posters questioning Bourdain's kitchen skills: how many of these guys on TV actually "cook" for a living anymore? Its all about the payoff from the skills now, its not about the skills anymore.

  1. n
    newhavener07 Oct 3, 2007 06:39 AM

    True, and I don't see the problem with chefs becoming celebrities if it elevates the standards of cooking in this country. These people have paid their dues and deserve some stardom--much more than the half-witted barbies who get most of the attention on every other media outlet.

    1 Reply
    1. re: newhavener07
      Phaedrus Oct 3, 2007 07:47 AM

      Exactly. I have no problems if they have paid their dues. Most of these people have, the barbies have not. And you are too kind in calling them half witted.

    2. m
      mahalan Oct 3, 2007 07:55 AM

      I don't care if a "chef" has paid their dues or not. I care about whether or not they know what they're talking about or if they're just a pretty face for a mediocre recipe their producer just handed them (a.k.a. Rachel Ray).

      Likewise, I don't care if they're still working in a kitchen. I'd bet dollars to donuts that Anthony Bourdain hasn't been in Les Halles since I have. Despite that, he knows what it takes to be a professional cook and I really enjoy his books and television show.

      On this note, am I the only one who is completely turned off of anything on the Food Channel? It might as well be renamed the "Informercial for Our Next Celebrity Chef's Food Product Line Channel". Explains why I saw an ad on an acting website looking for someone to host a new show there. Interesting they chose to post on an acting website instead of a cooking website.

      18 Replies
      1. re: mahalan
        LindaWhit Oct 3, 2007 08:28 AM

        "On this note, am I the only one who is completely turned off of anything on the Food Channel? "

        No, you're not the only one. It used to be a channel to watch and learn from and enjoy. There's nothing on but dreck (Alton Brown is an exception, and sometimes Iron Chef), and the entire channel is a waste of cable space at this point. Yet their advertising dollars are big, and they'll continue to put out the same old-same old for as long as people continue to watch. Which, in certains parts of the country, they seem willing to continue to do so.

        1. re: LindaWhit
          l
          lisamos Oct 3, 2007 08:56 AM

          I agree. I'm tired of shows like 'Unwrapped' and all the travel shows that Giada and Rachel and the Deen boys do. I want to see COOKING SHOWS!! I do think Alton Brown is technically a genius. And I like Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa, but I don't hear many chowhounds comment on her. I've made alot of her recipes and other than making WAY TOO MUCH, they all turn out great. On another note, I noticed that Paula's Home Cooking has replaced Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee in the afternoons. Anyone know if she was cancelled? She gets on my nerve in a bad way and I would rather watch Paula than her and all her cutesy, matching tablescapes. I tune in for the food, not the decoreations. Am I being too harsh? Maybe.

          1. re: lisamos
            Phaedrus Oct 3, 2007 09:10 AM

            Nope. You all are voicing a consensus of the former FN viewers. But they aren't aiming for us, as oft repeated here before. They are aiming for the larger demographics, the frat boys, the people who need help with cooking period, the people who want to be entertained, anyways, people that aren't us because we are on CH.

            1. re: Phaedrus
              mnosyne Oct 3, 2007 09:25 AM

              ...and the people who applaud when they hear "Gahlic!".

              1. re: mnosyne
                goodhealthgourmet Oct 3, 2007 11:31 AM

                or, in the case of paula deen, 'butter!'

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  n
                  newhavener07 Oct 3, 2007 11:49 AM

                  Paula Deen is frightening. If there's any justice, the afterlife will be ruled by farm animals.

                  1. re: newhavener07
                    e
                    elecsheep9 Oct 3, 2007 11:53 AM

                    I know I still lament the passing of David Rosengarten's "Taste".

                    And "Grillin and Chillin'" where Bobby Flay and some dude from Philly (I think) would debate the pros and cons of gas v. charcoal cooking.

