Speak Up

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

UK Desperate Chefs Wives Take Action!

This article was found on findarticles.com, and it has given me some ideas....

Independent, The (London), Dec 16, 2006 by Ed Caesar

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a food millionaire must be in want of a life. At least, it's true if the woman in question is Tana Ramsay, wife of the fiery maestro Gordon, or Jools Oliver, missus of the mockney moghul Jamie.

They may both talk themselves up as stay-at-home spouses, but Jools Oliver stepped out from her husband's shadow earlier this year, with a diary of pregnancy and motherhood entitled Minus Nine to One: The Diary of an Honest Mum. And this week, Tana Ramsay was named as the face of a new UKTV food programme called The Market Kitchen, building on the success of her cookbook, The Family Kitchen, and her regular column for Grazia magazine.

Why now? The phenomenon of the successful superchef's wife is a very recent one. When the nation watched Keith Floyd, did we care what his other half was up to? Did we yearn to know the details of his children's conception? Now, suddenly, it seems that it is not enough for our television chefs to rule our airwaves and our bookshelves - their spouses must muscle in too.
And why bother? It's not as if either of the families need the money. Jamie Oliver, with a library of best-selling cookbooks, a thriving television career and a restaurant to his name, has a fortune estimated this year at [pound]25m. Ramsay, whose restaurant empire grows seemingly by the day - this week he announced plans to open establishments in Amsterdam, Paris, Singapore and Australia - has an estimated fortune of [pound]67m.

But Tana and Jools, who should by rights be sipping Caipirinhas from midday and having thrice-daily manicures by now, have refused to let their husbands hog the spotlight. Jamie Oliver started it. Remember all those early cookbooks where, in between blathering on about his "absolutely perfect roast chicken" or how he was "doolally about herbs", Oliver would crowbar his long-suffering missus into the story.

Jools's presence wasn't an accident. Much more than a pretty face, Jools was crucial to the image of the Naked Chef as a likeable homebody, a regular guy. The tactic worked. With his wife twinkling in the background, Oliver has sold more cookbooks than any other British chef, ever.
But where does a F-WAG cross the line into being a personality in her own right? Jools's Rubicon was forded earlier this year when she released her book, a graphic trawl through the mucky business of pregnancy and birth. Dostoevsky it ain't. But then Jools, an ex- model, has never claimed any special literary expertise.
"I just wrote the diary because I was kind of bored," Mrs Oliver explained. "And I read it to my mum. She said, 'This is so funny. You're so good.' You think mums always say that... but I read it to a few friends. They went, 'Oh, you should get it published'. And then, obviously - being Jamie's wife, it's a lot easier, so I was very lucky. So I thought, 'Take the opportunity,' and I was lucky enough to do it."

Jools, it would be fair to say, has no plans for global domination and does not intend to write further books. The odd magazine spread, and tabloid titter (of the "Jools ditches Jamie for girlie night out" variety) aside, Mrs Oliver has largely slipped out of the limelight.
That's more than can be said for Tana, who has shot from being a Montessori schoolteacher to a media starlet in her own right. Not only has she been creating salads for Peter Jones and writing a cookery book, called Tana Ramsay's Family Kitchen, which made a cameo appearance on the bestseller lists, she will soon, like her husband, be the face of a food magazine programme, The Market Kitchen, which will be filmed at Borough Market and marks a serious step up for Mrs Ramsay. But what expertise does she bring? By her own admission, Tana did not become interested in cooking until her children were born. If her husband has earned his fame - learning to cook in the hothouses of the continent's kitchens, and building a seven-Michelin-starred empire of his own - Tana has piggy-backed to hers. She once admitted that Gordon bought her Delia Smith books to improve her culinary skills, hardly the confession of a woman desperate to be taken seriously as a food guru.

A lack of talent need not be a barrier to success, and Tana has built on her other qualities - she looks good in front of the camera, and is likeable - that have been fostered by her appearances on her husband's show, The F-Word.

And, like Jools, she makes no claims to greatness. "[My approach] has been... if I can do it, anyone can do it," said Tana, at the launch of her latest book. "I wanted to simplify everything right down. The recipes came from me and my mum, from friends and family, not some home economist."

She is also sanguine about her current foray into the media world. "I would be stupid if I thought that Gordon wasn't the reason I'd been asked to do it," she admitted. "But I can either dwell on that, and worry what people are going to say, or I can get on with it."

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