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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Celebrity Chefs: From The Great To The Polarizing

Source: Eukhost 

Watching Food Network TV shows and Keith Floyd's programmes on the Travel Channel is a reminder to me as to partly why cookery programmes are my favourite types of shows alongside sitcoms, cartoons, quiz and game shows. 

Ultimately, the best television chefs manage to balance and juggle the demands of entertaining and educating and informing the masses of new recipes with preparing and cooking ingredients. In addition to having different attitudes towards food and food culture & to be more open-minded by being adventurous and experimental in their approaches. 

Not forgetting conveying and exercising their larger-than-life, colourful personalities when it comes to talking about food. 

Here, I rank the celebrity TV chefs that caught my eye, in order of likability and personality, & not just in their cooking, expertise and knowledge in their particular culinary and gastronomic area. There are my own personal opinions, and I'm sure you have your own personal favourites as well. 

Chefs I admire a great deal and /or enjoy watching - 

Keith Floyd - I always loved and admired his eccentric personality and his passion for cooking and food. He was known for sipping a glass of wine or two on his shows. His curious and articulate nature towards global cuisine & enlivening banter was so endearing, it made him the Alan Wicker/ Michael Palin of the TV chef world. Before Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson came Keith Floyd - he was arguably the first real deal celebrity chef in those days. 

TV cookery shows back in the 1980s were groundbreaking stuff at the time that carried over into the 90s and today. It not only help revolutionized the way cookery shows were made and presented, but Keith ushered British audiences in to the joys of food with his effervescent enthusiasm, wit and curiosity. He always approached it in a philosophical and curious way. He was an explorer, he wanted to find out and was always enthusiastic and passionate in learning about the world's cuisine & in sharing that cultural and culinary knowledge and understanding with his viewers. 

He also broke the boundaries by choosing to cook on the outskirts of the great outdoors, in other people's kitchens, on boats and other strange and fascinating places, as opposed to his own kitchen. 

There will be nobody else like him - Keith set the standards for all the other TV chefs to meet, and quite frankly and arguably so, as good as many of them are, most will (probably) never be better than him. 

Ching - He Huang - It's good to see Ching representing Chinese cuisine on TV well. I found her UK show, Chinese Food In Minutes  a bit too predictable with dishes everyone is familiar with such as Sweet and Sour chicken, pork, fried rice. It was when she moved to the US with the U.S equivalent, 'Easy Chinese San Francisco' that my opinion of her had changed. I like her US shows such  as 'Easy Chinese' & 'Restaurant Redemption' more, because you get to see Chinese food in a more wider scope and that the dishes are more appealing, varied, covering different regions & styles of Chinese cooking: Sichuan, Hunan and Cantonese to name. 

She takes signature and popular Chinese dishes and gives them an invigorating modern twist. As a result, you get fresh, flavoursome dishes that look visually appealing, as well as appetizing. Usually, when non-Asian & Asian chefs do programmes on food and cooking Chinese recipes, they are mostly about the sweet & sour chicken, egg fried rice, Won Ton Soup fare. Thankfully, Ching shows that with Chinese food, there is so much more to it than that. 

Very down-to-earth, likable and friendly personality as well. 

Ainsley Harriott - He is one of those chefs you either find interesting, or downright irritating. I find him to be interesting and whenever I have a crappy day, when I get home, I could watch and listen to him talk and cook and it puts a smile on my face. His cuisine is fresh, accessible and fun, much like his larger-than-life cockney-esque personality. I'd take this cheeky chappy over Jamie Oliver any day.   

Lorraine Pascale - As an author, her popularity came before she was a TV chef when her books sold almost 1 million. Since then, she has made the successful transition as a celebrity cook & has surged through the TV ranks. She graduated from West London University in 2012 with a first class BA Honours in Culinary Arts. She specializes in baked goods such as breads, cakes and pastries. 

Lorraine's easy street-wise perfectionism & energy made her an instant hit on TV screens, as well as inject a fresher take on the art of baking, which was traditionally seen as old-fashioned. 

The Hairy Bikers - They travel to parts of the world by riding on their motorbikes, which is why they are called hairy bikers. oh and they're hairy, as in their facial hair and hair. I take to their easy going manner, and that they come across as being normal people. They are an example of celebrity duo chefs done right. We need more of these types of chefs on television quite frankly. 

Sunny Anderson - She brings her love for food to the masses with simple -yet hearty soul food-esque recipes that aren't over-complicated and utilises interesting & traditional ingredients. Her passion and love towards comfort southern cuisine is rather refreshing.

Anne Burrell - Known for her spunky hair, Anne Burrell's take and approach to food and cooking, is in many respects, similar to Nigella Lawson's - but she also manages to emphasize the importance of flavours & how they work together as well. Anne once said in an interview that with regards to cooking that people 'have the interest level of what they want to have. I think anyone can learn if you want to', and I for one agree with that. 

If you want to cook, want to learn how to cook certain dishes and recipes, enthusiasm and interest is key. And Anne is a prime example of that. 

