Diet of over-rich food from television'scelebrity chefs gets a roasting from the health watchdogs

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Health watchdogs have given celebrity chefs a roasting by saying their recipes are a catastrophe for the nation's well-being. But, as Alexandra Williams found out, the cooks think the health police have missed the point.

"Fold 300ml of double cream and three egg whites into the ..." Oozing calories and bursting with cream, this recipe may sound tempting but it should carry a health warning, according to the Consumers' Association.

In the magazine Health Which?, published yesterday, some of the leading culinary personalities have been condemned for sacrificing health for pleasure.

The magazine reviewed 20 best-selling recipe books and came to the conclusion that whilst celebrity chefs have contributed in raising the nation's culinary expertise, they have failed nutritionally.

Sue Todd, a senior researcher at the Consumers' Association, said: "The myth that healthy food is just brown and boring needs to be dispelled.

"People need to know that healthy food can be interesting too and not just the fat laden puddings shown in some of these celebrity books. Books like Delia Smith's should only be used on very special occasions."

But yesterday chefs reacted angrily to the Which? report and accused the Consumers' Association of petty bureaucracy.

"The diet squad thinks people eat just for nourishment. In the same respect are we to think we should only dress for protection?" said Antony Worral Thompson, chef of the Food and Drink Programme on BBC2 television.

"You can't lead a red-tape, Communist life like these people would like us to. They have really gone over the top this time."

Chefs defended their colleagues, claiming that the criticised books are not intended to be Bibles of health and it is not their job to preach about fruit and pulses.

"The Which? report is an indication that we're becoming a nanny state," said Mr Worral Thompson.

Others suggested the CA was patronising the public and taking itself a little too seriously. "Don't they realise that people take out their Delia Smith or Gary Rhodes for dinner parties - not every night?" said Duncan Holloway, Chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs and chef at Eton College.

"Go ahead and have a gooey chocolate pudding then feel guilty in the morning and eat rabbit food all day. Cooking's not just about health - you eat with your eyes. And what about your taste buds?"

The report awards the books marks out of five for nutrition, taste, presentation and suitability for vegetarians.

Delia Smith, the first TV chef to become a millionaire, scores a mere two for nutrition in her Winter Collection book which has sold 1.7 million copies.

"Healthy eating isn't Delia's forte ... she's partial to calorie-laden puddings," is the verdict of Which?.

The doyenne of dinner party cuisine angers the writers of the report for apparently failing to see healthy eating as compatible with pleasurable eating.

She says in her forward to the best-seller: "I have an instinct (no more) that perhaps our preoccupation with healthy eating has eclipsed the very health-giving joy of traditional cooking."

Gary Rhodes, who landed a lucrative deal with Tate & Lyle, scores a poor one out of five for nutrition and vegetarian for his book Open Rhodes Around Britain, though he does manage a healthy four for taste.

The report says: "Indulgence is the central theme with lots of high-fat, high-calorie recipes. Not too hot on veggie options either."

A spokesman for Mr Rhodes admitted that the chef would never compromise his cooking for a few calories.

Not even the celebrity vegetarian Linda McCartney escapes criticism from the health police. The report points out that Linda's Summer Kitchen incorrectly states that cauliflower, broccoli and garlic are good sources of protein and includes a "sugar-free" cake which contains four tablespoons of golden syrup.

Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, alias the Two Fat Ladies, shrugged off criticism and suggested other methods of keeping healthy.

"If people are worried about nutrition and health, perhaps they should do more exercise, turn down the central heating and watch less television," said Miss Dickson Wright.