NZ celebrity chef slammed for jewelry in kitchen; TV cooks do dumb things

New Zealand chef Peta Mathias has been criticized for the flashy jewelry she wears during her TV show, with critics saying the rings and other jewellery would never be tolerated in a commercial kitchen because of the bacteria that gathers underneath.

Mathias agrees but says: "Hey, it’s for TV."

Food writer and columnist Julie Biuso said people had been talking about Mathias’ rings for years, adding,

"There’s a grubby look about it. It’s an act. She dresses up with all the jewellery … possibly she cooks like that at home. Of course, she’s over the top, she’s way over the top. But people love to criticise. She’s doing it her own way. If you don’t like it, switch off."

Biuso said Mathias would never be allowed to wear her rings while cooking in a commercial kitchen.

AUT senior lecturer in food safety Suzanne Bliss said Mathias’ rings were possibly sending the wrong message to the public and young people in the food industry.

But it was a TV show and, for that reason, hosts had licence to go outside the normal boundaries of food hygiene.

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.