Let it herein be stipulated - and I say this with substantial embarrassment - that I have always experienced an unconscious though occasionally overt animosity towards anybody who is richer, more famous or more successful than I am. (I would throw in "people who are better looking than I am" but that raises it to the level of "Now it's getting silly.")
Why don’t I like these people? The short version: They get better treatment than I do, and I’m jealous. What can I tell you? There is an immeasurable depth to my shallowness. A unique turn of phrase masking an unflattering character flaw.
Imagine, then, my discomfort, dismay and disconcertion when a new group is lifted out of obscurity into the limelight, reaping the attention and priority treatment that made me originally dislike the crowd they have just recently been lifted into.
The contingent I’m not crazy about has just gotten bigger.
The latest “Toasts of the Town”? Well, maybe not the latest, but the one that has today drawn my curmudgeonly attention?
Chefs have leapt into magazine cover prominence. And what do they do to attain this high profile position?
They make food.
That’s it. They take raw stuff that they bought someplace and they cook it.
My mother did that!
And nobody thought that was noteworthy. Including her children.
I know. I know. I know. I don’t like it. But I get it.
Like with any other ability, some people are better at it than others, a handful of them so much better, they turn their gift for…whatever… into a moneymaking activity, and whoosh! – they’re flying private jets and cavorting with supermodels.
For what, in this case?
For going into a kitchen and preparing some food.
How in the world did that happen?
How did cooking, a proclivity possibly picked up in “Home Ec.”, turn into a steppingstone to international acclaim? There are people who put out forest fires, and nobody knows who they are. These guys stand near a grease fire and suddenly they’re the King of the Castle!
The job “Chef” is now an iconic touchstone. It’s like “cowboy hero” used to be. A distant pinnacle to imaginatorially aspire to. The line of work has become cultural folklore. There is a movie out now called Chef. Adam Sandler played a chef in Spanglish (2004). In the animated feature Ratatouille (2007), a precocious rat played a gourmet chef.
It’s like it’s their turn in the spotlight. “Chef” is the new “rock star”, with organic vegetables replacing hard drugs.
Some careers have always attracted the public eye. I am used to athletes being famous. And, of course, show business celebrities. (Which now, reflecting a significantly lowered bar, includes cable news anchors and Internet sex tape participants.)
And it’s not like there were never famous chefs in the past. Back then, however, they worked in exclusive restaurants, and only people who could afford to eat in them knew who they were. Today, it’s gone mainstream. Food news is everywhere!
Today, the L.A. Times “op-ed” page featured an extended interview with an L.A. chef who had won a major cooking award. You have to wonder about their priorities. The war in Afghanistan? Trouble in the Ukraine? Terminal gridlock in Washington? All of them bumped from the public debate for a woman specializing in gourmet pizzas.
Somebody explain it to me. What is so irresistibly hot about a person in tall hat and a smock that buttons up the side?
I do not understand it.
Which really means, “I do understand it but I do not agree with it.”
You treat somebody special, and inevitably they feel special. Whether they deserve to or not. You remember, “I think, therefore I am”? Now it’s “They make movies about me, therefore I AM!!!” And, as Chevy Chase once unpleasantly lorded over us…
Meaning, I’m not.
It has come to that. I do not exist because I am not a chef.
This is actually a two-parter, the first part concerning the statification of food preparers, the second about the idealization of food itself.
Which I also don’t understand. (See: Translation above.)
By the way, I was recently introduced to a famous Los Angeles chef. He was soft-spoken, approachable, a man, quietly comfortable in his calling, who would have happily pursued it with or without celebritorial hoopla.
I hate it when contradictory examples interfere with my harangue.