                    1. re: elecsheep9
                      f
                      Fuser Oct 4, 2007 12:45 PM

                      Ahhh Grilling and Chillin, I loved that show because it was always Bobby Flay and some dude Jack, something or other, who always kicked Flay's butt with his cooking and made fun of Bobby all the time for his pretentious food. The Jack dude had way more personality and was a way better chef, but Bobby was younger, better looking and the FN people in their quest to appeal to noncooks went for him. Just another example of FN's slide into a morass of mediocrity.

                    2. re: newhavener07
                      goodhealthgourmet Oct 3, 2007 12:12 PM

                      re: the nyt article...

                      yes, many of these chefs are now media personalities.

                      and no, they do not actually cook when acting as guest judges on top chef. but that's not why they're there.

                      what frank bruni failed to acknowledge is that many of these chefs do, in fact, still occasionally cook, be it in their own restaurants or on another show. i know he mentioned iron chef, but it was to illustrate a different point. i also happen to know that colicchio was in the kitchen when craft first opened in los angeles. bobby flay has been known to prepare food himself at bar americain. and yes, the iron chefs obviously cook in kitchen stadium.

                      [in response to newhavener's comment...paula's obsession with butter is pretty disgusting. i don't actually watch her new show, but i've unfortunately caught snippets of it on random occasions, and she actually prepared FRIED butter once. it was appalling. i used to think there was [almost] something sweet about her...although her accent is soooo ridiculously over the top. i lived in georgia for eight years, and never once encountered someone with such a pronounced drawl. anyway, i've noticed lately that she practically molests every audience and crew member she encounters - male AND female. it's totally creepy, and painful to watch...particularly when her poor husband is standing off to the side watching as she mauls some unsuspecting guest. and the sight of her having a foodgasm as her own SON feeds her a bite of something is truly sickening.]

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                        Phaedrus Oct 3, 2007 03:31 PM

                        re: Paula Deen's mauling and accent.

                        I am 100% convinced that all of that is a result of audience testing by FN and her production company. The flirtiness is too contrived and the accent is oh so ever forced.

                        I also think the testing has to do with Giada and Dandra Lee's tatas being framed ever so flirtaciously and RR's Yummo BS.

                        Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach. Those that are simply too imbecilic and moronic to be a contributing member of society become a Food Network audience response analyst.

                        1. re: Phaedrus
                          goodhealthgourmet Oct 3, 2007 06:36 PM

                          brialliant assessment, with one caveat...you give the imbecilic morons too much credit and [perceived] credibility by assigning them such an official-sounding title.

                          1. re: Phaedrus
                            Gio Oct 4, 2007 08:14 AM

                            "Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach."

                            I just hate that statement. Teachers educate others about what they know of a particular field.. Knowledge of a subject cannot be faked, expecially when teaching various precise techniques in the kitchen, for example. Teachers teach because they know *how* to do, and want to impart knowledge to others. Those who can't - criticize.

                            1. re: Gio
                              a
                              arjaydj Oct 4, 2007 10:47 AM

                              i agree with you wholeheartedly. i wish we could just slowly get rid of this "those who can't, teach" cliche.

                              1. re: Gio
                                goodhealthgourmet Oct 4, 2007 11:54 AM

                                you're absolutely correct. i take offense to that particular statement as well, but i didn't want to start an off-topic war by calling him on it. in hindsight i realize i should have.

                                while i agreed with the bulk of phaedrus' statement, i did NOT intend to validate that offensive, overused, tired - and thoroughly inaccurate - cliché.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                                  Phaedrus Oct 4, 2007 12:00 PM

                                  OK, I am an academic by training and I don't usually use that particular phrase. But a cliche is a cliche for a reason: it conveys a point quickly and effectively. Yes, I agree it is a tired cliche. But give me another one to use to illustrate the levels of de-evolution of competency in my usage. I will gladly replace it in my phraseology. One that is as short and to the point.

