Style

The celebrity chef

“Cheers to the chef” is an initiative of Gault&Millau Australia aimed to recognise the hard work of all of the chefs in Australia. We want everyone to raise a glass and propose a toast to their chef on, or around, Saturday 20 October and send their appreciation “back of house”.

By Jeremy Ryland 

@expertgourmand


The celebrity chef is a relatively recent phenomenon. Less than 100 years ago, chefs were hidden away in kitchens that were hot, smelly and full of poisonous fumes, often in the bowels of the building or in a separate outhouse. Only the very top chefs such as Careme and Escoffier managed to escape into more normal surroundings.

 

Marie-Antonin Careme (1784-1833) is often credited with being the first celebrity chef since he revolutionised the French haute cuisine, wrote bestselling cookbooks and creating extravagant, magical feasts for royals and dignitaries including Napoleon, the Rothschilds and Tsar Alexander. Careme wrote that he wanted to "set the standard for beauty in classical and modern cookery, and attest to the distant future that the French chefs of the 19th century were the most famous in the world."

 

Much later, another Frenchman, Georges Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) simplified and modernised Careme’s concepts and rose to celebrity chef status by becoming a culinary leader, running restaurants, selling canned products, and writing in his own food magazine. He was referred to in the French press as roi des cuisiniers et cuisinier des rois ("king of chefs and chef of kings") and became France's preeminent chef in the early part of the 20th century. He is credited with helping to raise the status of cooking from being just a labourer's task to a creative and artistic career.

 

Food today is fashionable and visual, a natural product for the insatiable appetite of the multimedia programmes of the late twentieth century. The celebrity status of chefs, throughout the world, has lifted the overall status of the profession. Kitchens are no longer hidden away but have become "restaurant theatre". Many chefs have gained almost cult status and have become the new "rock stars".  Food has become sensual, passionate and vital. Indeed, some celebrity chefs such as Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have been accused of "gastro-pornography".

 


However, setting up and running a restaurant is not as easy it looks and being a celebrity chef does not guarantee success. Cooking food on television is easy! You can redo it if it the soufflé fails, and you can edit out the mistakes. You can spend a whole day making just three dishes. Your ingredients are always at hand and a group of food stylists behind the scenes can ensure the final product looks great.

 

In a busy restaurant you do not have the luxury of being able to do it again or to take lots of time. Your guests expect good food to be served perfectly the first time, every time.

 

The restaurant is a live stage and every night is different. Every chef is today a celebrity, an actor and a craftsman. It is stressful. Running a restaurant is the only industry in which you are criticised, compared, scored and scrutinised – every day. A restaurant owner has to be a cook, an accountant, a lawyer, a human resources expert, a purchasing manager, a cleaner, a food safety expert, a marketer – a jack of all trades. The hours are long and the profits small! Whilst todays chef enjoys much greater status and more varied and enjoyable work conditions than his or her counterpart in the past, they are largely unsung heroes.

 

Saturday 20 October 2018 is International Chef’s Day. A day to celebrate the hard work of chefs worldwide.

 

“Cheers to the chef is an initiative of Gault&Millau Australia aimed to recognise the hard work of all of the chefs in Australia. We want everyone to raise a glass and propose a toast to their chef on, or around, Saturday 20 October and send their appreciation “back of house”.

 

To encourage guests to participate, Gault&Millau will offer six prizes of cookbooks, each valued at $300 – one in each State of Victoria, NSW (including ACT) Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia – to the guests who best toast their chef.

 

For more information go to  https://au.gaultmillau.com/pages/cheers-to-the-chef.