Spot the mistake: How things went wrong for celebrity chef Jamie Oliver

I never was a disciple of the Jamie Oliver ministry, or any other celebrity chef that knows shit about food safety (which is most of them, see the abstract from our 2004 paper, below).

Alexis Carey of The Courier Mail writes that when Jamie Oliver first landed on our TV screens back in 1999, he soon won over millions of fans thanks to his delicious recipes and cheeky, boyish charm.

Countless television appearances and cooking programs quickly followed his original series, The Naked Chef, along with cookbooks, advertising deals, charity campaigns and even his own chain of restaurants.

But today, a string of controversies coupled with multimillion-dollar losses has meant the shine has well and truly started to come off the 43-year-old Brit.

So how did it all go so wrong for one of the world’s best-loved celebrity chefs?

According to Aussie public relations expert Catriona Pollard, Oliver’s downfall was caused by a series of classic PR blunders including overexposure, a disconnect between his actions and his personal brand and a failure to address a number of controversies head-on.

Over the years, the father-of-five built a restaurant empire under the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, starting with the launch of Jamie’s Italian in 2008, followed by the Recipease cooking school and deli chain in 2009 and barbecue chain Barbecoa in 2011.

But in September 2017, Oliver was forced to inject $22.7 million of his own cash into Jamie’s Italian to save it from collapsing.

All Recipease outlets were closed by late 2015 and last February Barbecoa Ltd went into administration.

Ms Pollard said one possible reason behind those failures was the mismatch between Oliver’s “average Joe” identity and the up-market feel of his eateries.

The collapse of Oliver’s restaurants have affected his own personal brand.

“You can buy one of his books for $20, or watch his TV show for free. But a lot of his restaurants sold expensive meals … which didn’t really stack up for people,” she told news.com.au.

She said there was also a divide between Oliver’s relatable image and his staggering fortune, estimated to be around $441 million.

“His personal brand is very much the ‘everyday lad’, but that doesn’t convert to a businessman who is so wealthy. There’s a disconnect between his everyday persona and his wealth,” she said.

Ms Pollard said it had also been a mistake to link his name so closely to his restaurants, as their failure was now inextricably linked to his personal reputation.

Last year Oliver was accused of hypocrisy after signing a lucrative, $9.1 million deal with oil giant Shell to revamp its service station food offering.

But as Oliver had long been a supporter of climate change action, many considered a partnership with an oil company to be a serious betrayal.

Ms Pollard said Oliver’s decision to ignore the growing furore added another blow to his reputation.

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.

PR before publication still a bad idea: Food safety on TV doesn’t go out of style

If you were deserted on a desert island, what would be the top 5 records/CDs/cassettes/8-tracks you would bring?

Stones, Beggar’s Banquet

Stones, Let it Bleed

Tragically Hip, Up to Here

Blue Rodeo, 5 Days in May

Old and in the Way

Just a suggestion.

I’m spit-balling here.

Repetition is the norm. Karl Popper had something to say about that.

In 2004, my laboratory reported (and by reported I mean published in a peer-reviewed journal) that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods.

Once the paper was published, it made headlines around the globe.

And then it started getting replicated. Texas, Europe, a few other places, and Massachusetts.

Now Germany.

BfR is presenting a research project on the topic of TV kitchen hygiene at International Green Week.

I’ve e-mail the folks at BfR who published this stuff and asked them whether it was peer-reviewed or not.

That was last week.

No answer.

Maybe something was lost in translation.

There were errors on average every 50 seconds, with the most common being dirty hands wiped on a tea towel and chopping boards being reused without first being cleaned.

They then tested two groups of participants making chicken salad with home-made mayonnaise based on a cooking video – one of which showed a chef who followed recommendations and another which showed a cook with poor hygiene. 

Those shown the video with the exemplary kitchen hygiene complied with the recommended measures more frequently when cooking the dish by themselves.

Prof Hensel added: “The results show that the kitchen hygiene presented in cooking shows may have an influence on the hygiene behaviour of the viewers.

“TV cooking shows can therefore take on a role model function by sharpening awareness of kitchen hygiene instead of neglecting it.”

Keep on spit-balling.

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.

Food porn hero shot: Tricks of TV cooking shows

I can’t watch cooking shows.

The music is terrible, the chefs are awful and food safety is essentially non-existent (see paper we wrote over a decade ago).

celebrity_chefs4 A post on the social media site Reddit asked people who have worked on the set of food shows to reveal the strangest things they’ve seen while working.

According to user ‘Elroypaisley’ who worked on a daytime talk show with daily cooking segments, most the hard work is done by a food stylist behind the scenes.

“Most of the food is either A) not edible (under cooked chicken, just browned on the outside to look good for camera or sprayed with shining spray to make it look glossy) or B) Eaten by the crew,” write the redditor.

“The most enlightening fact, for me, was that many of the chefs have no idea what the recipe is, what they are cooking when they arrive or how it’s made.

“A food stylist shows up two hours before taping, having been up the night before all night making the ‘beauty dishes’ — these are the dishes the camera will take shots of to show what the final product looks like. Then the stylist lays out every ingredient, every bowl, every tool that will be needed.

“The chef arrives, does hair/makeup and comes to set where the stylist briefs them. ‘Chef, today you’re making such and such. These are the ingredients for the reduction sauce, etc’. The chef goes over the recipe a few times, then we go live and they are the expert.”

User ‘Landlubber77’ worked as a production intern on a food network and said the dish prepared on screen by the chef isn’t usually the one that features in the fancy photos.