Jonathan Pang - A career spanning 25 years & 2 TV shows under his belt, Jonathan, like Ainsley, has a very flamboyant and enthusiastic personality when it comes to cookery and cuisine. He specializes in Caribbean cuisine. 

Chefs that are okay or in the middle 

Gordon Ramsey - I usually don't like the way he speaks to people and in cursing at them. However, when he does say something, he means it - and a lot of the time, he is in the right. & some of the people, especially on Kitchen Nightmares and Costa Del Nightmares deserve a reality check and a right telling off for being idiots. Though some deserve the vitriol, but otherwise, no. Volatile and explosive - but he does bring an edge to the TV cookery scene, which needed livening up. But of course, this shouldn't be at the expense of upsetting other people. I do like his honesty however, and that if he doesn't like something, he will say it in person and give a reason as to why. Instead of shying away and talk behind people's backs. 

His antics and attitude divides a lot of people, and understandably so. I wished there were more TV shows of him cooking food however; other than him slaying people and getting easily annoyed and losing his rag. 

Nadia Giosia - Presenter of mock comedy/cookery show, 'B*tchin' Kitchen'. I'm not so keen on her psuedo- hardcore rock chick persona - which is a turn-off for many people. Her recipes on the other hand are varied and interesting. 

Nigella Lawson - Became a fresh-faced newbie on British TV screens back in 1999, Nigella's formidably charismatic charm and personality harks back to Delia Smith in certain ways, although it was her good looks that caught the eye of many male admirers. Unlike many TV chefs, she wasn't trained in culinary school & her show is about cooking for pleasure & enjoyment. 

Her approach is much more therapeutic, casual and yet - robust and less elaborate in nature. She doesn't set the world on fire - well, not in terms of actual excitement, but Nigella's casualness & glamour does get people talking for various reasons. 

Chefs I am not a huge fan of for whatever reason 

Anthony Bourdain - Nauseating, a bit of a bore & comes across as a bit arrogant and elitist on camera with his views on food and cooking, in spite of his wide knowledge and interest in global cuisine. 

Guy Fieri - I don't hate Guy Fieri. The problem is that he has become the face of Food Network so much so that the more Food Network shoves him in our faces, the more irritating we get. He comes across as a food critic more-so than a chef, even though he is a chef. I also think he needs to get out more and travel outside of North America (unless he has done so) and visit other countries in the world and to do shows on their food over there. 

Judging by his programmes, it appears as though his knowledge is limited to Central American, North American and some South American cuisine that he could do with doing a type of overseas Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, just to further his knowledge of food and gastronomy. The most renowned chefs tend to be ones that travel across the globe and try out different foods and further improve their culinary skills, but Guy seems to stay in his comfort zone. 

And he eats more than he does cooking the food itself. 

I watch Food Network a lot, as I don't have the Cooking Channel and UK Food channels on Sky and so I am well aware of and know what 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' is about. 

American viewers have a point when criticizing Guy Fieri - in that this show 'Diners...' portrays the stereotypical eating habits of Americans to people around the world, where this show is also aired & thus, it gives them a bad image. 

It would be good of guy for chefs like him to shed this image, but I probably won't hold my breath.   

Adam Richman - An ex-sushi chef; he is just another food critic. In fact, he is an actor and TV personality who has an interest in food. His shows, such as Man verses Food are the food equivalent of TV show, Jackass. After hitting the jackpot with Guy Fieri, Food Network did it again, this time by signing up Adam Richman. 

If you have ever seen 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' on Food Network, then 'Man Verses Food' is basically the same show - only it adds in the element seen in many American food eating competitions where competitors try to gauge on and shove down their gob as much food as they can, in a certain time limit. 

It is an entertainment spectacle more so than say an actual programme about cooking. 

More surprisingly, in 2014, he shedded the excess pounds, following the end of 'Man Verses Food' and nowadays, he looks a lot more slimmer. 

Jamie Oliver - Jamie Oliver's earlier TV shows were all right, he seemed like your everyday cockney 'geezer' with a love of food. But as he got older and his celebrity status surged, many people in the UK began to see him as an opportunist, holier -than - thou pretentious self. That they saw through the hypocritical ness of Jamie Oliver encouraging and campaigning for healthier school meals for children, yet appearing in adverts for Sainsburys, one of the leading British supermarket chains that sell overpriced, cheap, unhealthy pre-prepared food. 

The same campaign where he wanted schools to get rid of the burgers, chips, fries - yet later on, he opens the Jamie Oliver Diner in Piccadilly. 

He comes from the line of thinking where everything in the world needs simple solutions. Yet the problem is more complex & not as clear cut as it appears. He thinks the state can fix the problems and that he reserves most of the accountability towards the working classes, rather than attribute those problems to lack of personal responsibility, irrespective of class & status. Given that he tends to sees things from a class perspective, is virtually why a lot of folks in Britain don't take to him as much as they used to. 

I'm sure his meals and recipes taste good though, because that is what most British viewers want more from him - less talk more action when it comes to his food.

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