1:11 am. @gordon_ramsay: Bollocks, sorry for not using this. Someone’s showing me how it works. Hopefully this will…”
1:11 am (seconds later) @gordon_ramsay: “Fuck me. It worked.”
(Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsey’s first posts on Twitter)
The world’s never been this small. Access has never been this easy. Celebrities have never been this real.
Twitter has opened up a whole new world of food networking, effortlessly bringing together Chefs, Food celebrities, home cooks and foodies. With more traditional forms of media, people like Gordon Ramsey, Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver seemed distant, despite being everywhere. You could read about them, watch their shows, even read their blogs, but as familiar as they were – for all practical purposes – they were really just about as accessible as Mr Potato Head. Suddenly, thanks to twitter, they’re morphing from two dimensional, larger-than-life, pedestal-occupiers to real, living, breathing people with tempers, quirks and spelling mistakes.
The food world’s never been more exciting.
Now you get recipes directly from Martha Stewart. She’s even managed to master recipes that fit into Twitter’s 140 character limit. Like “GUACAMOLE Mix juice 1 lime, 4t crushed garlic, 5 chop scallion, 1C chop cilantro, 1 mince jalapeño + 3 ripe avocado.” Jamie Oliver, who comes across as warm, friendly and incessantly upbeat can help you figure out why your last pudding failed. Gordon Ramsey’s as refreshingly brash on twitter as he is on his shows, making for some fabulous stories from behind the scenes. “April Head chef at Claridges set the fucking kitchen on fire, we had to evacuate, Clooney and Pitt stood outside saying ‘fucking chefs’.”
Then there’s Heston Blumenthal, who made waves in the culinary world with his award winning Fat Duck restaurant, famous for food like Nitro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream. He transforms from celebrated culinary alchemist into a quirky real person on Twitter. While his first tweet ever announced “pickled herring with lemon rice garnished with grated brie for lunch,” he goes on to state not all his meals are cutting-edge culinary experiments. “Ever since my TV shows everyone expects me eating hogs heads and sheep brains for lunch. Ha ha… I usually end up with a simple soup and a roll at lunch if I am working. Soup is under rated you can make almost any flavour and its light.”
Most of these celebrity Chefs follow each other. Except for Gordon Ramsey, who follows just one person, despite having about 6,400 followers. This person’s Lennie Nash, or Chef Sandwich, who says he’s “writer blogging about retraining as a chef.”
In an e-mail interview Nash says Twitter has helped him as both a chef and food writer because it’s enabled him to get in touch with chefs across the world who would normally be very difficult to contact. And certainly impossible to stay in contact with on an everyday basis. “Just within food blogging there are many spheres – and you are able to find people with your exact outlooks and experiences. It’s also good for getting ‘breaking news’ and rumours on restaurant/cheffing topics,” he says.
Gossip? It’s simply delicious on Twitter to be honest. There’s Nash’s story about how Prince Philip phoned Heston Blumenthal to ask for his fish and chips recipe after eating at the Fat Duck. Then there’s the tweet about Curry Lounge, in Nottingham, creating the “world’s tallest poppadom tower. 1,052 poppadoms and 4ft 11in tall, beats record by an inch.”
Since the celebrity Chefs are on Twitter, and Twitpics, without their entourage of PR people, makeup artists and publicity managers, they seem so much more fallible, and thereby endearingly real.
Jamie Oliver for instance has two principal weaknesses. His cute daughter, who surfaces on twitpics besides pictures of his painstakingly hand labelled Gooseberry jam and freshly made potato pizza. “Bless look what my little daisy cooked. A daisy pudding. And she loves it and loves eating it even more.” And his spelling, which is far from perfect. (A word of advice though. Don’t point it out to him. The last person who did got this “Get lost you idiot I’m dislexic and I can’t spell so stick that in your pipe and smoke it!!! It’s better than being smug.”)
Blumenthal’s worried about his waistline. “Going for a suit fitting tomorrow. I hate it. There always seems to be more tape measure required every time.” And he’s also far from impervious to the inevitable twitter boors. “Half of the tweets are just insults and I have a temper problem at times and don’t want to get anything heated,” he says.
So why stay in?
Well, for starters everyone seems to be having so much fun. Blumenthal says he loves reading what other people are doing around the world. “Everyone’s doing and thinking something different.” He adds that its size and diversity also makes it a great sounding board for ideas.
Nash says it’s great from capturing and connecting with a specific audience or online community because it is so direct and immediate. “You can just put an idea out there, and it can quickly snowball into a ‘trend’ with everyone able to throw in their ideas rather than just celebrities or pundits. It is much easier to gauge what interests people, rather than just what interests you.”
So Blumenthal tells us when he’s “trying a new way of smoking deer with a blueberry smoke and serving with lemon and thyme covered garden peas.” And Ramsey gives us the inside story on his TV shows. “Taking live cook-along to the US, on Fox network, but I’ve been warned to watch my language. No cursing, that’s the deal. Bollocks.”
While the celebrities are the most obvious face of food networking, they’re just one slice of the pie. As Nash says this is “definitely the best tool I’ve come across for food networking because it is largely recommendation based – and therefore the best sites tend to shine through and attract followers. The mobile aspect using iPhones etc means people can blog or send pictures directly from an event rather than wait to get back to the office to write them up.”
As a result there are a bevy of colourful food writers who keep the site alive with great ideas. Like PuddingQueen who talks of wedding cakes made with Buttermilk, wild strawberry and more than 24 eggs. Or “Lemon and lavender sandwich biscuits with lemon cheese and lavender lemonade – its going to be a floral tea this afternoon!”
Things can only get better. Already Blumenthal’s running a competition on his page. “Doing a Harry Potter themed meal around October time for about 50 people 10 of which I will choose from twitter (UK only).” He’s likely to get flooded with replies, considering how many food nuts there are on the site, judging by the handles: MsMarmitelover, GingerGourmand, ThePorkyDrunk, TheMeadmaker and even LambshankRdmptn!
As for happy endings? Who can resist the story of Gregg Wallace, TV star ingredient-expert, who’s calls himself the “cooking woman’s crumpet.” and goes by Pudding Face on Twitter. Pudding Face made contact with Heidi Brown, who’s 17 years younger, on Twitter. “@Heidipopps You’re very special./ @Heidipopps missed you, but then you know that. Xxxxxxxxxxxx.”
They’re now married.
So what’s a celebrity foodie romance like? Champagne and caviar on a private jet? Not quite, according to Pudding Face’s twitter update. “Very romantic evening with my lady. Dinner from Tesco Metro, eaten on a balcony in Crewe overlooking Mc Donalds. Sun setting on Large fries.”
Honestly, who needs reality TV?