Chefs are hot, even out of the kitchen
July 19, 1999
From Showbiz Correspondent Laurin Sydney(CNN) -- They're the cream of a fresh crop of celebrity chefs, cooking up entertainment for television viewers at home. But don't ask them where's the beef.
These culinary luminaries insist they're not just TV personalities. First and foremost, they say, they're chefs.
"My main important thing," says Mario Batali, "is that my real gig. My job is that of a cook, a chef. I like to get in and work with the food and hang out with the customers. The celebrity stuff is kind of icing on the cake."
Fans of Batali's cooking have a choice: They can dine at his New York hot spots -- Pò and Babbo -- or they can manufacture their own taste of his cooking while watching the Food Network's "Molto Mario."
Batali thinks food fans tune in to his show because they like to watch someone else do the work.
"I think it's relaxing," he says. "I think one of the things that a lot of people do, is they enjoy watching someone else work."
When Bobby Flay and co-host Jacqui Malouf aren't doing his show, "Hot off the Grill," he's hot in the kitchen of his New York eateries Bolo and Mesa Grill.
"We're personalities in our own restaurants," Flay says, "and this is who we are, it's what we want to do. It's the thing we're most passionate about. In my case, it's how I make my true living."
Karen Lurie is carving out her own niche in the food world by writing about celebrity cooks in her book "TV Chefs : The Dish on the Stars of Your Favorite Cooking Shows," just out in paperback from Renaissance Books.
"I think cooking is something that we all kind of know about and relate to even if we don't do it or can't do it," Lurie says. "Just like tuning in to a baseball game, we kind of know the rules but we can't play."
As for the attraction of chefs on TV, Lurie thinks viewers have an appetite for the personalities as well their entrées. She cites as an example a cooking show called "Two Fat Ladies," which stars ... two fat ladies.
The show's eponymous chefs are Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright. Together they encourage their viewers to try some of the most determinedly British cooking they can find on their travels in the United Kingdom -- while fearlessly tossing in French embellishments. Just this week, for example, they offered a picnic menu of crème vichyssoise glacée, Welsh lamb pie, some pork and a tartine from Provence.
"Sometimes it's all about the host," Lurie says.
"Sometimes it's all about the food and then there's a mix. But with the 'Fat Ladies,' they're unapologetic. People like that. They're honest. They'll say, 'Yes, we're fat, yes, we eat lard -- and we have low cholesterol."
However their high-profile TV work is handled, all these celebrity chefs also have another special ingredient -- accessibility.
For example, you can see Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network, starring on "Emeril Live!" But you can also eat at his restaurant.
"If you want to go see Emeril," Flay says, "you go to his restaurant and he's going to be standing there in his big hat and cooking -- which is very unusual, to be able to find a celebrity."
It blends, it slices, it strips
Food Network - Two Fat Ladies Recipes
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