America’s incomprehensible love affair with reality TV is producing some astonishing side-effects. Besides the ability to make us care about a group of largely untalented, moderately attractive, fairly poorly-educated strangers and their exploits in the big city/on an island/in Trump’s boardroom, reality TV has created a new generation of celebrities from an unexpected place: the kitchen.
Born from overlapping yet largely well-done shows like Iron Chef, Top Chef, and the entire Food Network line-up, these chefs have entered the pantheon of the 21st century worshipped. Just like celebrity actors and musicians, we want to be near famous chefs, we want to emulate them, we pay attention to what they wear, where they go, and most importantly- what they eat.
There is a way for those of us with the desire and the means (I’m referring to lots and lots of money) to have these eminent culinarians as part of our lives. We can hire them.
Generally hiring a celebrity chef for a private party will include a cooking demonstration followed by dinner. Some chefs run entire week-long workshops, however this is more of a cooking school setting than party entertainment, so let’s assume we’re talking about one-night thing. If your six-year-old tells you she wants Bobby Flay instead of Cinderella at her next birthday party, make sure to do your research before agreeing. These icons don’t come cheap. I explored a bit to get an idea of what we’re dealing with:
First of all, if we’re not hiring a celebrity, chances are we’re catering. (Unless YOU want to cook a fancy, multi-course dinner for 20 people, serve it, and clean it up…) Most caterers charge by the head, and prices can range from $30 to $100 depending on the menu, whether there’s an open bar, and what the setting is (they’ll automatically charge more for a wedding because they know they can). For a simple dinner party of 20 people, you could easily end up spending a couple grand. This is a lot of money, considering there’s no celebrity entertainment.
Chef2Chef.net provides a list of possible celebrity chefs, with links to their booking agents. Their list includes Paula Dean, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Tyler Florence, Giada de Laurentis, and most of the other recognizable TV personalities. According to Chef2Chef, the absolute minimum for booking one of these celebrities is $10,0000. So we’re already a bit over our catering budget.
$10,000 for one event, one day? Forbestraveler.com says that many of the chefs cook in private homes for fun- it’s an honor to be chosen by private people for their dinner parties, and it’s fun to have that intimate experience with the customers. Apparently it’s not fun enough to lower their prices, however. Rick Tramonto, Executive Chef of Tru in Chicago, charges between $30,000 and $50,000 for each private session (and this doesn’t include the price of food and wine for 20+ people- which can add between $50,000 and $80,000!) Thomas Keller, everyone’s favorite idolized whiz-kid who owns restaurants such as The French Laundry and Bouchon, starts his costs at $10,000, but that is actually just the price of INGREDIENTS.
According to an article in RSVP Magazine, Gordon Ramsey charges around 25,0000 pounds (currently just over $38,000) to appear at corporate events. Wait, I’m sorry, this is his HOURLY price.
This all seems incredibly excessive, of course. But let’s take into account that with these chefs you get amazing food, entertainment, and bragging rights over all your friends all rolled up into one very rich person. Assuming it would cost you $2000 for catering for your party, around $200 for a new outfit, another $3000-$8000 for the entertainment, and $1000 for the decorations all to produce the same awe in your social crew that Emeril can command, we’re not looking at too big of a price differential.
It is this rather unique reasoning that has turned celebrity cooking into an industry. Which is ironic, since it was the industry of cooking that turned chefs into celebrities to begin with. So we have chefs turned celebrities, and now we see celebrities (such as Padma Lakshmi) becoming chefs after the fact. What’s next? Maybe Giada de Laurentis will hook up with Justin Timberlake and release a series of sexy musical cookbooks, and then they’ll go on tour together. Hmm, I should pitch that.
Either way, despite the cost, celebrity chef experiences are in high demand. If you want one at your next dinner party you should be sure to plan at least six months in advance.
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