But in real life, are fat chefs necessarily a good thing? Lean and mean chef Gordon Ramsay – who once tipped the scales at 250 pounds – doesn't think so. “I don't think chefs should be fat,” he opines. “It's just not a good advert,” he says, reasoning that a fat chef reflects a sloppy kitchen.
And now comes word that the Food Network is planning to take on the issue of fat chefs in an eponymous new series. Fat Chef, premiering January 26 (2012), will feature chefs whose obvious love of food has led them to the health problems many overweight and obese people face. Except most overweight people aren't forced into a face-to-face, day-to-day relationship with their nemesis the way food professionals are.
Fat Chef will follow participants through a four-month course of therapy and weight loss programs to help them overcome their weight issues and their abusive relationships with food. Kind of a kitchen version of Biggest Loser.
It looks like another step in the culinary cable giant's “reality” evolution. The move away from increasingly contrived and derivative “competition” shows is a good thing. Seems like every time my wife and I watch Food Network programming lately, we find ourselves saying something like, “Hey, didn't we just see that on Top Chef last week?” Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but there are limits. Although it's technically a “competition” show, the network's Chef Hunter is a nice change of pace and the recent episode of Chopped that featured real, honest-to-goodness school cafeteria cooks instead of the usual coterie of the trash-talking, over-inflated walking egos that clutter up the place on a regular basis was compelling television. Like many other critics, I think the Scripps purse strings could have been a little looser for the occasion, but it was a good idea and one that I hope will become a regular feature. Tattooed, spiky-haired bad boys (and girls) bragging about their awesomeness and then whining when they get “chopped” is getting a little old.
I'll be more likely to tune in Fat Chef than I will Food Network's other New Year offering, Rachael vs Guy Celebrity Cook-Off, in which the overly ubiquitous Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray coach teams of celebrities seeking to win a $50,000 prize for charity. That opus begins a six-episode run on January 1.
And it is hoped that The Big Waste won't be as Bobby Flay and Michael Symon take on Alex Guarnaschelli and Anne Burrell in a challenge to cook a three-course meal for a hundred people in a forty-eight hour time frame using only ingredients that would have otherwise been consigned to the trash. That special event airs on January 8.
“Must see TV?” We'll see.