Should Chefs Do Reality TV? A Discussion.

[I just chatted online with my friend Diana, who works in reality TV, about that very subject. Here it is, unedited (reality-style), for your consumption.]

AdamR218: i’m about to do a post about reality tv on my blog

Diana: ooh

AdamR218: i’m going to tell my readers never do it

AdamR218: that you always end up looking bad

Diana: haha

AdamR218: and even if oyu win

you won’t be that successful

Diana: i’m not sure that’s always true

tho i agree it’s not worth it

look at Harold of Top Chef

for instance

AdamR218: but isn’t he the ONLY example

Diana: or a lot of the peeps from Project Runway

they may not be world famous but it def. helped their careers

gets them agents

AdamR218: I dunno

the way i see it is

when you go on a reality show

you are ceding your identity and your image to a bunch of editors and producers

and no matter what you do afterwards, you will always be that person tehy create

for better or for worse

Diana: i don’tthink it’s worth the excellent chance of humiliating yourself

i agree its not a good idea

its a huge risk that i think pays off for some people

Elizabeth Hasselback

AdamR218: haha

does she prove my point or your point???

Diana: both?

AdamR218: i’d say the greatest lesson i’ve learned working at food network

is the more you create your own brand on your own

the further you will go

Diana: of course

AdamR218: like alton brown [who wrote, directed and produced good eats before selling it as a package to food network]

and going on a reality show is almost like giving up

letting other people do the branding for you

and you will be branded no matter what, for better or worse

Diana: i agree that it’s the easy way to grab fame, but often shortsighted

a lot of the Bravo reality contestants go on to get corporate jobs at labels

AdamR218: right but i’m focusing on food tv

Diana: oh ok

AdamR218: and i think one of the mistakes people make going on reality shows that are food related

is they forget that people want to eat food cooked by someone they like

and if you are painted as unlikable

i really do think it can hurt your career

Diana: well also it’s a lot easier to be misrepresented

because the audience can’t taste the food

and the judges can go on and on about how disgusting it was


tho people also like their food cooked by celebrities

even those with mediocre talents, like Paula Deen

look at Al Yegenah, the Soup Nazi

i think people actually like jerky chefs

AdamR18: that’s true

Diana: Gordon Ramsey, Anthony Bourdain, etc

they expect it

i think having celebrity helps in an extrememly competitive field

AdamR218: ya i think that’s one place where i differ with the american public

watching “hell’s kitchen” makes me NEVER want to eat gordon ramsay’s food

cause i can’t stand him

though he’s a successful restauranteur

Diana: well if most people felt the way you did it WOULD be a bad idea to go on reality tv and be a jerk

but they don’t

AdamR218: so i guess it’s worse to go on a reality cooking show

and have your food labelled disgusting

than to be labelled a jerk

Diana: tho in a New Yorker profile i read about Gordon Ramsey they talked about how being on Hell’s Kitchen distracted people from his food

the critics expected his food to be really bold and loud, because his personality is that way, and when his food was more understated they thought it was boring

yeah i think it’s ok to be labeled a jerk, bad to be labelled a bad cook

AdamR218: but it’s important to note, i think

that ramsay crafted his persona

in some way

before producers got hold of him

Diana: right

AdamR218: and i think that’s really what i’m saying

that if you set out to be a big star

either as a chef or on-air as a celebrity chef

you’d do better to craft your own image

than to let reality executives do it

Diana: sure

AdamR218: also, i think it cheapens you

to have shots of yourself

waking up in the morning in your boxers

Diana: haha

AdamR218: and putting deodorant on underneath your wifebeater

as they did with dale on top chef

like that somehow affects how i perceive him

there’s no mystery

he’s just a guy

Diana: right

AdamR218: alton brown, on the other hand

is still something of an enigma

and i say that having met him twice

Diana: but there aren’t a ton of ways for food people to achieve exposure

esp. since Food Network doesn’t put chefs on anymore

and exposure is what liberates chefs from being underpaid, unknown drones

AdamR218: so ultimately

if you are a chef

who has some charisma

but not enough to make a name for yourself on your own

reality tv is a good idea

because it’s the best way for you to get exposure

Diana: probably

i mean it’s possible that Harold Dieterle would have gotten his own restaurant without Top Chef

but unlikely

and i think the big names that appear on the show, and watch it, gives it credibility

and being a celebrity in the world you work in will always help you edge other people out for jobs

AdamR218: ya, and come ot think of it

i bet it even helps those who already have a name for themselves

like tom colicchio

and eric ripert

just gives them more exposure

though, again, it commercializes them in a way

that other chefs might not be comfortable with

Diana: i don’t think it’s looked down upon to get exposure as a chef anymore, since the biggest, most respected people do it

it’s not just Emeril and Bobby Flay anymore

my boyfriend took me to Craft for my birthday, not any of the other big restaurants in NY, cuz he knew tom colicchio’s name

ok i gotta work now

AdamR218: ok thanks for chatting

14 thoughts on “Should Chefs Do Reality TV? A Discussion.”

