Five Jamie Olivers you may never have heard of

By Lucy Townsend
BBC News Magazine


Television chefs have long had a powerful influence on the way we eat. So who are the people teaching the world about food?

Since Marguerite Patten's TV cookery show in 1947, viewers have watched, copied and tasted. Fanny Cradock taught continental sophistication, Nigella Lawson showed us that roast potatoes are best cooked with goose fat, and Keith Floyd gave us the confidence to estimate and add a dash more.

But some take it further than fancy dinners. Jamie Oliver has campaigned for better school meals, and Heston Blumenthal has tackled in-flight meals for British Airways.

Here are five more celebrity chefs expanding their role and reach beyond the kitchen.

Gaston Acurio

Media caption,
Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio

Peruvian superstar Acurio runs 32 restaurants across South America and the US, he has a television cookery show, designs dishes for the president and set up a cookery school in one of the country's poorest slums.

In the Spanish language version of the Disney film Ratatouille, he provides the voice of Anton Ego, the fiercest gastronomic critic in Paris.

Image caption,
Acurios's famous cebiche dish

Acurio is a classic example of the broad reach of the celebrity chef.

He set up his cookery school in Pachacutec, a sprawling shantytown an hour's drive north of central Lima, to help youngsters from the poor local families train to become chefs. It is part of an initiative to promote youth achievement and break the poverty chain by teaching employable skills. Many go on to gain work experience in Acurio's restaurants.

His other passion is his country's culinary heritage - his particular favourites being the under-appreciated Peruvian anchovy, the raw fish dish cebiche and the 8,000 different potato varieties growing in the Andes. He wants to boost the fortunes of the potato farmers and the food producers, and showcase their wares to the world.

"My cuisine is very connected with the spirit of Peruvians, which is right now hope, dreams, integration," he says.

"Cooking is essentially memory, you try to trap those memories - the grandmother moment, mother moment, the first girlfriend moments. These are flavour moments."

  • Cebiche: cure raw fish cubes in the acid of Peruvian limes, toss in chopped red onion and crimson rocoto chilli, and served with large choclo corn kernels and sweet potato.

Ghalia Mahmoud

Ghalia Mahmoud was a maid for one of Cairo's upper class families when she became an unlikely television star in her native Egypt. Spotted by her employer's brother, the founder of a pro-revolutionary TV station, she was transformed into the host of a live 90-minute prime-time show.

Mahmoud's show was designed to lighten the mood of the channel, which focused on news and current affairs after the ousting of Hosni Mubarak.

Respectfully referred to as "Set" - a term used to describe strong working-class woman loved in their community for their ability to keep a good home - she is the antithesis of the country's previous television chefs.

They had been polished performers, fluent in a variety of languages and experts in cooking complex recipes for the richer classes. Ingredients were expensive and hard to come by.

Mahmoud's food by contrast, is tasty and cheap. She cooks in old tin pots on propane burners and mixes her ingredients in plastic pots, out of which come traditional foods such as mahshi (stuffed vine leaves), bisara and keshk - stews based on fava-bean and buttermilk respectively.

Her budget is £2.50 ($4) a day, and the show follows her as she shops at local markets and haggles over prices - a skill honed from her days as a maid and caring for her family in one of the city's poorest suburbs.

Tina Nordstrom

Image caption,
Tina Nordstrom cooking fish stew

Cucumber soup, beetroot and fish rolls are the typical fare of Swedish television chef Tina Nordstrom. Her food looks as healthy as she does, as she sails and snorkels through her very active programme, often filmed with a backdrop of beautiful scenery.

Her 2001 television series Mat med Tina Nordstrom (Food with Tina Nordstrom) had 17% of the Swedish population tuning in.

"She has a genuine love for food and a very carefree approach to her work," says Andreas Lindergard, who has produced a number of Nordstrom's shows.

"This is not to say that she doesn't care how she is portrayed, but she simply doesn't think it worth it to worry about the small stuff. A mistake here and there makes the programme seem so much more alive, and Tina seem more like the girl next door."

Nordstrom has written five cookbooks which have been translated into Danish, Finnish and Norwegian, and sales have reached nearly one million copies.

  • Beetroot soup with horseradish: Puree beetroots and stock (or water) through a blender until smooth. Pour into a pot and heat. Season to taste with salt and serve in deep dishes. Top with finely shredded horseradish mixed into sour cream.

Donna Hay

Image caption,
Super brand Donna Hay

This Australian cook has her own magazine, television programme and a number of cookery books. There is a Donna Hay general store, where the Sydney elite can pick up their home essentials, a range of bone china for Royal Doulton, branded children's party sets and donna hay homeware (she doesn't use capital letters).

Hay started out as a food writer and editor at Marie Claire magazine. Unusually her television show, called Fast Fresh and Simple, came last - launching last year by which time she was already a household name.

"The public trusts people they know, or they feel they know, which is why television chefs are able to build these huge brands," says John Reynolds, of Brand Republic.

"There is an inherent mistrust of big corporations that make things for our homes and everyday use, so when something comes along that seems personal, that has a named and known person, then that's always going to work."

With appearances in Australian Vogue and a ready-mix macaroon mixture in her product range, Hay is something of a domestic goddess in the mold of Nigella Lawson.

Sanjeev Kapoor

Image caption,
India's 31st most trusted person

This Indian chef knows how to guarantee a prime time slot - he runs his own 24-hour Hindi-language cooking channel called Food Food. His Khana Khazana programme, one of 40 shows to feature on the channel, started 18 years ago and is the longest-running TV cooking show in Asia.

His success has brought government advisory contracts and jobs with foreign airlines.

Like Hay, Kapoor sells an array of branded products, from pickles to spice mixes. He also endorses brands - a seal of approval highly sought-after by the makers of culinary kit and ingredients.

In the March 2010 issue of Reader's Digest, Sanjeev figured at number 31 in the list of 100 of India's most trusted people.

  • Pumpkin foogath: Heat a tablespoon of oil and add 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds and 10-15 curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to splutter, add onions and chillies. Stir over a high heat for one minute. Add 700gm diced red pumpkin and a pinch of salt. Cook, covered, on a low heat for five to seven minutes, or until the pumpkin is cooked. Mix in a tablespoon of grated coconut and lemon juice.