At 80-years-old, Jacques Pépin—the French-born chef, author, and television host—is the godfather of the modern cooking show. In the late-1990s, Pépin was awarded a Daytime Emmy for Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, his PBS program with famed chef Julia Child, and over the years he’s served as a mentor to budding culinary TV stars like Anthony Bourdain.
So when Pépin, with his 60 years of experience in the kitchen, has something to say about food-media, we better all listen up. In an essay for the Daily Meal last week, the chef blasts the current state of cooking shows, criticizing “reality” TV for painting cooks as miscreants and outcasts.
"In the last few years, there have been a flurry of new TV cooking shows, so-called 'reality' shows, that portray the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light, and I believe it is a disservice to our trade and to young people who want to go into this business,” he writes. “The worst offenders insult and humiliate their crew, cursing and swearing, with every other word a bleeped expletive. The crew, often unkempt and untidy, look at the chef defiantly and seem to be terrorized and belligerent at the same time.”
Despite much of the folklore that exists around the kitchen (Bourdain, for his part, largely portrayed a chef’s life as a drug-fueled orgy in his book Kitchen Confidential), Pépin claims that award-winning restaurants like Per Se, Chez Panisse, and Alinea actually run like well-oiled machines.
And while Gordon Ramsay has made a career out of shouting at chefs on TV—raking in Beyoncé money in the process—Pépin believes that being angry and tense makes it impossible to properly enjoy food.
“In these reality shows, the confrontation and the bitter drama are not conducive to producing good food,” Pépin writes. “No one seems to agree on anything, and there are ongoing clashes between the employees, without much evidence of what makes a kitchen work.”
The chef goes on to call Ramsay’s show—the aptly titled Hell’s Kitchen—out by name, accusing the program of damaging cooks, as well as the industry as a whole.
“The cruel rivalry and conflict depicted in Hell’s Kitchen may be good for ratings, but it is unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade,” he writes. “In my opinion, nothing good enough to eat can be concocted under such conditions. I’m going back to my mother’s leek and potato soup and apple galette.”
[via Daily Meal]