Letters Ready meals and TV chefs’ recipes

Television chefs aim for taste and appeal, not health

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f240 (Published 15 January 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f240
  1. Bart Penders, assistant professor in biomedicine and society1
  1. 1School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200MD Maastricht, Netherlands
  1. b.penders{at}maastrichtuniversity.nl

Howard and colleagues were surprised that TV chefs’ recipes scored worse on fat, protein, and fibre than ready made meals.1

Embedded in that surprise lies the assumption that health ought to prominently inform TV cooking. However, we do not watch Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, or Heston Blumenthal because they promise us (public) health. In their recipes, taste, appeal, experience, and enjoyment regularly triumph over health and cost. They provide ideas and aim to stimulate creativity in home cooking, or plainly baffle and entertain us.

TV chefs have, however, a high “dietary credibility”—in all food related matters their voice is heard and respected.2 Their public credibility may sometimes (or perhaps always) be higher than public health scholars or nutrition scientists.3 Why? Because “the experts whom lay persons see as credible . . . are ones whom they perceive to share their values.”4 TV chefs are better at this than scientists. With this credibility comes influence and responsibility. But this is a societal responsibility rather than a public health one.

We have all noticed Jamie Oliver putting on weight over the past years. This has not harmed his dietary credibility because it is fuelled not by (public) health expectations, but by the appeal and taste of his meals, the entertainment he provides on TV and in reading his books, and the enjoyment of trying his recipes at home, whether healthy or not.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f240

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None declared.

References