In the Fifties and Sixties Fanny Cradock dominated TV cookery, matching the contemporary literary influence of Elizabeth David. The latter had learning and taste, the former was all show, though she inspired Delia Smith and her pseudo-French cookery provided a full stop to post-war austerity.
Cradock appealed to women, Keith Floyd from the mid-80s added men to the cookery audience, and had staying power, making 16 series. He showed that food is fun and need not be complicated (rarely resorting to ‘one-I-prepared-earlier’), inspiring a generation of men to get into the kitchen, and laying the groundwork for TV chefs after him. The above clip is a classic where his cooking gets utterly ridiculed by a French housewife.
River Cottage has become an industry, perhaps in need of quality control – witness the fatuous Three Hungry Boys – , but Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s innumerable shows and books always have an ethical dimension to them. His Fish Fight campaign to promote sustainable fish use is nearing 800,000 signatures strong and has forced supermarkets to act; likewise the Chicken Out crusade. Landshare, however, may be the most important, epitomising his battle to reconnect us with seasonable food sources and consider food’s impact on the planet - matters of ever increasing significance.
The second known-by-first-name-star, Jamie is another with a successful campaign behind him – Feed Me Better. The chirpy chef changed food in Britain’s schools and in 2005 a Channel 4 News poll voted him ‘Most Inspiring Political Figure of the Year.’
Oliver has made food funky too, the scooter-riding moppet appealing to younger viewers. Commercial success demonstrates his popularity, with the best-selling books of Christmas 2001, 2005, 2010, and 2011 all his – and total sales around £100 million!
If we measure influence by books shifted, Saint Delia of Carrow Road scores highly with 21 million to her credit, totalling £60 million. Few middle-class households lack a Delia book, her Winter Collection alone hitting 2 million hardback sales. Delia doesn’t just move books: sales of a Lancaster firm’s omelette pan rose from 200 annually to 90,000 after her recommendation; cranberries sold out when she featured them; and she sparked an egg shortage too. In the end, though, her influence lies in the millions of Christmas dinners timed with Delia’s books, and two generations that rely on her more than any rival.
Which TV chef or show has influenced your cooking most?
...Or should it be someone else? Nigella, maybe?
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