Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Food TV

In my last post I spoke about US and UK television, and how they differ, there was also mention of trends that occur in popularity of genres. At the moment I feel that as a genre, food programs are the most popular in television, I certainly can’t get enough of food shows, for a long time now I have watched them more than anything else on TV. The three big shots in my eyes are all now on Channel 4, they are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Jamie Oliver, and Gordon Ramsay. All three are talented chefs each with a unique style.

Hugh loves country lifestyle; he is renowned for having worked in the famous “River CafĂ©” in France, and also for having eaten human placenta on his old show “TV Dinners”, which caused much controversy in the media and the public eye. In 1997 he moved from the city to a cottage in Dorset to pursue the quiet life of a smallholder. He named his cottage “River Cottage” and since then his smallholding has expanded in to a profitable enterprise, producing excellent food and opening a series of restaurants. He has recently been in the news over his encouraging supermarkets to raise the standard of the chicken they sell, he believes strongly in free-range, and has gone so far as to become a Tesco shareholder so he can have his say about how the company is run.

Jamie started on TV in 1998 with his first series, “The Naked Chef”, followed in 1999 by his second series “Return of the Naked Chef. His cheeky Essex boy image and his laid back view on home cooking made him stand out. However this image made him come under fire from his peers in the TV-chef community. Many found him annoying and used to sneer at his name. None-the-less he became more and more popular. In 2005 he received the Beacon Fellowship prize for helping under privileged young people, by training them and giving them jobs in his new London restaurant, “Fifteen”, so-called because of the fifteen young people hired to work there. The events that transpired in the creation of this restaurant and training of the chefs, was documented in his series, “Jamie’s Kitchen”. After this he campaigned to give children in schools better meals. As a new father he was motivated by the thought of what his children would be eating at school. He met with politicians and worked in school canteens and with dinner-ladies to produce new healthy cheap menus. This campaign was documented in the series “Jamie’s School Dinners”. More recently he has reduced his political and social work, and has focussed on himself trying to find better food, and now growing his own on his estate in Essex.

Gordon Ramsay is probably most renowned for using the “F-Word” Liberally, Excessively and to the point you barely notice it anymore. His series “The F-Word” is a big hit, featuring a multitude of celebrity guests every week, both in the restaurant and working in the kitchen. He also has regular features from Tom Parker-Bowles experiencing extreme foods, and Janet Street-Porter with her campaigns to get people to eat real food and high quality food such as Veal and Tripe. Every series he raises a different meat or product in his back garden with advice from Hugh. He has extraordinary prowess as a restaurant owner, this led him to produce a series called “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” in which he advised on failing restaurants on how to bounce back.

These summaries are but a fraction of these people’s careers, you may be able to tell from length that I am a big fan of Jamie Oliver, though I like Hugh a lot as well. On top of these outstanding careers Jamie Oliver has received an MBE in the Queens Birthday Honours List, and Ramsay has been appointed an OBE “for services to the hospitality industry”. In summary Food shows are big, and why shouldn’t they be, food is very important, especially now in the midst of rising food prices and shortages. There may be people, who think these aren’t the biggest, but I’ve put forth my argument, I welcome comments on which you think are the biggest and why, and on anything else.

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