Written by By Debra Johnson, for CNN
Tauty, sleek, luscious — chef Alex Guarnaschelli likes to call her cuisine “an honest palette for love.” So, as she exudes as much élan as she can in recipes, she doesn’t mincing words about some of her competition’s steak knife practices.
In an interview, the star chef of Butter in New York spoke candidly about what she thinks of many of her celebrity chefs. Though she said she has “a lot of respect” for these celebrities, the pay-for-play business and stars’ dependence on the recipes to help fund their future endeavors are a cause of concern to her.
“The issue is whether a chef can keep a love of cooking when he has to support himself and become a megastar chef, and how much this comes from greed,” Guarnaschelli says.
The host of a new travel show in Canada, Guarnaschelli said she does not want to cast aspersions on celebrity chefs, but rather be honest about her feelings toward their business practices. “They are on a different level. They are earning money beyond what they ever did, but I don’t love some of them.”
A rare man from Italy
Guarnaschelli was referring to celebrity chefs Ferran Adria, Mario Batali, Mario Batali, and Lidia Bastianich — whose multigenerational brand of cuisine still shines at their very upscale restaurants, such as Spiaggia , Babbo , and Del Posto . Adria, for example, whose cooking for Real Madrid is a combination of his childhood memories, The Times Picnic Cookbook, and his “creole cooking of central Italy.”
“It’s part of my work as a cook to integrate any cuisine of the world and to express it,” Adria says, adding that creating one’s own fusion of cuisines into an eclectic concept is his “dream come true”.
For Guarnaschelli, Adria comes across as someone who is “involved more than he should be” and believes chefs should not be categorized with celebrities. “It should be chefs who are chefs.”
The dark side of celebrity
While some countries in the world value personal and cultural attributes that perhaps aren’t as easily ascribed to a celebrity chef, others don’t quite have the same feeling. Yvonne D’Arpajou, the founder of Netflix Italy, says Italy is obsessed with fame, but in a traditionally humble country.
She says that Italian people don’t hold it as valuable as in the West, “and Italy is very competitive.”
“Italian people do not appreciate the one-upmanship, because they don’t think anyone is really better than another,” D’Arpajou said. “So even if you have had greater training, your delivery still makes a difference.”
In D’Arpajou’s view, Carlo Cracco is considered the top chef in Italy, but that perception is not because he is a famous chef; it is because of his personal, peaceful and humble style.
According to D’Arpajou, when someone is “teaming up” to create a dish or a menu, people gravitate toward the chef in that moment.
Thigh-high to feed everyone
As for the other celebrity chefs, D’Arpajou said it is partly due to their passion and dedication to cuisine that makes them successful. The rest is a product of their careers, but they have kept true to the recipes. “It has never been about making money,” she said.
Adria has definitely proved himself a successful chef, but does his cuisine influence others in his culture, Guarnaschelli asks. “I think the Europeans are just more comfortable with his style than the Americans.
“I’m not saying he is doing anything wrong; I’m just saying he has never really pushed himself to do something inauthentic.”
So does the variety of food among celebrities have the potential to distract a person from the singular purpose of cooking or do they add to the enjoyment of the experience?