“When they want to stage shots of just the food on its own, the ‘hero shot’, they have an intern make a duplicate of the meal (doesn’t matter if it’s undercooked inside because nobody is gonna eat it) which just has to look good on the surface. They then spray it with an aerosol can of some ungodly preservative to make it ‘stay’.

When it comes to shows such as MasterChef, ‘absinthevisions’ wrote that “each dish can be made several times so there is a lot of waste”.

masterchef“If it’s a contest style show, the judges don’t eat the version that you see cooked and plated. That version is thrown away and a new version is cooked specifically for them to eat. Then they take 2-3 bites from a plate and throw the rest away.”

If you’ve ever seen a cooking show where the chef is given a special ingredient at the start of the show and you’ve been amazed by how quickly they brainstormed and executed their dish, well … don’t be amazed.

“My brother was a sous chef for his (at the time) boss on a popular food competition show,” wrote Reddit user ‘LadyofRivendell’.

“He said the secret ingredient was revealed a few hours prior to filming and the chefs sat down with their sous chefs and made plans ahead.”

But the best story in the thread was from a caterer called ‘Astrochef12’ who was hired to in the early 2000s by The Oprah Winfrey show to help make a number of different celebrities’ favourite recipes for the studio audience.

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.

How to make perfectly dangerous burger patties

The Food Network, home of dysfunctional food safety procedures – but at least they don’t claim they’re science-based – has a number of tips for hamburger patties that profiles food porn over safety:

• for square sliders, “cook the patties until a crust forms, about 2 minutes per BMA98tjCMAEfqwFside, topping with cheese after flipping, if desired;”

• for cheese stuffed burgers, “preheat a grill to medium high and oil the grates and season the patties with salt and pepper and grill 5 to 6 minutes per side;

• for thin burgers, cook the patties in a skillet until a crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side; continue cooking until browned, 1 more minute per side, topping with cheese during the last minute, if desired; and,

• for half-pound bistro burgers, divide 2 pounds ground beef chuck into 4 pieces and grill burgers, covered, about 6 minutes per side.

Use a thermometer and stick it in. Will account for all the variations in cooking devices, and make you a better cook.

And you may not make anyone sick.

celebrity.chefs

Publishing papers by press release is a bad idea

Last week, researchers at Texas Tech gushed in a press release about the food safety errors on cooking shows broadcast by the Food Network.

“Researchers analyzed 49 shows airing over a two-week period and used 17 different coded categories: six positive and 11 negative. Positive categories included hand washing, cleaning equipment, washing fruits and vegetables, adequate refrigeration, and use of a thermometer. …

“The results weren’t exactly savory with 118 positive food safety measures and 460 poor food handling incidents. Among the most noticeable culprits were not washing fruits, vegetables and herbs properly and a lack of hand washing in general.”

I have an interest in such work. In 2004, my laboratory reported that, based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows, an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods. The abstract is available at http://www.foodsafety.ksu.edu/en/article-details.php?a=3&c=14&sc=102&id=842.

(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.)

So I e-mailed one of the researchers and asked, hey, has this been published in a journal anywhere?

She didn’t answer my e-mail.

But Lubbock Online did, in a story today, which concluded the Tech study has yet to be published but is under review for publication in the academic food safety journal "Food Protection Trends."

That’s great. The more research on these areas the better. Sometimes there is a need to issue a press release about research as it is on-going, but in this case, why not wait until the journal article is published. Then us mere mortals can actually get the paper and review it for ourselves.

Celebrity chefs rack up health code problems at restaurants

Health Inspections.com reports that on a recent health inspection, Chef Emeril Lagasse’s Miami restaurant was hit with 13 critical violations that could make customers sick.

The restaurant was cited for violations such as foods at dangerous temperatures, hygiene violations, and foods not stored properly.

The television program Inside Edition found that restaurants connected with many famous TV chefs have significant health violations.

Inside Edition even video taped mice running freely at BLT Fish in Manhattan, operated by Laurent Tourondel who has appeared on the Iron Chef television program.

I’m not surprised. A 2004 paper we published based on 60 hours of detailed viewing of television cooking shows found that an unsafe food handling practice occurred about every four minutes, and that for every safe food handling practice observed, we observed 13 unsafe practices. The most common errors were inadequate hand washing and cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods.

Among the violators:

Anthony Bourdain: The restaurant Les Halles in Coral Gables, Florida was shut down by inspectors 3 times since 2006 for dangerous violations. In the last inspection, the inspector noted 30 fresh rodent droppings on a baking rack.   Bourdain is the ‘chef-at-large’ for the restaurant.

Mario Batali: His "Spotted Pig" restaurant in New York was found to have mice and insects. On two prior inspections, there were a high number of critical violations that required inspectors to come back for follow-ups.

Wolfgang Puck: At his Spago Café in Vegas, nasty employee lockers were found to have roaches. There were also violations for a dirty food slicer, foods at the wrong temperature, and employees not washing properly because of a lack of soap.

Celebrity Chef Todd English has the worst record of the TV cooks. His three Boston restaurants have consistently failed inspections. One of them, known as Kingfish Hall, has failed five inspections since January of 2007.

Paula Dean’s restaurant "Lady and Son" in Georgia had consistently high scores on health inspections.

The Inside Edition story on celebrity chefs who don’t quite make the grade is available at:

http://healthinspections.com/video.cfm?bWVkaWFJRD0zOA==