Celeb chef wannabes

Forget writing scripts and songs.

Writing recipes and hosting their cooking shows are now in vogue for actors and singers eager to hitch a ride on the culinary bandwagon to fame, or to resuscitate a fading Hollywood career.

Their move into the cooking studios and cookbook publishing has given a whole new twist to the term "celebrity chef".

Whether these stars can cook well or not seems to be of least importance. Judging by the latest offerings, it seems that show producers and publishers favour style over substance.

Take a cue from Gwyneth Paltrow, the film star who has taken it upon herself to advance the public's culinary know-how by teaching readers a recipe for a hard-boiled egg in her latest book, It's All Good.

In her recipe, Paltrow lists a single ingredient - one fresh organic egg. Very good indeed, if you know next to nothing about eggs.

If you feel you are ready for more intermediate-level cooking, catch Kimberly's Simply Southern which premiered on the Food Network Asia (StarHub Ch 433) on Jan 6 and airs on Mondays.

Touted as part Dolly Parton, part Paula Deen, Kimberly Schlapman from country music group Little Big Town is following in the steps of Trisha Yearwood and other country music singers to marry Southern music and food.

I am not a fan of country music. Yet, I find watching the YouTube clips of Schlapman performing with her band a relief, pleasurable even, after I strained my facial muscles from major eyeball-rolling and gagging through an episode of her cooking show.

If you like the idea of a bottle-blonde Barbie doll coming to life and hosting a cooking show, you will love Schlapman.

The travel segments devoted to her culinary experiences on the road, such as lobster-catching out at sea, make her show marginally bearable - if you can tune out her annoying commentary.

There's another newly-minted celebrity chef in the form of Irishman Donal Skehan, a former member of the boy band 'Streetwize' and vocalist with Industry.

His career as a TV chef started with his food blog, which led to four cookbooks and his own cooking show, Kitchen Hero, which has received mostly praise in Britain.

It airs at 9.30pm on Wednesdays on the Asian Food Channel (StarHub Ch 435).

Kitchen Hero comes across as unoriginal, a wannabe version of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef.

Fresh-faced

But his fresh-faced boyishness and emphasis on home-cooking may appeal to the student set and teenagers who want beginner tips to whip up simple meals at home.

I do have my doubts though, about his grasp of Asian ingredients which he likes to use.

He thinks mixing a teaspoonful (which looks more like a tablespoon on screen) of garam masala with yogurt (horrors!) into a brownish goop makes a good dressing for a Moroccan chick pea burger made with pita bread.

Home-cooking is great and all, but when the books and shows start to look and sound formulaic, it takes away the magic. And while you don't need professional chef experience to be a competent television cook, you do need a personality that charms.

The clean and wholesome image projected by Schlapman and Skehan comes across as a tad rehearsed, cardboard-like and artificial.

Give me tired scenes of Gordon Ramsay deliver crushing tirades or Anthony Bourdain reminiscing over his bad boy drug and booze chef days anytime. They still make for more entertaining television. Heck, even Paula Deen is starting to look sexy to me.


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