NYT Critic Slams Celeb Chefs, Proves Food Ghost-Writing Is Among Worst Jobs Ever
3:00 pm, March 15th | by Rebecca Srulowitz
Julia Moskin, a food writer who’s been with the New York Times since 2004, decided to let go of some angry emotions she’d been feeling toward a few undeserving celebrity chefs. In Tuesday’s NYTimes, she writes:
Many real-world cooks have wondered at the output of authors like Martha Stewart, Paula Deen and Jamie Oliver, who maintain cookbook production schedules that boggle the mind. Rachael Ray alone has published thousands of recipes in her cookbooks and magazine since 2005. How, you might ask, do they do it?
The answer: they don’t. The days when a celebrated chef might wait until the end of a distinguished career and spend years polishing the prose of the single volume that would represent his life’s work are gone. Recipes are product, and today’s successful cookbook authors are demons at providing it — usually, with the assistance of an army of writer-cooks.
This totally shatters the image we had ever since we saw “Julie and Julia” of chefs like Julia Childs happily slaving away in the kitchen and over the keyboard to produce the perfect recipe and its accompanying description.
Anyway, you should read Moskin’s piece in full because it’s really eye opening — especially if, like me, the little you know about the food industry is what you’ve gleaned from salivating over the Barefoot Contessa’s creations on Food Network. But, in the meantime, I’ve compiled a list of Moskin’s most oy-inducing statements:
- “In his first assignment, another writer I know had to produce a book on Japanese cuisine based on two interviews with a chef who spoke no English.”
- “One recent best-selling tome on regional cooking was produced entirely in a New York apartment kitchen, with almost no input from the author.”
- “There are impossible deadlines, hours of waiting around for tardy chefs and off-the-map assignments, like the two days I spent under armed guard in a walled compound in Bogotá, while the chef I was working with disappeared into the Colombian countryside. During those two days, with no cellphone or e-mail and only a Dora-the-Explorer ability to communicate in Spanish, I was essentially a prisoner, with plenty of time to think about my next career.”
- “And although that was the scariest moment, it was not the lowest. That might have been the time a chef took my name off the cover of our book because, he explained, it would hurt his wife’s feelings.”
Seriously, do yourself a favor and read the article. If nothing else it’ll make you appreciate your job (that is, unless you’re a food writer, in which case, sorry!)