Is there anything more sickening than an overweight celebrity chef forcing underprivileged welfare check parents to cry on cue for the cameras, and feel even more wretched about their miserable existence?

Oh yeah, there is. An overweight celebrity chef who preaches about healthy eating, yet is censured – twice – for having the highest levels of salt in his own brand ready meals. Nearly 88% of an adult’s recommended limit per portion. Salt’s the cheapest way there is to add flavour to substandard ingredients.

The first time, Jamie Oliver simply ignored the findings. Too busy crusading against turkey twizzlers-slash-pimping out his proprietary salad dressing tosser. (actually, make that ‘salad dressing. Tosser’)

Mind you, this is a man with such ironclad convictions he’ll criticise Sainsbury’s chicken welfare standards, then write a personal apology to every member of staff when he remembers he’s paid £1.2million a year to promote the supermarket, and its battery chickens, in their ‘families can eat for a fiver’ campaign. Yeah, they can. If the chicken pays the price. Because that’s the deal.

But that’s how the celebrity chef cycle works. They promote crap to us. We buy it. They berate us on telly for eating it. They get an OBE. We feel nauseous.

Of course, I’d forgive all of this if Oliver’s restaurant came within a turkey twizzler’s distance of serving a pukka plate of pasta.

It doesn’t. It’s mean, mediocre and hum drum at best. Hands up anyone who, honestly, can say the restaurant lived up to their expectations?

The ‘World’s Best Olives’? They’re not even the best olives on Paradise Street, mate.

I’m glad his show’s been sent to the graveyard slot in the US. They don’t take kindly to imported hypocritical taste makers. Why would they, when they’ve got Martha Stewart?

Should we be surprised if celebrity chefs are as flaky as yesterday’s baklava? Genetically modified cooks, artificially plumped up with their own importance, gorging on our cash, they’re making us unhealthy, obese and faddy: in short, we’re addicted to them.

In a study carried out by the Mintel research agency, the UK was shown to have more airtime devoted to cookery programmes than any other country in Europe. Despite this, we’re the most obese nation in the continent. In short, Mintel concludes, professional chefs are having a negative impact on our culinary culture. Instead of educating us, they are de-skilling us, encouraging us to buy convenience products, sign up to faddy diets, and generally see food as a lifestyle choice, not a means to live.

Another study by Babilonia makes the point that ‘the few viewers who do engage with cookery programmes on a practical level are those from higher, more educated social groups …they can afford to buy the exotic ingredients often used by the chefs, which suggests that it is usually the wealthy consumers for whom the celebrity chef has any real influence.’

In other words, they peddle us gastroporn – a window into a world that many of us are excluded from, accelerating food poverty among the less wealthy, whipping up a new underclass: the impoverished underbelly, those pitiful breadline families who’ve never even heard of the Marine Stewardship Council, let alone tasted a line-caught tilapia.

It’s a status anxiety that’s helped propel eating out to record levels. Well, if you can’t stand the heat, visit someone else’s kitchen.

Fully one fifth of us now eat out more than once a week. Twenty years ago the figure was half that. Mind you, so was ours.

And who’s benefiting from this more than anyone? Celebrity chefs of course.

And next month, it’s the turn of Marco Pierre White.

Hotel Indigo, about to open in Liverpool, is a welcome addition to the city. But this is no small time boutique operation – it’s part of the Holiday Inn/Crowne Plaza/Intercontinental Hotels group – the biggest in the world, with over 600,000 beds.

And, with Marco Pierre White at the helm (or, more accurately, his brand) the PR offensive will be covering the city like cheap custard.

And what can we expect from the MPW Steakhouse? Attention to detail (maybe. But it’s a shame it doesn’t extend to their website. Menu’s now available? Marco, with that extra apostrophe you’re really spoiling us). Make no mistake – this is one food franchise tie-in that’s all about the bottom line, not the waistline.

Let’s examine the menu’s. Fillet steak £27. Side order of potatoes and veg, £6. So that’s a £33 steak dinner. It’s a little well done for our liking, but we’ve not eaten here yet. So we’ll save the review until we do. But what’s the betting the Echo will adore it? They’ve deep pockets, the IC group. And a full page ad will do nicely, thanks.

Marco Pierre White’s a relative latecomer to the world of celebrity chefdom. He was too busy becoming the youngest chef (at 33) to win a Michelin star to bother with Rimmer’s Dinners and Ainsley’s Big Cook Out.

He’s making up for lost time though. Currently, he’s promoting everything from Knorr stock cubes to Bernard Matthew’s processed turkey – you know, the people who made the turkey twizzlers?

And so the celebrity chef food production cycle turns again…

MPW Steakhouse Liverpool
Hotel Indigo Liverpool
10 Chapel Street
Tel: 0151 559 0555

11 Responses to “Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook”

  1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus

    ‘Gastro-porn’ He he…makes me think of George Costanza from Seinfeld eating a pastrami sandwich while ‘in bed’.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you say, and think that local independent restaurants are far better than anything available in a chain. However Jamie’s (I hope that apostrophe is in the right place), isn’t all bad and some of what they do is quite good. As for MPW I’m not holding out much hope for the steak house, its marketing itself as top class food, which means, in liverpool at least, that it will probably be very over priced.

  3. david

    Raymond Blanc isn’t, in my opinion, overrated. I like Brasserie Blanc – at least I liked the one in MCR – I think that’s a different beast to the others. Blanc at least had the good breeding to turn down the chance to open his restaurant on the Leisure Terrace of Liverpool ONE. But we will see, we will see…

  4. david

    Well, rather that than Starbucks! And let’s face it, the New York breakfast bar kiosk that was there beforehand wasn’t exactly UNESCO standard!

  5. I can’t comment on Brasserie Blanc, or what it will be like when it opens, but its just not fair to say Raymond Blanc is overrated. I recently ate at Le Manoir, where he’s held two michelin stars for a very long time. The meal was exceptional; Raymond has certainly done a lot more to prove he’s a great chef than Jamie has.

  6. Like the fury and snark in this article Dave, good one! Really good piece.

    I feel I must admit to having a really enjoyable bolognese at Jamie’s when it first opened, but my partner had a carbonara which was decidedly ready-meal in quality.

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