Celebrity Chef’s Are On The Rise
Perhaps it's because the stars who frequent Hollywood, the pop charts, and the gridiron these days are the moral equivalent of a garbage dumpster. Or, maybe it's the rise and popularity of food TV and cookbooks. One thing is for sure - as a society - we have elevated the people who have made celebrity out of their food careers.
So - you watch their TV shows. You buy their cookbooks. You purchase their food products in the grocery store. You might event flock to their signature restaurant for a meal. But, is that celebrity chef actually involved in the daily food prep of the products you're consuming?
That's the question that has haunted English, Vongerichten and the whole coterie of "emperor-chefs" since their ascension. Pretty much everyone knows that, if you go into one of the 23 restaurants owned by Gordon Ramsay or the 13 owned by Bobby Flay, your chances of eating a meal actually cooked by the chef are slim to none. So the question of what the job of "emperor-chef" entails -- beyond appearing on TV, writing memoirs and cashing a fat check at the end of every month -- is a salient one.
It's a question that has been known to raise tempers. Alan Richman, the restaurant critic for GQ, is an especially harsh critic of empire-building by talented chefs. "Cooking is one of the most individual enterprises in the world," he told the Huffington Post. "There's nothing that lends itself less well to franchising than cooking."
Due to time constraints, their involvement is often just a high-pressure trainng session.
Chefs at new restaurants also rotate through the Manhattan restaurants in advance of opening, then train their own underlings in the weeks before a location's official debut. The training culminates in a series of high-pressure "staff-on-staff" dinners.
"Half of the staff cooks for and serves to the other half," Jean-Georges explained. "We treat them like customers, then they give feedback."
The team uses feedback from the staff-on-staff dinners to fine-tune the restaurant in advance of the friends and family opening, a series of dinners in the five days before the restaurant opens to the public. According to Vongerichten, the whole process primes the restaurants for early success.