Do TV cooking shows make abuser chefs seem normal?
Across the pond from his native Britain, chef Gordon Ramsay made a name with his show, “Hell’s Kitchen,” in which he regularly erupts in ruddy-faced rage aimed at contestants who want the chance to open a restaurant. Grub Street talked to two University of Hawaii scholars, Ellen Meiser (who once trained as a pastry chef) and Penn Pantumsinchai, who wrote a paper titled “The Normalization of Violence in Commercial Kitchens Through Food Media.” Through interviews, participation observation, and analysis of media featuring Ramsay and the late Anthony Bourdain, the pair concluded that the yelling, screaming celebrity chefs of the tube—or ones who glorify such abuse as collective hazing—aren’t just reflecting the worst of a dysfunctional, hierarchical industry. This televised toxicity makes terrible behavior seem common and maybe not so bad, and it feeds ratings and success. Yell at and degrade your subordinates, and get them to submit to your orders. The researchers didn’t speculate on why viewers want to watch aggressive chef-influencers. Neither did they try to answer a big chicken-and-egg question posed by Pantumsinchai: “Were chefs violent first, or did the media create [even more conditions where bully chefs thrive]?”