Today in News That Made My Eyes Roll So Hard They Tickled My Frontal Cortex: Variety reports that Food Network has teamed up with People magazine for a special program called “Sexiest Chef Alive,” a tie-in with the magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive issue. (Presumably, this means no chefs who are women will be a part of this special, and I can’t tell whether I’m relieved or not.) This paragon of quality programming will grace our airwaves November 1, and here are all the ways it is silly and unnecessary.
Are there talented, magnanimous, boundary-pushing chefs who fascinate and delight us? Of course. Are they worthy of our attention and interest? Of course. But to fawn—or drool—over chefs just for being chefs is… weird. And then to fetishize that profession as somehow more romantically alluring than any other job is also weird and somewhat creepy.
Maybe this is more of a sub-argument to point one, but the conflation of food and sex—which in this case is subsequently sanitized because hey, it’s People magazine and mainstream cable—is bizarre. I’m already bracing myself for all the obvious sweaty-brow, shirtless-under-the-apron nonsense that will likely be a major component of this special.
I’m still not over the hot-but-conflicted-bad-boy ridiculous of Burnt, which I thought was the chef cliché to end all chef clichés. The focus on this narrow definition of what sexy is—or even what chefs are—does a disservice to the hard-working people in the industry who don’t fit that mold or have no interest in conforming to it. The food industry is still struggling to confront the sexual harassment and abuse among its ranks; this hardly seems like the time to glorify outdated sexual power dynamics in the kitchen.