                                  1. re: Phaedrus
                                    ccbweb Oct 4, 2007 12:07 PM

                                    Ease of use is a good reason to slight an entire profession? We keep furthering offensive, belittling and inaccurate beliefs because we can't be bothered to write a few extra words or because we think the cliche sounds cute or something?

                                    That's pretty sad.

                                    1. re: Phaedrus
                                      goodhealthgourmet Oct 4, 2007 12:16 PM

                                      hey, i'm not saying i have a better one...and i understand that you were simply trying to make a point. i just think people need to stop using that particular cliché, period...even if it means sacrificing brevity [or cleverness] to some degree.

                2. re: mahalan
                  p
                  Pete Oldtown Oct 4, 2007 08:02 AM

                  I used to watch Food Channel all the time, 8 or 9 years ago. It's pretty awful now. I guess cheapo documentaries are easier to produce and less expensive than getting top chefs to show how it's done. I used to watch Mario all the time becuase I learned a lot in every show. I could care less how Tyson makes chicken tenders. It reminds me of the dreaded Industry on Parade, which used to precede the Sat. morning cartoons when I was a kid. Iron Chef is hokey, but at least there's some interesting stuff going on, but certainly not enough information that I could replicate a dish at home.

                3. Frodnesor Oct 4, 2007 07:01 AM

                  To swing back to the original question/article ->

                  First, should be noted that the final Top Chef contest actually proved Bruni's premise wrong, with celeb chefs (the ubiquitous Rocco Dispirito; Todd English; and Michelle Bernstein) commissioned to serve as sous chefs to the contestants. I'm dubious that Rocco or Todd are spending much time actually working in restaurant kitchens these days, but I can tell you (since I'm a Miamian) that Michelle is certainly in her restaurant more often than not, and while she may not be working the saute station every night she's there and paying attention to what's going on. Another Miamian who served as a guest judge earlier, and is at least a local celeb chef, Michael Schwartz, can usually be found most nights working the wood-burning oven at his restaurant.

                  Is most food-related TV programming silly and insipid? Yes. So is most other TV programming too. TV generally caters to what network execs perceive to be the lowest common denominator.

                  But regardless, it seems a silly notion to think that a chef should be working as a line cook every day in order to maintain that title. I'm not in the biz, but I suspect that even well before the latest round of TV celeb chefs, there were plenty of "chefs" at famous restaurants who were not chopping mirepoix every night. Indeed, most of the chefs who were brought in as judges for Top Chef (starting with Colicchio and including Ripert, Zakarian, Boulud, etc.) have been successful for much longer than the recent trend of TV celebs. You don't really think they've been boning out chickens every day for the past 10 years, do you?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Frodnesor
                    Phaedrus Oct 4, 2007 07:35 AM

                    This celebrity chef thing is relatively recent. In the greater scheme of culinary history/famous chefs, the present ten years or so are a mere blip on the radar. I think the chefs worked longer than those that we are apeaking about mainly because they had no other options, no other income to give them an excuse to get out of the kitchen after they have established their culinary excellence.

                    1. re: Frodnesor
                      p
                      Pete Oldtown Oct 4, 2007 08:06 AM

                      I'd like to see a lot more about Michelle. In those few minutes, she really impressed me. I remember a long time ago, back when he was still fat, you'd find Paul Prudhomme sitting in his oversized chair at the kitchen door of KPaul's looking at each dish as it came out. He was probably the first celebrity chef, and I've seen him giving cooking demos several times at trade shows, and he knows what he is doing. But I doubt he cooks much any more; at that stage of their career, their job is developing new dishes and showing their chefs how to cook them.

                      1. re: Pete Oldtown
                        Frodnesor Oct 4, 2007 09:10 AM

                        Plenty about Michelle Bernstein's food if you search for her restaurant Michy's on the Florida board. She did the menu for another Miami place called Social but Michy's is really "her" place and she's there often.

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