Celebrity Chefs

Bad boy chefs Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay don't represent reality, insiders say

Fox Foodie: Kwame Williams and George Mendes weigh in on Gordon Ramsays new show, a sleepy Japanese cafe and a wild new pizza dipping trend


Fans of cooking shows like "Hell's Kitchen" are all too familiar with swearing celebrity chefs and over-the-top kitchen antics, but food industry insiders say they don't represent reality.

The cursing, the social media jabs, the on-air scuffles, the hurling of foodstuffs — it all makes for great entertainment, but many in the culinary world say chefs on some of these popular TV cooking shows aren't showing what kitchens are really like-- and may be casting a negative shadow on the profession as a whole. 

Brendan Walsh, dean of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, says he can't watch a lot of the cooking shows currently airing today. 

"It’s such a bad representation. We hold ourselves to a higher standard of professionalism," Walsh told Fox News. "Really, the modern chefs are guys looking at how to engender creativity, and you can’t do that with people running scared." 

But Walsh thinks the era of the bad boy chef may be coming an end.

"I think it’s starting to flip to the other side. People think, 'Oh, it’s just another drug-addict crazy person who found their way in the culinary profession,'" he adds.


Chef, author and television personality Anthony Bourdain is a graduate himself from the Culinary Institute of America.

He became known for his 2000 betselling book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," which chronicled the darker side of rising through the ranks of some of the world's toughest kitchens. Since then, Bourdain has become a household name after hosting numerous food and travel series on Food Network, Travel Channel and, mostly recently, "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," which debuted on CNN in 2013.

Bourdain is infamous for his unapologetic attacks on other celebrity chefs, going after famous faces like Rocco DiSpirito, Emeril Lagasse, Alice Waters, Rachael Ray, Adam Richman, Paula Deen and Guy Fieri, to name a few.

And then there's the notoriously foul-mouthed, award-winning Gordon Ramsay. The British chef is similarly liberal with his culinary crituques, many of which he spouts on his four top-rated Fox shows — “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Masterchef,” “Masterchef Jr.” and “Hotel Hell." (His new Fox series, "The F-Word," is scheduled to debut in May.) Ramsay is known for outrageous behavior in the kitchen, including his foul-mouthed outbursts and on-set scuffles with show contestants.

Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center, says that television and social media platforms have forced some celebrities to sink to the lowest common denominator in order to be popular.

“Unfortunately, when you‘re trying to reach the common mass market, shock sells. They sell it as an entertainment,” Gainor told Fox News.

“Gordon Ramsay uses the F-bomb like salt to season his recipes. It is part of everything he does now."

Ross Pangilinan, chef and owner at Mix Mix in Santa Ana, Calif., told Fox News that most people understand shows like “Hell’s Kitchen” feature heightened drama, and aren't an accurate representation of all restaurant kitchens.

Pangilinan, who has worked in several Michelin-starred kitchens in New York and Paris, says, “I've heard stories of chefs throwing knives and pots at people … it can be the culture in super high-end chef-driven kitchens. But Le Bernardin was one of the most quiet and calm kitchens I’ve ever worked in," Pangilinan says.

On the other hand, Pangilinan says most high-end kitchens operate with military precision.

“The idea is to get better and better, and to work hard enough so you never get yelled at,” Pangilinan says.


Robert J. Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for television and popular culture at Syracuse University, says being a celebrity chef also has elements in common with being a professional wrestler.

“Feuds and trash talk add an important dramatic foundation and an ongoing narrative,” Thompson told Fox News.

“It also seems that feuding chefs, like celebrity couples, get more attention together than they would have apart. This isn’t anything new, but Ramsay and Bourdain seem to really be serial feudists. It’s what they do,” he adds. 

During an appearance at the Critics Association press tour, renowned chefs Alice Waters and Jacques Pepin made it clear how they felt about shows such as “Top Chef,” and “Chopped,” telling The Wrap that reality shows misrepresent the industry while promoting the “fast food culture” of American cuisine.

“It’s a disservice very often because this is not what cooking is all about,” Pepin said. “That kind of confrontation that you have there is not really how you learn to cook. Or how you understand food.”


Gina Stipo, chef and owner of At the Italian Table in Louisville, Ky., says the bane of her existence is young guys who think that being a chef is all about being tattooed, doing drugs and sleeping with as many women as possible-- a trope possibly influenced by what people are seeing on TV. 

“Where’s the respect for ingredients and the people you’re feeding? It’s all about the bad-boy image, and they see it on the Food network … it’s about being outrageous,” Stipo tells Fox News.

Despite the proliferation of cooking shows across many channels, Walsh still thinks the media only shows a very limited view of what it's really like to be a chef today. 

"A chef is a lot larger than simply a crazy guy in the kitchen," Walsh told Fox News. "We’re involved in feeding people, health, nurturing people in a variety of types of settings. So to look at it through such a small lens, it’s not what a chef is anymore.

The chef added, "I’m happy networks are making good money from this, but I think this is misleading-- and leading young people away from this beautiful business with a lot of opportunities."

Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at rebekah.sager@foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.