You can’t help turning on the TV today without finding someone to cook at you. As eating has suddenly become cool, pop culture has been pumped full of people who are making a name for themselves through food and drink. Fame and food now go hand in hand.
It might feel that anyone pretty who can cook a decent burger can get their own show, but there was a time when the idea of the TV chef was about as ridiculous as Donald Trump being president. How times have changed. The current generation of media literate cooks have a few pioneers to thank for their current good fortune. Without these trendsetters, there’s no doubt that the world of food would look very different. Here are the most influential TV chefs of all time.
1. Jamie Oliver
From the moment that the Naked Chef first arrived on British screens, it was clear that he was something special. Revelling in simple cooking techniques and an infectious enthusiasm for food, Jamie Oliver helped millions who had been afraid of the kitchen to grab a knife and get chopping. His career has also seen him attempt to tackle childhood obesity and food in schools, as well as launch one of the world’s biggest culinary empires.
2. Julia Child
The OG TV chef, Julia Child’s influence is still obvious, even 14 years after her death. Her passion for French food and talent in the kitchen helped make her a household name and ensured that millions around the world fell under her spell. A TV star for four decades, Julia Child has secured one of food’s most enduring legacies.
3. Gordon Ramsay
Swearing his way to notoriety, Gordon Ramsay has spent 20 years at the top of the TV food chain. His brash, unapologetic presentation and natural flair in the kitchen made him a compelling character to watch, and shows such as “The F Word”, “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” have won him fans across the world.
4. Nigella Lawson
Despite never intending to become a celebrity chef, Nigella Lawson has gone on to achieve cult status for her unique approach to food and eating. Forever flirtatious and incredibly talented, Nigella Lawson continues to have an uncanny ability to make food feel accessible and relatable to audiences of all ages - as proved by the over three million books she’s sold over her career.
5. Rick Stein
Prolific author and TV presenter, Rick Stein was one of the first celebrity chefs to try and make food feel global. Aside from his collection of Cornish seafood restaurants, Stein has presented over 30 cooking shows since 1985 that span the globe and focus on everything from curry to barbecue. It terms of sheer variety, Stein’s CV is hard to top.
6. Ina Garten
The Food Network had an astronomical impact on the cooking landscape in America, and has helped turn the country into a nation of foodies. Of all the shows that helped build the channel into what it is today, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa is perhaps the most significant. Since earning rave reviews for its 2002 debut season, the show has built a cult following and has established Garten as one of the biggest names in American food.
7. James Beard
He may not be the household name he once was, but James Beard’s contribution to cooking cannot be understated. As the host of “I Love To Eat” during the 1940s, Beard became one of the first ever chefs to cook on live television, and his career went uphill from their. Mentor, teacher and inspiration, there’s a reason that a James Beard Award remains one of the most coveted culinary prizes.
It’s easy to dismiss TV chefs as vapid and fleeting and ultimate a bit inconsequential. But, after a look through some of the achievements on this list, it’s clear that there’s more to it than simply shouting and showing off. Whatever you may think of them, TV chefs have clearly helped define modern food for all of us.