Before the 1990’s, it was rare to watch someone cook on television. You would see the occasional cooking segment on a morning news program. You might catch a Julia Child or Jacques Pepin cooking show on PBS. But the options were limited, until 1993. That was the year the Food Network launched, turning cooking into a new form of entertainment and turning cooks into celebrity chefs.
The First Celebrity Chef
Frenchman Marie-Antoine Careme is widely considered the world’s first celebrity chef. Careme came from poverty and worked his way through Parisian bakeries, creating edible architectural marvels that caught the eye of 18th century nobility. He made meals for Napoleon, English princes and Russian Tsars. Between grand meals for royals, he created cookbooks and the basis for what would become gastronomy and haute cuisine. He also made sure those cookbooks contained his portrait so everyone would know what he looked like.
Two hundred years later, the first American chef to have a cooking television show was none other than James Beard. The chef best known for the culinary award named in his honor hosted I Love to Eat, the first American cooking show in the 1940s.
The Food Network Effect
There was a smattering of short-lived cooking programs in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, but when the Food Network launched in 1993, it turned chefs into overnight stars. By 1996, chefs Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and Bobby Flay were network regulars and household names. In 2001, Rachael Ray joined the network with 30 Minute Meals. She later signed a contract with ABC for her own national morning show in 2006.
Food Network chefs became celebrities, and with that fame came endorsement deals. Guy Fieri (T.G.I. Fridays), Alton Brown (Welch’s) and Tyler Florence (Applebee’s) are among the Food Network personalities who have cashed in on their newfound notoriety with corporate sponsorships.
Celebrity Chefs Draw a Crowd
The 8th annual Greenwich Wine + Food Festival (GWFF) was held September 21-22, 2018. Country music star Tim McGraw drew a huge crowd to close out the weekend. But an American food festival doesn’t seem complete without the appearance of celebrity chefs. GWFF 2018 featured noted ones such as Daniel Boulud, Alex Guarnaschelli, Scott Conant and Adam Richman.
Adam Richman emcee’d the annual Burger Battle on the Bud & Burgers stage. Budweiser was an event sponsor. What better publicity for the “King of Beers” than Daniel Boulud, one of the greatest chefs in the world, washing down a burger with an ice cold Bud?