Celebrity chefs are now as ubiquitous as rock stars. There was a time when a chef stayed in the kitchen, his silly looking toque on his head and his predictable food magically appearing on diners’ tables. I say “he” because female chefs were pretty much unheard of until the ‘70s, 1970’s that is- there would be women cooking but hardly any owning their establishments or at the top of the heap of a French trained brigade.
These days chefs have tv shows, restaurant empires, pr agencies handling their media, websites and lavish looking books. Some of them are even hunted by paparazzi and a few have forgotten all about what was at the core of what they used to do. Cooking. More than anything, a chef should be a mentor, not just someone barking orders. Thinking back to when cookbooks didn’t exist and cooks were solely employed by noble families or royal households and all knowledge was painstakingly transmitted from one individual to another, nothing much has changed. We might have expensive culinary schools but, at the end of the day, a chef’s vision is still painstakingly transmitted one individual to another. That sharing, that mentoring, that giving is what keeps a kitchen together and happy.
Today was just another day in the kitchen, albeit a makeshift one out in the open, cooking only 5 meals for someone who has tv shows, a restaurant empire, a pr agency handling his media, a website and lavish looking books. And paparazzi. Mr Ramsay waltzed in and didn’t waltz out the way we had expected. From the pedestal of his 3 Michelin stars, I am sure he knew what it would mean to us cooks to have our food questioned, tasted, how much his presence would have meant to us. So he came to the kitchen, and asked detailed questions about our food and stuck his fingers in everything we had prepared. He chatted, he charmed, he obliged us with photographs and was overall generous with his time and his presence. Which makes you think that, in real life, the barking act is balanced with mentoring, a sharing of his knowledge and a healthy sense of humour.
My fellow cooks teased me that I was blushing while talking to him. Maybe. I would like to think that after years spent pandering to rock stars and rap stars and crooners of all sorts, I am not so jaded to be genuinely touched by some other famous person who had the class to be generously unexpected.