Fame is a dangerous weapon

As we write, newspapers and magazines are devoting column inches to Marcus Wareing and some of his opinions regarding his former boss and mentor Gordon Ramsey. We were brought to thinking just what do we want from our celebrity chefs in the pursuit of what is great and good in the foodservice market?

Let us be clear from the start, the closest we have come to a Michelin-starred kitchen is from the apparent safety of the restaurant tables. That said, between us we have both run demanding catering businesses, managed pubs, worked within the hotel and public sector channels and for blue-chip suppliers. We have also done our fair share of six-day weeks.

From our training business we know that the example visible leaders set permeates through businesses and organisations. Behaviour is copied and the business mantras are repeated at every level. At the end of the day this is one of the key functions of a business leader. We have watched role models and mentors and understand the vital place they play in the personal development of individuals and teams.

So it is no surprise to us that some chefs feel they should copy the behaviour they see on national TV in their own kitchens. Surely, this is not a good example to anyone aspiring to join this industry whether to work in a kitchen or in many other parts of this great industry.

But while some celebrity chefs show a complete disregard to the basics of managing and developing people others take on issues where, while we agree they need addressing, the media attention generated causes over-reaction from government, menu specifiers and many others.

Take for instance Jamie Oliver’s Food in Schools campaign of a few years ago. By any measure it was a noble attempt to improve the quality of food in schools but the fall-out has meant that less children eat school meals than before the campaign, companies who supplied the food to schools have gone out of Features > Business, and people have lost jobs in the industry. Oh, and by the way, Sainsbury’s has reported a 36% rise in sales of plastic lunch boxes.

To use an observation from Stephen Covey ‘one cannot pick up one end of a stick without picking up the other’ and the same is true of addressing issues such as Food in Schools. Every action has a reaction and now government has less chance of improving our children’s diets in schools than it ever did.

While always reliably setting high and competitive standards, we believe that the celebrity chef community is at its best in our industry when they:

l lead thought and challenge what has been accepted before and bridge concepts and ideas with their creativity and passion

l educate the faithful and the general public, through a variety of media in a mission to ask us all to re-consider the role that food plays in our lives and in Features > Business, often by making their hard won skills and ideas available to all

l set positive examples to everybody who has an eye on the industry, by celebrating food as a platform to create debate and discussion among families, friends and colleagues.

Which brings us to the subject of battery chickens. Surely our priority should be that every man, women and child in this country sleeps in a warm bed with a full belly every night – and then to ensure every animal is treated well and enjoys a comfortable life.

The industry challenge is to achieve both at the same time.

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