Monday, January 23, 2012

Masterchef & The Myth Of The Celebrity Chef

(Pic: Celeb Dirty Laundry)

If you want to see how ridiculous the whole celebrity chef phenomenon has become, then look at the mansion Gordon Ramsay has just picked up the keys to in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.

Ramsay has suffered a year of woes in the UK, was forced to close several restaurants in his crumbling empire, and proved that he is one of the world’s worst actors when he appeared in a dreadful flop about a chef who moves to the country and finds love.

But his TV career in the States has gone from strength to strength, with Masterchef returning for a third series and a new show Hotel Hell launching on Fox in March.

And the celebrity chef clearly plans to spend a lot more time there after forking out a staggering £4.3m for the five-bedroom family home, near his friends David and Victoria Beckham.

Four million big ones! It just goes to show the ludicrous gulf between a celebrity chef and someone who actually cooks for a living.

I’ve written a lot about the number of young cooks going into the trade because they can’t be footballers or rock stars, and they think cheffing is the next best thing to be famous in.

A whole generation of ultimately-disappointed hopefuls convinced you can just learn the trade and be the next Ramsay or Jamie Oliver. Programmes like Masterchef do nothing to dispel the myth.

As I wrote in my book...

The whole show was a farce. The prize was a job as a trainee chef at a top London restaurant. They didn’t say how much you’d get, or what the hours were, or what to do when you’re thrown out on the street because you can’t pay the rent.

“Maybe the prize didn’t exist at all. I mean, who the hell would take them up on it? The whole thing was about getting on the telly, and society’s mushrooming obsession with fame. I couldn’t see any of the contestants swapping their cushy jobs for 16 hours a day of back-breaking toil on a wage just enough to keep them alive. Not if there weren’t any cameras about anyway

Forget Beverly Hills, it’s more likely to be Butlin’s. If you want the reality, then look at the pay packet of a chef in the UK. A lowly commis chef gets about £13,000, whereas an experienced sous chef trousers as much as £28,000 a year - about the average salary in the trade.

It would take the average chef exactly 204 years to save up enough cash to buy Ramsay’s LA mansion - and that’s assuming he never went out, lived on bread and water, and slept in a cardboard box.

Just remember next time you’re watching Masterchef, cooking doesn’t get tougher than this...

My new book on training to be a chef, including stints at Rick Stein's and the Fat Duck, is available on Amazon CLICK HERE

"Reading this book is a serious test for any food writer. Not only has Alex Watts done what all of us say we would like to do, tested his mettle in a professional kitchen, he also writes about his experiences so well that you spend as much time being jealous of his writing skills as you do of his experiences. It's an annoyingly enjoyable read." - Simon Majumdar


Brucey1 said...

Good post, interested to read the book.

RestaurantLife said...

Erm tall poppy syndrome much?