Tag Archives: Pete Wells

Are chefs too profane?

I’m not sure that Pete Wells what is trying to say in his most recent piece in the New York Times.

Last week’s episode of “Top Chef” ended in a volley of profanity, as half the contestants cursed the other half.

The first line of an article about the chef David Chang in The New Yorker last month contained a profane quotation from Mr. Chang. So did the last line. So did many of the lines in between.

But even Mr. Chang at his most vivid comes across as an instructor at vacation Bible school compared with Gordon Ramsay. On his shows “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares,” Mr. Ramsay leaps outside the bounds of broadcasting rules so often that the Web site Television Without Pity begins its summaries of each episode with something it calls (give or take a word here or there) Gordon Ramsay’s Bleep-O-Meter.

The issue from my point of view (and as Mr. Wells alludes to), is less about the chefs, and more about the media that allows and highlights the colorful vocabulary. At some point in the past ten years, highlighting the machismo and the aggressiveness of the folks in the back of the restaurant. The question is, why the change?

Perhaps it’s because of the aura of the 5 star chefs over the previous generation, where the kitchens were perceived as the pinnacle of perfection. This aura included, not just the food, but the professionalism of the staff.

Since the time of the arrival of Anthony Bourdain’s book Kitchen Confidential, this has aura has been changed. Now it seems as if there’s this expectation of colrful characters making the food.

My guess (and it is a guess, having not been in the back of a restaurant in almost twenty years now), is that the reality is somewhere in between the two extremes. As with every profession, you’ll have bullies and professionals. What the press seems to want to promote is the former, while the latter still work in relative obscurity.

But are chefs too profane? *shrugs*. Does it matter? Are rock stars too profane? Cabbies? Steel Workers? I’m not sure why the question is relevant.