2007/06/18

Forbes Celebrity Chefs 2007: Food Network Heaven

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

headshots of the Forbes Celebrity Chefs 2007
What has changed in the eight years since the first Forbes' Celebrity Chefs list came out?

Super Chef knows how tough it is doing research on the wealthiest chefs -- having launched and written the Celebrity Chef section (1999-2001) and written the book, so to speak...

Well, the list is back up to five (5) chefs, for one thing. The five chefs on the first list in 1999 were:
Wolfgang Puck
Emeril Lagasse
Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Daniel Boulud
Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
Emeril was the only native son: the rest were foreign-born chefs.

This year's list has only one foreigner, the reliable master, Wolf: the rest are American, born and raised. Emeril, like Wolf, remains the only constant through the years.

This year does mark the first uniformity in the list ever: all five celebrities star on the TV Food Network. Come on! Count them off on one hand:
Rachael Ray
Emeril Lagasse
Wolfgang Puck
Paula Deen
Bobby Flay
And while two on the list are women this year, true, neither of them has attended culinary school -- more importantly, neither is a chef.

headshots of the Forbes Celebrity Chefs 2007
Forbes seems to have fallen prey to unresearched news gathering:
How can Forbes call all five of these people "chefs"???!!!
To understand, let's picture a current newsroom scene.

The editor for the publication's "Celebrity 100" issue this year screams out for some chefs, so the lucky journalist who gets the assignment (and who may know nothing about Food) makes the fastest, most obvious -- even local -- call he or she can: to the Food Network! Hey, that's the Rach and Emeril channel, right? Wouldn't the Food Network know which chefs should go on our list this year?

And, of course, the Food Network does know who "should" go on -- all their own "chefs"! So they send a list over: did Forbes ever notice that all five "chefs" on the Celebrity 100 list this year came from the same source?

Furthermore, is this the best list of chefs Forbes could muster?

To the reading-challenged, TV-raised reporter who assembled that list: ever hear of a little Food Network rival called Bravo TV and a hot little show called Top Chef? Ever see Tom Colicchio -- hey, third season only premiered last Wednesday night! What, is Tom not rich enough for Forbes?

Well, then, how about channel surfing a little more? Ever hear of Hell's Kitchen with that impeccably well spoken chef, Gordon Ramsay? Might have run across that on a little, niche channel -- called Fox TV!

How about just doing a simple, methodical job -- which should start by reading through past Celebrity 100 issues to review some more respectable, non-TV chefs like Charlie Palmer or Alaine Ducasse? Super Chef has been tracking their doings for years: nothing has brought those empires down! Or has Forbes decided entrepreneurship is no longer part of the Celebrity 100 equation? (But then how did they net the kind of income to get them on the list in the first place...?) When it comes to business savvy, Charlie Palmer has a far more interesting story than someone who managed to land a big backer like Oprah...

The introduction to this year's Celebrity Chefs section may prove just how rarely reporters (and their editors) ever read their own copy these days:
The recipe for stardom calls for more than just culinary expertise. These chefs parlayed their celebrity into full-fledged media empires.
Did anyone actually read this before publication? "Culinary expertise"? "Chefs"? Do those qualifications match Rach and Paula?

Let's hope next year's list is a bit more balanced, insightful, and professional.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Food Network: must feel like heaven on this year's Celebrity 100 list.

Previous articles:
Forbes Tastemakers 2
Are British Super Chefs Richer
Forbes Celebrity 100 Chefs 2006: Cute?
Juliette Rossant: Forbes Tastemakers
Celebrity Chefs from 2005 Forbes Celebrity Chef 100
Latest Forbes Celebrity Chef Column


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3 Comments:

Blogger Chef Erik said...

I agree with you all the way. I'm always explaining the difference of a chef and a cook. I just started my blog and hope to be as super as you one day.

12:00 PM, June 19, 2007  
Anonymous ChefWife said...

I guess one of my biggest complaints would go along with this article. So tired of people assuming my husband idols people like Rachel Ray or Emeril Lagasse. Nor does my husband watch the Food Network religiously. (of course we love Unwrapped and a few others)It is so sad that the chefs from the list in 1999 are warranted in their fame yet the current list is almost shameful. Dare I say? It's too bad that Americans view these folks as a food idols, when in fact, they are just personable people with a face for tv.

1:48 PM, June 20, 2007  
Blogger Julie said...

A degree from a culinary school gives you the right to be called chef. But personally the best cooks in the world are great great grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers
and their daughters or sons. If the title chef means that you are a great cook, then I come from a family of chefs, myself included.

6:50 PM, June 24, 2007  

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