The Celebrity Chef Hall of Fame
Stars in Their Eyes
by Rosie O’Callaghan
Celebrity chefs – don’t you just love ’em. My first brush with them came at the age of ten when I became obsessed with collecting the complete works of Robert Carrier – the portly, extravagant, slightly camp American presenter of Carrier’s Kitchen.
In an extremely OTT TV advert Carrier drawled: “Have you ever thought of putting oranges on a keeebaaab?”. Since it was the seventies and we lived up North I wasn’t even sure what a ‘keeebaaab” was. But my little food-obsessed brain knew that I needed to collect every one of those precious magazines.
Since then I’ve always had a celeb chef crush on the go and a bit of a love/hate relationship with my food TV – here’s a five minute guide to my favourite celeb chefs.
Style: Anarchic, tipsy, shouty, uncompromising – throw away your measuring spoons.
Heyday: Mid to late 80s. The first three series he made; Floyd on Fish, Floyd on Food and Floyd on France are pretty untouchable.
Best bits: Floyd attempts to make an authentic French piperade for a local. She tastes it, declares it inedible then shows him how to do it properly. Amazingly the whole sequence is left in the show – try getting James Martin to do that.
Style: Surprisingly Delia was thought of as a bit of a minx in the 70s – later however she turned into the slightly corrective schoolmarm we know and love today.
Heyday: Delia has managed to have a successful show in every decade although her last outing How to Cheat at Cooking got quite a lot of bad press for its use of ready-made ingredients.
Best bits: Delia’s ‘Let’s be having you!’ half-time speech to Norwich fans showed she wasn’t as uptight as all that.
“The ‘Chicken Out’ campaign forces supermarkets to review their policy on battery chickens”
Two Fat Ladies – Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson
Style: Posh, bossy, veggie-hating, Triumph bike riding, non PC.
Heyday: Late 90s.
Best bits: Their liberal use of lard, dripping, butter and cream. The random poetry quoting and jazz singing mid-recipe. Jennifer P’s post cooking fag and drink combo at the end of every show (Clarissa was a recovering alcoholic so didn’t drink).
Style: West London yummy mummy cooks, licks and mugs at the camera in a seductive fashion.
Heyday: Early noughties – Nigella Bites and Forever Summer are classic Nige TV.
Best bits: Nigella hiring a London bus (plus extras) for her last series in an attempt prove she was just a bus riding commoner like the rest of us. It didn’t work.
Style: Posh, eccentric forager meets animal welfare campaigner.
Heyday: The late nineties River Cottage series saw Hugh walk it like he talked it as he set up his own small holding and learned the basics of animal husbandry.
Best bits: Hugh’s ‘Chicken Out’ campaign forces supermarkets to review their policy on battery chickens.
Style: Cheeky, pukka bish-bosh geezerchef turns into charity founder and school meals campaigner.
Heyday: in the late 90s and early noughties The Naked Chef turned the former sous chef at the River Cafe Oliver into a superstar. Mums loved him, Grannys loved him, everybody loved him.
Best bits: Jamie Oliver establishes the Fifteen foundation which gives underprivileged kids a chance to train as chefs.
“A new era of tough love”
Style: Angry Grandad delivers slightly whining polemic about how impossible it is to get a decent plate of fish in the UK – apart from in his restaurant that is.
Heyday: Rick goes stellar and buys up most of Padstow – locals rename it Padstein.
Best bits: Rick appears on an early episode of Floyd on Fish where Keith Floyd insists on calling him Nick. It didn’t hurt his career though as Floyds producer, David Pritchard, recognised a talent and went on to make Rick the star he is today.
Style: The Don. Big, shouty, sweary, obsessed, and strangely charismatic.
Heyday: The double whammy of Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word secured Ramsay’s place as the star striker of food TV.
Best bits: Ramsay gives his ultimate criticism of a chef’s food on Kitchen Nightmares – he goes outside and throws up. A new era of tough love is born.
and if you haven’t got these already, some books you might want to buy…
Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets – Gordon Ramsay
The TV super-chef shares his tricks of the trade for serving up some Michelin starred food in your own gaff.
Two Fat Ladies Gastronomic Adventures – Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson
The ladies stuff their cookery books with as much enthusiasm and gusto as their TV programme. A comfort-laden classic with plenty ‘history behind the dishes’ stories to keep you going.