For many people there are defining moments where you can remember exactly where you were when something happened. Many older Americans will remember exactly what they were doing when JFK was shot.
On a particular day I was sat in a restaurant we owned being interviewed for an internet show. It was great company and the conversation was with a farmer over beef production and food provenance. Then came the Imodium moment. The phone rang and the front of house manager picked it up. “You need to take this, it’s Gordon Ramsay’s people”.
In a split second I was more than worried. I can’t remember us doing anything bad, the food was good, guests were happy and we had the top hygiene scores. So who had grassed us up to Kitchen Nightmares? To cut a long story short, we had been nominated for his local food show.
We may think that the cult of celebrity chefs is a new thing. Gordon, whether you like him or loathe, is an inspirational chef, one of the best in the world. Then there are numerous others and several TV channels dedicated to the subject. Some of them can actually cook too.
If we look back to the 19th century then we see the first real celebrities in the kitchen. Auguste Escoffier, chef and classic book, was an institution. He was famous for the reinvention of French cuisine and got the name “the Chef of Kings”. Escoffier was reputed to have formalised the kitchen brigade structure that is still adhered to today. Peach Melba? That was his invention at the Savoy. Melba toast? Same. Most chefs will have a copy of Escoffier on their bookshelf, it’s their bible.
Back to the present. Not only do we have 24 hour a day food programmes but it has become a lot more democratic. Once upon a time you had to be a chef or a food writer to get on the box. A special effects man and a director with a passion for cooking are constantly on. Of course, we are talking about the Hairy Bikers. Two very decent blokes who can explain cookery in an understandable way without disappearing up themselves.
I have a lot of respect for anyone who does as much travelling as them, even with a broken leg, to find out about local food. This is what it should be all about, the love and the excitement of new smells and flavours. Escoffier would probably be very proud of this as that was in his spirit of turning cooks into professional chefs.
Anyway, the show with Ramsay. How did we get on? Gordon told us to ^&%£ @#*
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.