Following on from our discussion of food writing, this chapter considers how food, and, in particular, the meaning of cookery, is represented on TV. This takes place in a context in which there is a strong relationship between the cookbooks that become bestsellers and television cookery shows: many of the bestselling cookbooks in the UK are written by television chefs. However, as this chapter goes on to explore, if television now plays an important role in mediating how we understand food, cookery also makes an important contribution to contemporary television culture as part of the expansion of lifestyle programming. Therefore, the first part of this chapter examines the relationship between television cookery shows, the television industry and the restaurant business. In the process, we explore how celebrity chefs become 'brands' and how their cultural significance is also related to industrial concerns. The second part of the chapter examines some of the ways in which cookery shows mediate food knowledges and the implications this may have for everyday food practices.
Before proceeding to these issues, it is worth noting that this chapter is written in the context of the boom in television cookery which occurred in the 1990s, amidst a wider boom in lifestyle programming. In the UK, not only are there numerous cookery shows on both daytime and prime-time television on the five terrestrial channels, but there are also non-terrestrial channels devoted to food such as UK Food. Nor is the UK alone in this trend: many countries now have cable channels devoted to food such as the Food Network in the USA and Cuisine TV in France. In this apparent explosion of interest in television cookery, a number of chefs, fuelled by extensive newspaper coverage, have gained 'celebrity status', featuring in magazines such as Hello and OK. Likewise, just as a feud between rock stars is deemed newsworthy, so was a public disagreement among celebrity chefs as the following report from the 'quality' UK newspaper, The Guardian, shows: