Updated: Aug 23
Now is the moment for anyone who wants to be a celebrity to go for it, even chefs. Celebrity chefs are by no means a new phenomenon but thanks to decades of food tv, digital tools and apps, the definition has definitely expanded.
On the web and network tv, in documentaries, participating and judging challenges, and even attending fashion events, the term celebrity is generally applied to a chef who has gained notoriety by the mass media outside the food and beverage industry. It makes some chefs blush and makes others want to throw your ass out. But let’s be real: the world is changing, even in Chef-land.
Working in the kitchen has been associated with a passion for service, humility, teamwork, and earned respect.
By contrast to celebrity chef life, many working chefs are relegated to basements without windows, extreme temperatures, grueling hours, flaring tempers, and low pay, a culinary career has never been for the faint of heart or anyone looking for shortcuts.
Chefs on and off-screen will tell you that “TV cheffing” is nothing like real life. The demands and even the purpose of the job are completely different and a chef may achieve their celebrity status in a variety of ways.
Some celebrity chefs have put in the time and served their gavetta. They’re famous simply because they are true masters of their craft and also their public image.
Many others however are famous less for their culinary prowess but more for their keen business sense or even ninja-level SEO skills.
Where culinary talent is less a prerequisite and more of an edge is where the line becomes blurry between what is entertainment and what is education.
Rising inflation, dropping profits, shrinking margins, stiff competition, unreliable staff, and clashing expectations have made choosing a career in the kitchen a risky endeavor, regardless of passion. This had led to a rise in aspiring talent looking to have a culinary career by concentrating less on cooking and more on self-promotion. Unfortunately, this has done less to help the culinary industry and more to dilute it. A saturation of “culinary talent” both internationally often makes it difficult for the general public to distinguish between a seasoned chef and a well-marketed cook until a recipe is attempted that doesn't seem to work out.
On the upside, the opportunities to gain notoriety and even a decent paycheck are now endless with platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram. With a a good digital marketing strategy and a little bit of imagination anything is now possible, even being a chef.
The future of the culinary industry will rely on the integration of maintaining core values and developing tools that allow chefs and culinary talent to distinguish themselves and their audience clearly. Influence is important but success in the culinary industry is the same as everywhere else: authenticity and self-awareness always wins.