Bitten by the glamour bug

Reality strikes

Bitten by the glamour bug

There are a countless number of cookery shows on television. When a chef wants to carve out a space for themselves in the culinary field, they need only feature in one such show and they are set. It has almost become a rite of passage for them to have their own show. Whether it’s ‘Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’, ‘Jamie at Home’ or ‘Nigella Kitchen’, cooking has gone from being a necessity to a form of entertainment that is lapped up by all.

In these shows, chefs (or masterchefs, as they are titled) are seen effortlessly whipping up meals and singing to tunes as they cook, all without breaking a sweat. It makes the culinary arts seem as easy as waving a wand. But this is as mythical as the Lochness Monster.

Georgia Barnes, a contestant in the latest season of ‘MasterChef Australia’, which will be aired on Star World starting September 3, says that although she loved the time spent on the show, it doesn’t aptly represent a chef’s life. “‘MasterChef’ is a bit unrealistic because of the time pressure. Everything we cook is achievable if we have the time; because there is limited time, it becomes harder. But this helps us learn things quickly.”

Calling the show “the best thing I’ve ever done”, she adds, “Shows like ‘MasterChef’ help people see cooking as an exciting thing. They help people get back into the kitchen. Although I don’t want to be a chef, I love cooking and I have done it my whole life.

I am a huge fan of ‘MasterChef.’ So when I reached a certain point in life, I realised that I’m not getting any younger and decided to give it a try.” After years of watching the show (and participating in it), Georgia has now decided to open her own baking school to teach people the art. “I just want to share my love for cooking,” she says.

Manu Nair, Corporate Chef for ‘Bonsouth’, ‘Southindies’ and ‘Upsouth’, thinks that such shows glamourise the life of a chef. “One can see the difference in the culinary world compared to the last five years. These shows try to do something out-of-the-box and the chefs stand out for certain qualities that the audience might find appealing. Take for example Gordon Ramsay; although he is known for his cranky and rude behaviour on his shows, he is nothing like that in real life. But now, people take chefs more seriously.”

Pointing out that the cookery shows these days cater to a person’s sense of voyeurism and curiosity rather than their interest in food, he adds, “Earlier, a chef would come on screen, and in simple language, explain the dish and recipe to the viewers. Now, they have to have a different personality and must be out-going. These days, no one watches the shows for the food.”

In reality, the life of a chef is anything but glamourous. Chef Rajendra, Executive Chef of ‘100 Ft Restaurant’, says that a kitchen is kept warm (bordering hot) and the chefs end up getting sweaty quickly. “Also, we have long work hours. We work at least 12 hours a day, and weekends are worse,” he says. Manu adds, “Most of the chefs are simple and calm. And they don’t have the time to sing or hum songs when working.”

When Ajay Alur realised what a novelty cooking has become, he started ‘Chef Happy’, which allows diners to replicate dishes and challenges from ‘MasterChef’. There is a work space and customers can plate the dishes as they wish. Although he thinks that the profession has been glamourised, he says, “There are pros and cons to everything. A lot of people aspire to be chefs after watching these shows, and our space gives people that little push. There are people who have no background in cooking and want to become chefs.”

While people are taking cooking more seriously now, if not given the right advice, they could get stuck in a jam.

    Ajay says that he knows many restaurants that are surviving only because of passion. “If the audience is not assessed properly, things could go wrong. A friend wanted to start a micro-brewery but when he found out what all is needed for the project, he was taken aback.”   

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