The world has never been more in love with food and the joy food can bring into our busy and sometimes conflicted lives. The explosion of social media in the last ten years has enabled many amateur cooks, foodies and food experts to quite rightly gain platforms and audiences that they may have had trouble had they not had such a low barrier to market that the internet affords all of us.
Here we look at some chef presenting trends of the past decades from one of the most trend setting global markets, the UK market. The UK may be going through it’s own interesting internal conversation with the thorny issue of Brexit at the moment, but the Brits still know how to divert and enjoy themselves and British cuisine, whilst not right up there with Italian and French cuisine in terms of global reach, still has many charms and interesting back stories if you are preparing to dive deep enough.
Rick Stein is one of the old guard. He is also a master of longevity and stickability. He specialised in sea food dishes, and he seems as popular now in 2018 as he did in the early 1990s.
Rick Stein is a BBC chef through and through. In many ways his career has followed a very conventional presenting path, but his love for food and his inventiveness with seafood always shines through in all his to-camera work. So in some ways he is lucky as he is a white male who earned his stripes working as a chef in top restaurants in the 1980s.
His first break was a guest presenter with the infamous patriarch of all TV chefs, Keith Floyd, a colourful booze loving gourmand whose political incorrectness would set Twitter alight if he were still alive today.
Rick is a seafood expert…
There is famous footage of the two with a little verbal sparing as they try to show viewers how to make a delicious fish dish together. The old boy Floyd was not going to give way to the young pretender without a little bit of friendly banter on the way.
As the decades progress Rick broadened out his approach from just sticking to his usual areas of seafood, and became something of a world travel expert. Rather like the travelogues that Joanna Lumley does so well to global audiences these days, Rick Stein offers a food version of that sort of television. Whether it was his recent From Venice to Istanbul BBC series or the Rick’s Long Weekends series, this traditional but passionate TV chef still has high currency in the global food space.
Ella Mills is the complete opposite end of the spectrum compared to Rick Stein. She only just about qualifies as a TV chef, as her screen following all comes from her YouTube fans. Her channel has nearly 200k subscribers and she has appeared on many guest slots on terrestrial TV in the UK.
Ella’s expertise is her ‘clean eating’ plant based food. She has written five cookbooks based on her huge collection of self penned recipes. She uses a lot of superfood ingredients that can tend to get dismissed as fad trends, but only time will tell if we are still eating these types of products in twenty years time. Foods such as chia seeds, cacao powder, maca powder and spirulina are not your usual cornflakes and banana fare in your average supermarket but Ella has been at the top of her game for nearly ten years now and her popularity seems to show no sign of abating.
Mills only uses vegetarian ingredients and her emphasis is on health whilst trying to maximise the taste of her food without recourse to excess sugar, salt and fat which are perhaps the slightly easier ways that more traditional chefs light up our taste buds.
Ella is fresh and social media savvy…
She is young fresh, authentic and social media savvy. She owns her mistakes with relish (she recently had to shut down two of her famous bricks and mortar delis in London, but she still has one excellent shop in Mayfair).
Mills has also inherited her businessman father’s business savvy, she is said to be considering widening her portfolio of investments including the Asian property market, and shares in the burgeoning market of esports companies, for example the online betting company Betway.
It seems likely to us that she may have the longevity of Rick, her creativity seems to be especially robust and resilient, but only time will reveal this as the global food audiences are always on the look out for the next new presenter.
Jamie Oliver seems to have a brilliant knack of combining cultural zeitgeists with his passion for food. His cheeky chappy and established family man persona is well loved the world over (he has four daughters). But even Jamie has to come up with new takes on his old favourite to keep global audiences engaged. So far in his career he seems to have done that successfully.
His biggest legacy will perhaps be his revolution in school food previsions by the UK government. His television programmes the early Noughties helped shine a much needed spotlight on the cheap and nutrient low food that the UK government were providing for his children. Jamie’s influence secured double funding for school dinner to improve meals.
Delia Smith was dismissed in her 1980s heyday as just another housewife, but her enduring legacy shows she is much more than that deeply unfair and thoughtless putdown. Her TV persona was no frills and slightly frosty in delivery but what she may have lacked in modern day pizazz and over-effervescence she made up for with expert knowledge of her craft and real understanding of the chemistry of ingredients with the techniques of heating and preparation.
Time and again Delia has delivered television series that have delivered basic expertise that is accessible and always end up in hearty and nutritious meals, always with a very English backbone to them, but no the worse for that. The ‘meat and two veg’ basic foundation of English cooking could almost be said to be the preferred label for Delia herself.
Delia does it best….
As you can see, the UK TV chef scene has a vibrant and varied past and present. Judging by the diversity it shows, it looks like it will have an equally successful future.