Chefs' Manifesto: Reality Check, Please

Restaurant critic Jay Rayner on the self-importance of chefs saving the world


The cult of the celebrity chef isn't going anywhere, and as it grows, it's interesting to examine how they adapt to their fame, use it to call attention to issues, and sometimes, perhaps, start to believe their own hype a bit. In case you missed it, last week the idea was more fully explored in this "Chefs' Manifesto: Reality Check, Please." The Observer's restaurant critic Jay Rayner weighed in with a reality check of the 'G9' chefs' manifesto to save humanity, calling it "an act of such ludicrous self-regard you'd need an oxygen tank to get your breath back."

In an interview with El Comercio, one of the chefs who participated, René Redzepi (Noma), responded to Rayner's criticisms, and also to The New York Times' critic Sam Sifton, who retweeted Rayner's piece and discussed it on Diner's Journal. (For more chef's perspective on what they were thinking, check out Gabe Ulla's Eater interview with Dan Barber.)

See how Rayner stirred things up in this excerpt of his takedown below:

"I adore chefs. Where the good ones are concerned I am an unashamed, knicker-throwing groupie. But sometimes, when they begin to believe the hype, even the best of them need to be taken round the back of the bike sheds for a serious talking to. Just such a moment has arrived.

The decision by eight big name chefs (or, to be honest, three really huge names and a bunch of other guys who were thrilled to be in the same company) to convene the so-called G9 summit in Lima, Peru, at the end of which they issued a communiqué bigging up their contribution to saving humanity from itself, is an act of such self-importance, such ludicrous self-regard you'd need an oxygen tank to help you get your breath back. Read this stuff with a bottle of Gaviscon by your side, because trust me, it's a very quick route to acute indigestion.

The letter is signed by the likes of René Redzepi of Noma in Copenhagen, Ferran Adrià of Spain's recently closed El Bulli and Michel Bras of the eponymous French restaurant. (Heston Blumenthal was claimed as a signatory despite being nowhere near Peru, but has since told Word of Mouth he had nothing to do with it. "I'm just a bloody chef," he said.). Alongside them were a bunch of other chefs - among them Alex Atala of DOM in São Paulo, Gaston Acurio of Astrid and Gastón in Peru, and Dan Barber of Blue Hills in New York — who are certainly very well known to, er, all the cooks who have ever worked with them."

What did they say? Check out The Guardian's Word of Mouth Blog.


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