It has become ever more common for chefs to be treated like rock stars. So it was no surprise to see nearly 50 of them stride across a gangway at Old Billingsgate Market in London earlier this week, while 600 diners clapped, cheered and took photos on the phones.
It is perhaps appropriate that for the middle classes and their media, food and its creators have (whether they like it or not) become ever more celebrated.
The 599 and I were there for the Relais and Chateaux “dîner des grands chefs”. The chefs were put into teams of three, with each taking a course, and each team creating their own menu for three tables of hungry faces dressed in their black tie best.
The trio I had were very impressive: Double-Michelin starred chef Jean-Luc Rocha served up a lobster dish with acidic vegetables. British-born-US-based Colin Bedford cooked an exceptional beef dish, while the quiet, unassuming Japanese chef Yoshinori Shibuya prepared a scallop dish so good (with asparagus and morels with a morel sauce), that I am tempted fly to his restaurant La Bécasse in Osaka to eat it again.
All this was made better as it was washed down with various vintages of Pommery champagne, while an auction which raised £100,000 for Action against Hunger went a (very) small way to assuage the diners’ greedy guilt.
But it wasn’t just us eaters being treated well last week, the men and women in whites were able to indulge their celebrity status.
After being flown to the UK for the dinner, they enjoyed boat trips, restaurant visits and spent the day at Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Of course, a number of the chefs will have stuck around because in London on Monday, Restaurant magazine announces its annual list of the 50 best restaurants in the world.
Just like those who hang around rock stars often get the perks, even the judges of the event (The Diners Club Academy) get treated well. Tomorrow night a group of them have been invited to HKK restaurant in the City of London for a multi-course Chinese banquet.
And for those chefs who make the top 50 on Monday, it should ensure that they continue to get the rock star treatment for some time to come.