The term celebrity chef applies to a class of chefs who are well known for presenting cookery advice and demonstrations via mass media – especially television. Let’s take a look at the careers of nine famous celebrity chefs and find out what exactly has made them so famous.
Jamie grew up in his parents’ pub-restaurant in Essex, England, which means that he was involved in cooking pretty much from the day he was born. When he was 16 he went to Westminster Catering College before spending some time in France, and on his return to London he worked as head pastry chef at The Neal Street Restaurant. He then went on to work for Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers at the River Café – which is where he first got to appear on TV. And it just snowballed from there onwards. From his show the Naked Chef to School Dinners and Fowl Dinners… Jamie’s done it all! And he is still as popular as ever.
Claim to fame: His young, no-nonsense and fresh approach to cooking in a simple and healthy way, as well as his catch phrases – such as “whack it in the oven” and “pukka.”
Jamie says: “It was about kind of going against the grain of all the original, old cooking shows. Stripping down the food, stripping down the pretension and no ‘cheffy’ talk.”
Gordon was born in Scotland but grew up in England. He went to hotel management school before spending a few years under culinary luminaries such as Marco Pierre White and Albert Roux in London. He then moved to France, where he enhanced his expertise in classic French cooking. Soon thereafter he became head chef at Aubergine, published his first book and subsequently opened his first own restaurant. Today he runs or owns 18 restaurants and pubs in the UK as well as 12 internationally. He has been awarded a total of 16 Michelin Stars and is known for presenting TV programmes about competitive cookery and food – such as Hell’s Kitchen, The F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. He has also written 20 books.
Claim to fame: Known for taking a ruthless, arrogant approach to bad cooking, Gordon is at the same time famous for his 16 Michelin Stars – which is nothing to laugh at!
Gordon says: “From an early age I understood that cooking was never going to be a job, it’s a passion. Poor old Antony Worrall Thompson, poor old Delia Smith, I don’t think the penny’s dropped yet!”
Nigella is a popular television personality, journalist and cookery writer. She has a degree in Medieval and Modern Languages and her career began with her restaurant column writings for ‘The Spectator’ and ‘The Observer’. She then became a newspaper reviewer on ‘Breakfast with Frost’, a co-host on a book show and a co-host on Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’ Show, before she finally had her own shows from 2001 onwards. Nigella has also written a couple of books.
Claim to fame: Not only can she cook like a domestic goddess, but she’s gorgeous as well. America’s Nation Leisure said it well: “Lawson has plenty of it, flaunting her way to millions. It’s the boobs, the hips, the hair, the posh English accent and the scrumptious way she licks sauces off her fingers.”
Nigella says: “I am not a chef. I am not even a trained or professional cook. My qualification is as an eater.”
Keith Floyd (28 December, 1943 – 14 September, 2009) was a British chef and television personality who hosted numerous cooking shows for the BBC and published many books combining cookery and travel. On television, Floyd was noted for his chaotic presenting style which included frequent consumption of wine, beer and local alcoholic beverages. Earlier on in life he bought restaurants in Bristol and France, but they didn’t do well and he sold them. He also wrote his first book before he appeared on the screen. Keith Floyd was regarded as a pioneer of taking cooking programmes out of the studio, and he went on to present his shows from around the world for years and years.
Claim to fame: His eccentric, often shambolic style of presentation endeared him to millions of viewers worldwide. He became well known for cooking with a glass of wine in one hand, often in unusual locations such as a fishing boat in rough seas.
Keith said: “Food is life, life is food. If you don’t like my approach you are welcome to go down to McDonalds.”
Julia Child (August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was a famous American chef, author and television personality. She introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream through her many cookbooks and television programs – notably The French Chef which premiered in 1963. Although a staunch advocate of classic French cuisine, Child in the course of her career modified her approach to cookery to reflect contemporary needs and trends, such as developing a repertoire requiring less fat, red meat and time. In her work she endeavoured consistently and successfully to enhance the public’s awareness and appreciation of, and need for, wholesome, skilfully prepared food. She shared her passion for food with American TV audiences for half a century.
