Have you noticed?
The popularity of talk shows in the early 2000s has been replaced by the popularity of cooking shows. From Alton Brown’s Good Eats and the late Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations, there are now hundreds of cooking shows to stream on various platforms, and we seem to love all of them. Statista reported that the Cooking Channel’s average total viewership in the United States alone jumped from 137,000 people in 2018 to 142,000 in just two years, and in the UK, seven out of ten viewers watch cooking programs routinely.
Research suggests that the reasons are both psychological and biochemical. Watching a food show gives viewers the satisfaction of seeing a project come together from start to finish. Cooking shows are “safe” because we know there’s going to be a happy ending by way of a fabulous food dish on the table. Adrenaline junkies get their fix through competitive constructs like the Great British Bake-off and Iron Chef, but by and large, most of us find that watching people cook is non-threatening and stress-free.
Science, of course, has its say. Over a third of our brain is dedicated to vision, and when we watch someone cook on the screen, our brains can imagine the taste without physically trying the food. And then there are the mirror neurons. You know the ones. They are the class of neuron that activate when we are doing an activity and when we are watching it being done.
Cooking shows are hardly new, but they did “morph.” From the 1940s to the 1950s, such shows had an educational purpose by providing easy-to-follow cooking instructions to viewers. This shifted in the 1960s with Julia Child. Viewers watching her TV show, The French Chef, saw her make recipes that were far from easy to duplicate at home.
We watched anyway. And we haven’t stopped. We’ve made Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives a hit. We’ve bought mandolins we didn’t know we needed, learned the difference between scallions and chives, and brushed up on culinary terms like al dente and au jus. By watching world class chefs at work, we’ve also became aware of the accomplishments they hope to achieve, and certainly one of them is a Michelin Star.
Even non-foodies tend to know that the Michelin Guide is gastronomy’s version of the bible. Published by the French automotive tire company, Michelin, since 1900, the guides “encourage people to travel and discover the best dining and hotel experiences around the world.” To that end, the Michelin Guide awards stars for excellence to very few, and very select restaurants. Gaining or losing a star is a big deal for a restaurant, and while the stars are awarded to establishments, not individual chefs, credit for a restaurant’s stars typically goes to the executive responsible for both designing and properly executing the menu, as well as their culinary team. And that person is the chef.
As of this writing, the current living chef with the most Michelin stars in the world is Alain Ducasse who has a staggering seventeen Michelin stars. The record, however, belonged to Joël Robuchon who passed away in 2018. At the time, he was decorated with 28 stars, more than any other chef in the world. These two individuals set the bar high for chefs.
There are others, however, who, while not in possession of double digit stars, are chefs who have earned multiple Michelin stars and one of them is Jean-Christophe Novelli. Winner of four Michelin Stars, this chef has been described as able to make women “swoon at the flick of his whisk.”
Readers interested in Novelli’s resume can read it here. Others among you who have enjoyed watching cooking shows may be wondering why Novelli’s name is so familiar to you. Wonder no more: Novelli has been all over television. He has appeared in Celebrity Cribs, Chef Academy Bravo, Alive on the Top of the Andes, Celebrity X Factor, and Top Chef USA, and was a Top Chef Judge for the final in the final in the Middle East, and a Master Chef Judge in Holland. Over his career Jean-Christophe has won four consecutive Michelin stars, and has been dubbed “The Nation’s Favorite French Chef.” He was a recipient of the prestigious Egon Ronay Dessert of the Year award, and was voted the AA’s Chef’s Chef of the Year by his peers. His school, the Novelli Academy, has been voted one of the Top 25 Cooking Academies in the World, and he was the European Chef of Year finalist representing Great Britain. He was a contestant on Family Fortunes, and appeared onThe X Factor: Battle of the Stars, performing in a group with fellow chefs Aldo Zilli, Paul Rankin and Ross Burden.
Dogs. Somewhere in all this, there has to be a dog, right?
There are, in fact, twenty-one of them. Novelli has loved twenty-one Doberman Pinschers in his life (so far). In 2013, he posted the following on his Facebook page:
Dog people are endlessly curious, and we like to know what famous people have as their canine companions.
Image: By Hakase/iStockPhoto