  1. You should check out the British version of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. I used to think he was a total prick but this show paints a much more flattering portrait of him while not denying him his ass-holishness.

  2. I agree with the above commenters, his BBC show is great and made me like him.

    Also, I think Diana is right that some people might have to use reality TV to get the exposure. Sure, people who have already made it (i.e. you) can say, do it my way, it’s better (and I agree it is), but you don’t see the hundreds or thousands who have tried it your way and failed.

  3. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the BBC Kitchen Nightmares – Gordon really really gets how to motivate people plus he can be so charming in the end – it didn’t work in the USA – the producers created a dumbed down version of the British show….too, bad.

    I am not a fan of Hell’s Kitchen – can’t watch it – again – the producing is just horrid – but the BBC’s F-Word! Again – Love it – Love Ramsay – Love the concept and the food. I have bought 3 of Ramsay’s British Cookbooks because of Kitchen Nightmares – and the food is so fresh and simple to prepare – lots of veg and fish – or pork and veg – or lamb and veg – he makes the combinations work for the at home cook – no matter what skill level you have – so – maybe it’s “boring” compared to his personality – but it works in my kitchen – which counts for me.

  4. So – do you think you have been able to keep control over your personal brand while you do the FN Dish?

    You don’t think FN has influenced your blog now – and created a slightly different AG – but worth it for the price of your increased exposure to the food world?

    Being “produced” -FN dish or Reality TV – aren’t you giving up something of your own brand to the powers that be? But it’s working for you because it goes with your own vision of branding your AG.

    Some chefs might not be comfortable with the commercialization of their brand – outside of their own control – but these are all risks that some people want to take – some chefs, some wannabes, some bloggers…..

  5. Reality TV is a cheap way for networks to fill air time and cashes in in on the marketing trend for ‘Voyeurgasm’, making the media network owners nice big profits.

    Voyeurism’s a reflection of the fact that people no longer go out and live interesting lives themselves. Instead they are glued to the TV surrounded by consumer durables that they are up to their necks in debt for, watching other people making idiots of themselves.

    Does being on a Reality Show give Gordon Ramsay any dignity? Does he come across as having integrity – or of being a sellout in the pursuit of wealth? I think the latter.

    I prefer to dine in places where the chef is committed to day to day operations on a small scale, producing exemplary food featuring local produce. I’m not a mass market type, I travel, read, learn and expose myself to new experiences which makes watching Reality TV seem hollow and a total waste of time.

    As they say, ‘Go out and live people’. And if you have to live vicariously through someone else, read a few blogs. That way you’ll get an understanding of what is going through the minds of the writer, unfettered by editing and money spinning corporate production mandatories.

  6. RollingStone – I disagree that bloggers are unfettered – they make their cash via adverts and they pander as much (if not more) as any other public seeking entity.

  7. By their software you shall not no them.

    A good argument can be made, and often has, that a professional writer who gets paid to write isn’t a blogger just because his or her stories end up being posted using blogging software.

    Someone running a little blog wih a stack of Google ads almost certainly isn’t making nearly enough money from those ads to have an interest in spinning things to boost revenue.

  8. Ramsey had another show on the BBC – sort of a variety show. Took place in a faux restaurant filled with celebrities. Show had some fixed bits. He had two teams compete in the kitchen (one pair was Oxford/Cambridge). Two filmed interludes. One where Ramsey either addressed where food came from(he raised turkeys at home for the faux restaurant – film covered all the way to the butchering) or getting brit woman back in the kitchen by teaching them how to cook. Second film was usually by a brit food critic. Show ended by Ramsey having a desert cookoff with a celebrity judged by a table of diners. He didnt always win.

    I watch Hells Kitchen. What isnt covered in the show is his teaching. These people obviously couldnt cook when they started and just as obviously have improved (excepting the kitchen trauma). The menu is simplistic and I cant believe they will ever run a restaurant but I think Ramsey does a good job teaching. Too bad it doesnt make it to the screen.

  9. I sixth (seventh?) the opinion on Ramsay’s BBC show. He actually helps get the restaurants back on there feet, he teaches them how to make good food out of fresh ingredients. Theres something to be said for that. I like him.

  10. Tillie McCarty

    Reality tv is so depressing since it plays on the pittiful and the emotions of those who have emotion. I am very dissappointed with “The Next FN Star”.

    Trailers are showing the hateful side of Chefs, the weak side of humans who are in competition, and the fake of reality tv.

    Please take the drama out of the show so I can enjoy watching it.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top