Michael Chiarello Weighs In On The Term ‘Celebrity Chef’
Next Iron Chef runner up Michael Chiarello was once a major restaurant mogul with a ton of eateries around the country. But, he’s since considerably downsized his endeavors to focus on his true passions: running the Chiarello Family Winery in Napa Valley and working as the chef/owner of Bottega Ristorante, and according to the Top Chef Master himself, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I found myself before, in the late ’90s, running a company as opposed to being a chef. And I really want to be a chef,” he told WTWWTS in a recent interview.
Aww, who knew Michael Chiarello was such a fool for sentiment? Answer: Tom Colicchio, (Probably.) As for our favorite question — what makes a celebrity chef? — he managed to to politely translate some of Anthony Bourdain‘s earlier rant on the subject.
Says Michael of the term, “That’s something that somebody else calls you. This process of getting out and talking about what your craft is was an early way to market what you do. So, [for example] if some people pay for advertising, this is what we do. We can do good and advertise who we are and what we do all at the same time, so it’s great. It’s a win-win.”
A chef/owner actually in favor of celebrity chefdom? Le shock. But, as the host of multiple food TV shows, Michael very clearly delineates when you have to stop calling yourself a chef (and, unlike Bourdain, his answer is not “when you’re also a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild”).
“The restaurant business is so hard to make a living at,” he explains, “that you end up doing a second restaurant and a third restaurant and a fourth restaurant and a fifth restaurant, and at some point you’re a restaurateur and a culinary inspiration but no longer a chef, not manning the kitchen… Once you get 7 or 8 or 9 [kitchens] you end up running the company.” Ahem, Jean-Georges.
If you’d like to hear more about how Michael loves to serve rather than be served (sadly, he keeps it pretty G-rated), check out the rest of the interview.