Photo by Lara Kastner
You have requested the night off work, lined up a babysitter, thrown down the money to secure the good seats. You have waited a couple months for this night and the performance about to go on. You are amped up. The curtain pulls back and the stage explodes. The first lyrics penetrate the stadium.
But wait...that's not Bono? Huh...well he sounds good, maybe even better. After all, this guy has something to prove. But you were expecting the man behind the seminal rock band U2. The genius, the icon, the celebrity.
Disappointed? Of course you are.
Is it the same when the chef is not in the kitchen the night you dine?
From my perspective the transition from hired hand to famous face really started happening in the 1990's with Wolfgang and Emeril Lagasse breaking onto the TV scene. Shortly thereafter the mass penetration of the TVFN and its new crop of stars (Bobby Flay, the various Iron chefs, and Mario Batali) into pop culture spawned a fan base that looked at all types of food media.
Food blogs became popular, ranging from the detailed photo-documentation of meals to gossipy items on chefs including where they were spotted eating on a given night and what actresses they were dating. Food memoirs, chef autobiographies, and back-of-the-house biographies became popular, most notably the good cop/bad cop team of Michael Ruhlman (who wrote the "...of a chef" series of books that romanticized the passion, vision, creativity, and honest hard work of being a chef) and Anthony Bourdain, who sensationalized the rock-star-out-of-control chef image and showed the restaurant industry's underbelly. Both sides proved to be very appealing to foodies, helping further establish the chefs' aura as both idealistic artists and reckless bad boys.