A celebrity chef has actually been defined by some as a kitchen personality who has gone on to become famous among considerably wide audiences. The superstar status could be conferred due to a variety of reasons–either through achievements in operating a highly successful restaurant; authoring best selling cookbooks; endorsing popular food and cooking equipment; and hosting top rating cooking shows. It also helps that one looks really handsome or beautiful.
Television has become an indispensable medium for people, including chefs to reach millions of people through syndicated programs. Given this point of view, perhaps the original culinary celebrities would be Julia Child, American author and host of over 30 books and TV shows, and Fanny Craddock, English restaurant critic, television host and writer. Both have been widely followed by their supporters over decades and after their deaths are still highly regarded for their accomplishments and contributions.
Nowadays, homemakers tune in to the cooking shows of Bobby Flay, Ming Tsai, Giada De Laurentiis and Mario Batali for guidance, recipes and tips in preparing gourmet dishes at home.
From the point of view of gourmets, restaurateurs, critics and fellow chefs, celebrity status could be achieved from a chef’s excellent signature cuisine and successful restaurant operations recognized by respectable award giving bodies such as the Zagat Guide and Michelin Red Guide, considered by many as the pinnacle of culinary recognition. This renown though less in “scope” is very significant for a chef whose culinary prowess is given credence.
Chefs can capitalize on their popularity by successfully endorsing pretty much anything from cookware to exercise equipment peddled on home TV shopping networks to their own line of merchandize and cookbooks sold in their restaurants or even shopping malls. Top status can be given to those who cause the sales of a product to skyrocket after they endorse it. Nigella Lawson caused a dramatic increase in sales of goose fat after she featured as an important ingredient on her cooking show.
Lastly, a chef can gain much recognition if they become the trusted food confidante of a Hollywood celebrity. Oprah’s personal chef, Rachael Ray was often guested on the worldwide syndicated talk show before being given her own lifestyle-cooking program. Others like Jamie Oliver even gain more popularity with their personal advocacy. He launched a campaign on his TV to lobby for better food served in schoolchildren. This is a notable way of using one’s status to effect a positive change in the community. In Oliver’s case, the campaign resulted in a change in food standards in the United Kingdom.