Are Celebrity Chefs Responsible For Our Health?

“The people who invite us to wallow in food seldom remind us to beware” is how Frank Bruni begins his recent article on Paula Deen’s recent “coming out” about her diabetes (three years after the fact, but, hey, who’s counting?).

This has me pondering just how much responsibility they ought to shoulder regarding the healthy eating habits of their viewers in relation to the cooking they espouse. Do popular food personalities owe us a disclaimer? Should every TV chef meet certain healthy guidelines? If they share with us yummy, decadent recipes and we get fat or unhealthy, who’s fault is it? What responsibility to they have – if any – to our overall health? Are we able to make these decisions for ourselves?

Frank Bruni, who had previously defended her fat and sugar slingin’ ways switched his tone in his latest article. Anthony Bourdain got a lot of heat as well last year for some strong words regarding her unhealthy style of cooking. His point being that she was in the limelight and wildly popular and thus had a responsibility to uphold. Makes sense, yet no one has done more of a 180 on this subject than Bourdain himself, who has long been a stalwart cheering section for succulent, fatty fare…so who’s right? Now, don’t get me wrong, I was one of his biggest fans and in many ways still am…”the flavour’s in the fat”…those are some hard words to resist.

My thoughts go back to Julia Child who, in keeping with her classic French training, showed us more of an unabashed love of butter, bone marrow and heavy cream in her cooking than any chef on modern day television but no one seems to be making a stink about it. I don’t see any articles fussing about her cooking style even though her books and cooking shows are still some of the most popular in history.

Being a kitchen veteran, I will always have strong leanings toward butter, bacon fat and the like – hell, it’s delicious – but that doesn’t mean I eat it liberally every time I pull up a chair to the table. I adore fresh and pure fruits and vegetables every bit as much and everything in between. It’s ultimately about flavour, balance and the quality of what goes on the plate. As with most things, there is a time and place for everything. Sometimes you fry up the pork chops and sometimes you fix a salad. There is always an excuse for gooey chocolate cake but fresh, seasonal fruit can be every bit as enjoyable. It just depends. As adults, we have to make these choices everyday.

On one hand, I do believe most reasonably well-informed people are capable of making their own decisions about their diet and health. Valid information is thick on the ground and there is no shortage of ways to access it. I fear treating people as children who need to be coddled and told what or what not to do creates a more dependent public, not a more independently thinking one. If you don’t think what you see on the tube or in a cookbook is healthy, then you have the choice about how often you partake of it or whether to make it at all.

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

– Oscar Wilde

On the other hand, those in the limelight in this day and age have a much larger audience than their predecessors did. Fans of all ages depend on them to be honest and straightforward with what they know – and assume they do know. This country does have an inordinately high percentage of health issues linked to diet and becoming more aware of healthy choices is certainly a strong tool in helping us clear those arteries and live longer, better quality lives.

Where is the famous chef’s place in this? What do you think?

• • • • œ∑œ • • • •

…and I’ll take mine with a touch of levity…

!

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4 thoughts on “Are Celebrity Chefs Responsible For Our Health?

  1. This is a tough one! Chefs are no better than the food they produce, the food is what makes them famous…but then again many of them are not sharing their everyday meals with their audiences. How would that show off their fancy learned skills?

    It has to be a balancing act, between them and their audience. Fans should understand basic nutrition before making a recipe they see on TV and chefs should strive to inform their fans on the ingredients they use.

    I watch Paula Dean a lot, she’s the epitome of the American Southern lady, but I certainly don’t cook any of her recipes! Seriously, Krispy Kreme bread pudding?? Maybe a spoonfull once in a blue moon.Yikes! lol!

    ~Ruth

    • That’s a good point Ruth; by necessity often chefs wouldn’t share what they eat everyday, and those decadent or over-the-top examples are why so many do tune in and find inspiration for their own cooking. I, too, would like to see a balance reached where we can be healthy and have some fun too! And now…time for my yearly Krispy Kreme donut ;-)) Thanks for weighing in!

  2. I think people have to be responsible for their own food and eating choices. What’s missing is clear information on food’s impact on our health that allows people to take that responsibility and make the choices that are best for them. Information on food and health is ever-changing, subject to fads and often in error. Our society does not generally support healthy eating. From our childhoods are we taught to eat well and healthy? No! I do not see it as the responsibility of celebrity chefs to assure our good eating habits. I agree we can enjoy many foods – we have to find what’s right for us. Many other cultures support healthy and enjoyable eating. Ours in the US can too.
    Ann

    • I agree Ann, with the glut of information out there it is difficult to know what is truly valid and what is fleeting. I am hopeful that as we see more discussions about better eating, nutrition and the like, that we are seeing a groundswell – albeit a slow one – where gradually the collective ideas are changing and more and more we will opt for more healthy choices as a country. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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