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The Rise and Fall of the Celebrity Chef

14th Aug 2013
TV chef Keith Floyd
Keith Floyd

Every decade has its own iconic group of people that others adore, feint, admire, emulate but ultimately need to knock down.

In the seventies it was Photographers such as David Bailey et al who were the glamorous stars who dated the famous and lived the life we all wanted. In the 80’s the Super Models stormed the catwalk and the world with first names only and Cindy, Kate and Naomi becoming synonymous with aspiration. The 90’s saw in the age of the Interior Designers with us all fixated on TV shows showing Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen and clan throwing up mdf walls and faux fur scatter cushions with abandon. The noughties were a desperate time of Footballers, Wags and Reality TV stars when literally anyone could be famous if they were pushy enough and seen on the arm of the most papped overnight celeb.

The Teenies iconic group have been slowly growing in strength and number over the last 10 years, although there is nothing quiet about this band of brothers (and sisters). I’m talking about the age of the Celebrity Chef.

Gordon Ramsay

Once again first names are all that is needed as we follow the lives, loves and menus of Gordon, Heston, Jamie and Nigella. While early founders of the world of the TV Chef such as Fanny Craddock in the 70’s and the late Keith Floyd in the 80’s established the British public’s love affair with TV Cookery shows, it has been the late noughties and early teenies that has see this group of flamboyant,  talented and now wealthy individuals propelled into the world of super stardom. As with every group of its age however, disaster and heartbreak is never far behind. Once fame and the British press get involved with a Chef’s career, it seems that misfortune and calamity follows with it.

Here now (in no particular order) is Design Restaurants top 10 of the rise and (somewhat) fall of the Celebrity Chef and the disasters that has dogged them.

1. Gordon Ramsay – Financial and Scandal

Ramsay’s long fought dispute with his father-in-law and ex-business partner resulted in him losing an estimated £6 million. Details on an affair also surfaced but these were quickly denied and his wife Tana and mother of his four children chose to stay with him.

2. Tom Aikins – Financial and Divorced Once

When Tom’s Place went under in August 2008, it dragged down everything else in the Aikens empire. His contract to supply ready meals to Selfridges ran into difficulties, plans to open a restaurant at Canary Wharf in London’s Docklands were shelved and mounting debts resulted in both of his two remaining restaurants, the original Tom’s Kitchen and the Michelin-starred Tom Aikens were also put into administration in October 2008. Reports state he lost somewhere to the tune of £500,000. Tom has since re-opened his Chelsea restaurant and remains married to his second wife.

3. Marco Pierre White – Financial, Scandals and Divorced Three Times

White has had various failing businesses over the years but his latest financial episode has seen him branded a ‘dishonest idiot’ by a high court judge over his alleged claim of damages from two of his business partners and the claim thrown out. He has had a string of failed marriages with his most famous to model Lisa Butcher lasting a mere 15 weeks.

4. Nigella Lawson – Scandal and Divorced Once

The ongoing feud between Lawson and ex-husband Charles Saatchi continues to dominate the press with Saatchi now accusing the Queen of food porn of ‘illegal activity’. In June 2013, photographs were published in a  newspaper of Lawson being grabbed around the neck by Saatchi during an argument outside a London seafood restaurant.

5. Martha Stewart – Financial, Scandal and Divorced Once

After her company Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999, US domestic goddess Martha Stewart became the first female, self-made billionaire in the US. By 2005 however, due to insider trading, Stewart was convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice and jailed for 5 months. She began a comeback campaign almost immediately from leaving prison and her company returned to profitability in 2006. Here first marriage ended in 1987 and she has never re-married.

6. Anthony Worrell Thompson – Financial, Scandal, Divorced Twice

In February 2009, Thompson’s restaurant holding company AWT Restaurants was placed into administration. Four restaurants closed but Worrell Thompson personally bought back the remaining Windsor Grill in Berkshire, the Kew Grill in south-west London, and delicatessen the Windsor Larder. It was revealed in April 2009 that Thompson’s restaurants “had debts of more than £800,000 and owed 214 creditors money. In January 2012, Worrall Thompson received a formal police caution for shoplifting low value items, including wine and cheese from the Henley-on-Thames branch of Tesco on a total of five occasions – this caused a flurry of twitter cheese jokes.

7. Paul Hollywood – Scandal and Divorced Once

Hollywood seems to be the latest high profile chef to succumb to relationship scandal with his marriage ending due to rumours of an affair with his US co-host. Hollywood’s US version of ‘The Great British Bake Off’,  which he hoped would launch his career across the Atlantic, has also been dropped.

8. John Burton Race – Financial, Scandal and Divorced Once

Although he came to public prominence as the devoted family man on the series French Leave and the sequel, Return of the Chef, in which his wife Kim and six of the eight kids they have between them featured heavily, he turned out to be rather less devoted to that particular family than many thought. In March 2007 he left for his lover Suzi Ward and their two-year-old son, his fifth child, of whom Kim knew nothing. A long and public battle over assets ensued which culminated with Kim closing their restaurant, the New Angel in Dartmouth, while Burton-Race was deep in the Australian jungle as a contestant on I’m A Celebrity…’

9. Antonio Carluccio – Scandal and Divorce

Carluccio met Priscilla Conran, sister of designer Terence, in the latter’s shop on the Fulham Road. During their 28-year marriage they created the Carluccio’s brand of Italian delicatessens. The marriage collapsed after he developed a gambling and drinking problem. The final straw came in 2008 when he tried to plunge a pair of scissors into his chest.

Gino D’Acampo

10. Gino D’Acampo – Scandal

This is not really a disaster one but we wanted to add it because it tickles us. Apparently Gino was jailed for 2 years for breaking into singer Paul Young’s house and stealing a guitar worth £4,000! Also he was charged by the Australian police with animal cruelty, for killing and cooking a rat when appearing on ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ . However, the charges were later dropped after ITV accepted responsibility for the incident.

What this research has thrown up is that if Chefs ever came up on a game of ‘Snog, Marry or Avoid’ we all now know what to choose…

Design Restaurants is your online fine dining guide and membership club, dedicated to finding and recommending the best restaurants around the UK with access to exclusive privileges, upgrades and rates.

Find out more at www.designrestaurants.com.

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