Emeril Lagasse’s “Emeril Live” show was recently cancelled by the Food Network, after ten years on the air. As required by law, I must point out that this kicks Emeril down a notch.
Celebrity chefs are nothing new; the history of television is riddled with cheap to produce, moderately-rated programs they can shove in the mid-morning when only housewives and unemployed script writers are at home. While most of the early TV chefs were strictly local affairs, hiring the producer’s sister or the wife of the leading used auto sales owner in town, the national exposure was too tempting to leave even the kitchen out of mass media. Soon, networks and syndicates scours the kitchens of America looking for top expert chefs that didn’t look like they just stepped off the boat from the Island Of People Who Put Their Face In Meat Grinders.
Now, me, personally, I find very little use for television chefs for two distinct and unrelated reasons. Firstly, I do not have the cognitive abilities to 1) watch television and 2) do anything else at the same time, least of all prepare food. I would have to watch the program, write it down, then prepare it, and at that point, why not just buy a cookbook? Then again, I might miss Rachael Ray’s cleavage if I do that.
The second point is that I have a very dampened sense of taste, in the sense that pretty much all quality or gourmet food is lost on me. I just don’t have a taste for it, so any type of preparation beyond a certain time commitment is wasted effort. Now, there is the additional benefit of preparing meals for friends whose palates are not quite as dull, but that would make the rather radical assumption that I have friends who are willing to eat what I prepare. Or, friends.
Of course, there are plenty of chefs that have translated the fine art of cuisine into a lucrative television deal. They have had an impact on many households, from the majority of women who spend so much time and effort making unique and tasty dishes to the men who sit down and ask “What on earth is this? I thought you were making tacos tonight.”
Emeril Lagasse: The New-Orleans based chef (who isn’t, nowadays?) is known primarily for his laid-back and explosive demeanor while preparing dishes, including “Bam!” “Let’s kick it up a notch!” “Spice it up!” “Holy cats, look at me!” “Did you know I’m from Louisiana? I haven’t mentioned it for almost ten minutes!” and “I’m adding something hot to this dish to deaden all other flavors!”
Julia Child: Child is known for French cuisine, introducing that style of cooking to a wide audience desperate for foreign recipes. I’m joking, of course. Anyone not five years old watching PBS already knew how to prepare French cuisine, primarily by telling their fellow traveler cook to prepare a French meal while they when to their monthly Communist Internationale meeting to introduce new ways to infiltrate fluoridation into the local water system and organize the local grocery baggers for the front line of the revolution. People loved watching Julia Child because she was about eighteen feet tall and talking like someone shoved rags in her mouth and shot her gums full of Novocain.
Martha Stewart: Ostensibly the chick that started the whole thing off, at least in the modern sense of having about eighteen different cable shows and access to insider information. Of course, Stewart was much more than food preparation and sexual efficiency, she broadened her base of skills beyond the kitchen, bringing an army of women who think they cook but in reality cannot into the fold of women who think they can make pleasant looking centerpieces from homemade glitter and pine cones but in reality cannot.
The Frugal Gourmet: A staple on public television and sexual harassment lawsuits, he became one of the few public figures who was just as much about culinary mastery as he was about presentation. Low-key and highly cultured, there wasn’t much he couldn’t present to you in a pleasing and simple manner, especially if you were a male between the ages of 22 and 30 and spent all day in the kitchen with him.
Rachael Ray: A younger, hotter, and presumably more fertile newcomer onto the scene, Ray has polarized much of the audience of cooking shows. Some see her as a fresh face that will increase interest in the culinary arts, while others see her as an eye candy tart finding ways to misdirect her deep-seated physiological trauma from being forced to spit on her husband’s feet.
Gordon Ramsey: This Scottish celebrity chef actively disdains the celebrity chef moniker as he stars in a series of celebrity chef television programs. He is probably most well-known for Hell’s Kitchen¸ a competitive cooking show where he combines the charm of Simon Cowell with the misogyny of Sean Connery.
Each chef has their own style and their own opinions concerning food preparation, but they all have a common bond: of wanting to commercialize mass-produced frozen dinners with their name on it at premium prices and call it haute cuisine.