THE REEL DEAL

With Youtube and Tastemade videos rack­ing up views, has TV cook­ing lost its charm and cred­i­bil­ity?

F&B World - - COVER FEATURE - Text by ERIC NICOLE SALTA Photos by JILSON TIU Groom­ing by BEA COLET and AL DE LEON of MAC COS­MET­ICS Wardrobe by SIGNET

In an in­ter­view with news and opin­ion blog Me­di­aite about the celebrity chef spec­ta­cle, An­thony Bour­dain said that “to a great ex­tent, it’s a per­son­al­i­ty­driven phe­nom­e­non.” There’s plenty of truth there. The com­bi­na­tion of an artis­tic, orig­i­nal dish made more avail­able to a mass au­di­ence with an im­me­di­ate de­liv­ery of charm, hu­mor, and, usu­ally, good looks makes celebrity chefs a wel­come ad­di­tion to a gen­er­a­tionspan­ning, food-ob­sessed cul­ture.

When the likes of Marco Pierre White, Emeril La­gasse, Mario Batali, and Jamie Oliver roared onto tele­vi­sion screens, it felt as if the food net­work—the chan­nel it­self and the web of pas­sion­ate chefs and cooks slowly spin­ning into the pub­lic’s or­bit—had trans­formed the very core of the es­tab­lish­ment.

Pleas­ing Per­son­al­i­ties

“Food be­came en­ter­tain­ment, whereas be­fore it used to be some­thing you need to sur­vive,” says self-made cook, restau­ra­teur, and dig­i­tal heavy­weight Erwan Heussaff. “It tran­scended into peo­ple on tele­vi­sion teach­ing you how to cook. Now you have tele­vi­sion chefs, home cooks, and cook­ing com­pe­ti­tions. Food is a rel­e­vant sub­ject and that’s why it’s so pop­u­lar.”

Nat­u­rally in­fec­tious and ur­gent, celebrity chefs shone bright in front of the cam­era, giv­ing ba­sic in­gre­di­ents the sort of sheen that strikes like a bag of newly opened Skit­tles. Un­der their watch, food gets a de­light­ful, el­e­gant han­dling. But the promi­nence of celebrity chefs is ul­ti­mately do­ing more good than harm to the food cul­ture. There is a strange com­fort in wit­ness­ing how tele­vi­sion is a po­tent driver for el­e­vat­ing an or­di­nary cook’s skills as well as deep­en­ing the ties that bind a so­ci­ety. Cook­ing shows pro­vide the av­er­age home cook with a nar­ra­tive that is more ac­ces­si­ble.

Even on Philip­pine tele­vi­sion, the likes of the late Nora Daza, her son Sandy, and Gene Gon­za­lez have led

There is a strange com­fort in wit­ness­ing how tele­vi­sion is a po­tent driver for el­e­vat­ing an or­di­nary cook’s skills as well as deep­en­ing the ties that bind a

so­ci­ety.

the lo­cal charge’s en­cour­ag­ing move into new ter­ri­tory. Sandy, whose legacy started with Cook­ing with the Dazas in the late ’80s and the en­dear­ing Del Monte Kitche­nomics of the ’90s, re­mains an epony­mous hero of ca­ble tele­vi­sion show FoodPrints with Sandy Daza, where he re­dis­cov­ers Filipino food on his trav­els. While FoodPrints has a no­tably dif­fer­ent for­mat, the mo­ti­va­tions are the same: the thrill of em­brac­ing a role that, more than ever, gives the feel­ing of mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

“You want some­one you can connect with and get in­spi­ra­tion from. That’s why there are dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties, be­cause you won’t like all of them,” says for­mer MasterChef Pi­noy Edi­tion judge JP An­glo. “I hate Bobby Flay. I just don’t like his style [laughs]. I like David Chang and how he’s an ass­hole but he doesn’t hide it be­cause he has the ca­pa­bil­ity to be that while still be­ing good.” Although on shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Iron Chef— with the pres­sure-filled sit­u­a­tions, fiery tirades, and berserk pat­terns tak­ing cen­ter stage—home view­ers could ar­gue that the ex­plo­sive pro­fes­sion re­quires a cer­tain per­sona or, at the very least, an ar­se­nal of tricks to make it in the kitchen. What doesn’t come across on the screen, how­ever, con­jures an even more disturbing pre­cur­sor for as­pi­rants.

TV Trauma

“There are a lot who say that if you’re a tele­vi­sion chef, you’re not good,” says Jeremy Favia, who played a role in driv­ing the pop­u­lar­ity of tele­vi­sion chefs in the 2000s. “There’s a stigma that if you cook on tele­vi­sion, other chefs will put you down be­cause you’re do­ing it in front of the cam­era. There’s a sense of it not be­ing real.” A fact he knows all too well, he con­fesses, af­ter the be­lit­tling he re­ceived from a vet­eran chef.

Favia stands as a ter­rific ex­am­ple of a gen­er­a­tion of chefs tread­ing un­fa­mil­iar ground. A cen­tral char­ac­ter in the tele­vi­sion cir­cuit since the 2000s with then-QTV’s Ka-Toque: Lu­tong Barkada serv­ing as the launch­pad for his suc­ces­sion to the small screen, Favia’s ap­proach is painstak­ingly self-con­scious, if not overly ob­ses­sive with the rig­ors of tele­vi­sion. “I’m an in­tro­vert and I don’t like at­ten­tion. My cousin sent me to the au­di­tion and I was re­ally hes­i­tant be­cause I didn’t know what to do in front of the cam­era.” As a wall­flower, Favia strug­gled to keep view­ers and his di­rec­tor happy—even get­ting shouted at a num­ber of times for his gawk­i­ness. The is­sue of phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance over­com­pen­sat­ing for kitchen skills is

“There’s a stigma that if you cook on tele­vi­sion, other chefs will put you down be­cause you’re do­ing it in front of the cam­era,” says Jeremy

Favia.

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