Chefs see double-edge sword in reality TV shows

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chefs acknowledge cooking on television is an effective way to promote their restaurants and cookbooks but some of them do not savor the frenzy and demands of reality competition shows.

In the United States, cooking competition shows are part of a growing genre, which garners advertising support from the food industry.

These series, such as “Top Chef Masters” and “The Next Iron Chef,” are known as much for their emotional exchanges between contestants and judges as their cooking challenges.

Some of New York’s top chefs said appearing on television has become part of their job as chefs emerge from their kitchens as celebrities.

“It’s a marketing tool,” Jimmy Bradley, head chef and owner of the Red Cat in West Chelsea, said during the New York City Wine & Food Festival that ended on Sunday.

Many chefs who have appeared on these competition shows have become celebrities with attendees at the festival lining up to see their cooking demonstrations or to be photographed with them.

Chefs who have competed said these shows were powerful as they reached a nationwide audience of potential diners or buyers of their cookbooks.

“To win is to have a successful business,” said Bradley, who sees the financial rewards stemming from appearing on these shows as possibly more important than winning the competition.

At the same time, these chefs feel the shows’ grueling filming schedule, scrambling for ingredients and their use of appliances are less than ideal to showcase their talents.

“It’s a bit of humiliation,” said Gabrielle Hamilton, chef and proprietor of Prune in Manhattan’s East Village.

The four-day food festival, attended by more that 35,000 people, featured chefs, wine-makers and other food merchants promoting New York’s culinary culture. Proceeds from the festival benefitted local charities fighting hunger.

Reporting by Richard Leong, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith