An increasing amount of food products are endorsed by one ‘celebrity’ or another. Gary Lineker’s famous Walkers crisps adverts, Karl Lagerfeld’s artsy Coca Cola bottles and Rhianna’s promotion of Vita Coco Tropical Juice are just a few of the recent campaigns headed by our favourite celebrities.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg. It is not just celebrities but also chefs that are endorsing supermarkets and food products. Phil Vickery, who once held a Michelin star at the Castle Hotel went on to become the face of Aldi. Marco Pierre White, the youngest chef to receive three Michelin stars became the face of Knorr Stock Cubes and Bernard Matthews’ turkeys. Not forgetting family favourite Jamie Oliver, who was the face of Sainbury’s supermarkets for several years.
Although these figures are highly regarded by the British population, is it wrong for us to question whether Vickery has ever set foot in Aldi, or if White has ever used stock cubes to gain his hallowed Michelin stars? And Jamie Oliver? Well, his career has never spanned further than working as a pastry or sous chef…
Not all ‘celebrity’ chefs have followed this lead. Delia Smith, who has written recipes for over 40 years, voiced her opinion on these ‘sell outs’; claiming they may influence the public’s choice of food. Perhaps as foodies we’re over thinking it, as it’s highly likely that the public don’t really care.
As it gets increasingly difficult to succeed in the culinary world, questions are raised as to whether such figures have the right to avoid the kitchen in order to gain widespread success. White once compared taking a job at Harveys to joining the SAS; with unthinkable hours, minimal pay and hierarchical abuse in the kitchens, is it any wonder these chefs do what they can to get out of the kitchen?
Many chefs now avoid putting their whites on and instead put their name on numerous restaurants. Whether these chefs ever visit the buildings with their name above the door or help choose the menu is up for debate; it seems to be merely another way for well-known chefs to build up an empire and also make a small fortune.
Only recently, health inspectors forced a 24 hour closure of Jamie Oliver’s flagship butchers shop, located below the chef’s exclusive Barbecoa restaurant. In addition to findings of mould and mouse droppings on food, the safety of the restaurant was deemed terrible. Although known for his strong views on healthy eating and revolutionising school dinners, Oliver appears to have a laissez-faire view on cleanliness.
A similar instance occured with Kitchen Nightmare’s chef Gordon Ramsay, who had a mercurial relationship with his restaurants; frequent closures and a recent loss of two Michelin stars from his flagship New York restaurant resulted in Ramsay breaking down in tears.
Celebrity chefs may benefit economically from these short-lived media campaigns but in years to come, will the public remember them for their talent or the fact that their face was on the packet of stock cubes?