Why we just don't trust a skinny chef
By whipping up a Twitter storm in advance of yesterday's Great British Bake Off finale, Raymond Blanc raised an interesting question: would you trust a skinny chef?
While the show's producers found his tweet somewhat hard to digest as it threatened to spoil the surprise over who would be the eventual victor, the self-confessed "grumpy Frenchman" had a point. His beef was all about having "a winner so thin who makes me doubt of her love for great cooking, baking".
Never mind the poor grammar ("Frenchman writing English!" he later lamented) or that the entire Twitter world reckoned he was referring to contestant Ruby Tandoh, a former model who retorted: "What has anyone's size got to do with it? I don't care if you're a patisserie king – don't be an idiot."
But Ruby, in this case, size matters. The meat and potatoes of the issue is this: if we punters perceive that a chef merely pecks at his or her own grub, why should we gorge on the stuff?
Low-fat may be where it's at right now, but there is something nostalgic about a bygone era where portly chefs like the Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson, reigned supreme. How we loved those loud, roly-poly cooks who lashed on the goose fat and added generous slurps of this and sizeable blobs of that throughout their raucous TV series.
Ditto Nigella whom we regularly glimpsed raiding the fridge for a decadent helping of chocolate cake with buttercream icing. If she and her love handles could still look sexy, then what of our own little indulgences? And even if she has dropped a few dress sizes since her divorce from Charles Saatchi, one hopes she will soon bounce back to her usual gorgeous and plumpish self.
These days big chefs are thin on the ground, however. Michelin-star winner Tom Kerridge, the poster boy for proper pub grub, is cuddlesome and reassuring.
Richard Corrigan is burly, but fit. Most of the other household names in the restaurant world are models of restraint. They are the lean, mean machines of modern cuisine. Even the hairy bikers have succumbed by shedding pounds, and as for the women, look at Rachel Allen, Clodagh McKenna and Catherine Fulvio – not a bit of blubber between them. Is it in the genes, or just a career devoted to sweating over a hot stove?
Michel Roux puts it this way: "Never trust a fat chef, because he's probably sitting in his office rather than bouncing around the kitchen."
Perhaps Ruby is right after all.