When a chef has acquired a degree of celebrity, people’s attitudes seem to change. One of the most common questions posed to waiting staff is whether the great one is on the premises or whether he personally prepared that terrine/fish/panna cotta. When the answer is in the negative, this often results in hurt feelings. In other words there is an expectation that because you saw X on the telly and therefore decided to eat at Casa X, he or she somehow has a duty to have catered for you personally.
Pause a moment to consider how downright daft that is. Jason Atherton, who recently featured on the fascinating The Chef’s Brigade has 6 restaurants: Gordon Ramsay has 35. But let’s say that our hero has but the one. Doesn’t he have an obligation to be sweating over the stove for your pleasure? Well, as the Americans would say, do the math. Let us assume a restaurant opens 6 days a week, all day on Friday and Saturday and lunch and dinner services the other four days, you’re looking at 60 hours a week. And that’s just time with the doors open. Prep in a half decent place begins about four hours before service. There is the small matter of clearing the decks afterwards, to say nothing of dealing with suppliers, staff training, ticking the boxes required by bureaucrats, etc, etc, etc. You think your 8.45 - 5.30 shift is tough, but you expect chef X to put in a 90 hour week?
In fact, as anyone in business will tell you, it is as important to work on the business as in the business. Perhaps it was seeing chef on the box that made you book? I am told that an appearance on Saturday Kitchen can result in a doubling of reservations. And as Gordon Ramsay once commented, if you buy an Armani suit, you don’t ask if Giorgio himself sewed it.