Claim to fame: She introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream in a way that was both entertaining and accessible. She was known for her distinctive voice and willingness to “make a mess.”
Julia said: “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”
Wolfgang Johannes Puck is an Austrian celebrity chef, restaurateur and businessman based in Los Angeles. Puck learned cooking from his mother, who occasionally worked as a pastry chef. He trained as an apprentice under Raymond Thuilier at L’Oustau de Baumaniere in Provence, at Hotel de Paris in Monaco and at Maxim’s Paris before moving to the United States. The Wolfgang Puck Companies today encompasses over 20 fine dining restaurants, premium catering services, more than 80 Wolfgang Puck Express operations and kitchen and food merchandise – including cookbooks and canned foods.
Claim to fame: With a unique menu that fused California ingredients with classic French cuisine, Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant, Spago – Italian slang for spaghetti – kick-started his career in 1982.
Wolfgang says: “I learned more from the one restaurant that didn’t work than from all the ones that were successes.”
Batali was born in Washington of Italian, English, and French Canadian ancestry. He double majored in Spanish Language, Theatre and Economics, graduating in 1982. He later went to attend Le Cordon Bleu, though he left as he found the pace too slow and because he considers the best way to learn is in a professional kitchen. He started off as a dishwasher and worked his way up as a kitchen assistant under Marco Pierre White at the Six Bells in London, before moving on to La Tour d’Argent in Paris, Moulin de Mougins in Provence and the Waterside Inn outside London. He then worked as a sous chef at the Four Seasons Clift in San Francisco before moving to the northern Italian village of Borgo Capanne to apprentice in the kitchen at La Volta, where he sought to master a traditional style of Italian cooking. He then opened own restaurants, appeared on TV and wrote and published books.
Claim to fame: Batali became a household name as one of the first chefs featured on the fledgling TV Food Network – his show Molto Mario aired from 1997 to 2007 and he is one of the network’s Iron Chefs. His attire of khaki shorts and orange Crocs are as well known as his Italian cuisine.
Mario says: “The food at my restaurants is mostly the food of Italy’s grandmothers.”
Rachael Ray is a young American television personality, chef and author. She hosts the syndicated talk and lifestyle program Rachael Ray and three Food Network series: 30 Minute Meals, Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels and $40 a Day. Rachael has written a few cookbooks based on the 30 Minute Meals concept, and launched a magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, in 2006. Her first job was at the candy counter at Macy’s in New York City, where she eventually managed the fresh foods department. She later helped open a New York City market before managing Mister Brown’s Pub at The Sagamore. From there she became a buyer at Cowan & Lobel, a gourmet market in Albany. Rachael credits the concept of 30 Minute Meals to her experience working at the store, where she met people who were reluctant to cook.
Claim to fame: Rachael teaches simple recipes that she claims can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Her good looks have also worked in her favour.
Rachael says: “I’ve just sort of gone with the flow and I ended up here. Crazy. I’m not going to start planning anything, my life is way better than anybody could have planned it.”
Emeril grew up in Massachusetts but after college he went to France and was an apprentice in kitchens in Lyons and Paris. When he returned to the US he worked in several restaurants in New York, Boston and Philadelphia before being discovered by Ella Brennan of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans – this is where he became the executive chef and stayed for eight years before opening his own New Orleans restaurant in 1990. He subsequently opened another nine restaurants anc joined the Food Network in 1993 where his hit shows Emeril Live and the Essence of Emeril made him a household name – along with his catchphrases “Bam!” and “Kick it up a notch!”
Claim to fame: Through his cooking shows and books, Emeril has made chefs more human and approachable; hard working and passionate professionals rather than snobby know-it-alls.
Emeril says: “My philosophy from day one is that I can sleep better at night if I can improve an individual’s knowledge about food and wine, and do it on a daily basis.”