Culinary Superstars

22 July 2022

Is culinary arts the new rock and roll?

With cooking shows dominating the TV networks and leading chefs achieving global fame, we examine the rise in cultural prominence of our humble food-preparation activities… 

In 1955, a British restaurant critic and food writer called Fanny Cradock recorded a pilot television show for the BBC. 

Fanny Cradock Cooks for Christmas, presented with her husband Johnnie, became a staple of the British Christmas TV schedules, and made Fanny one of the first culinary television personalities. 

With its basic production values and traditional recipes, watching clips of the show today takes us back to a simpler time. However, the subject matter – food and cooking – retains a central place in our cultural and entertainment landscape. 

Since these early attempts, cookery shows have evolved in scope and ambition and now dominate television networks around the world (with most countries having at least one channel dedicated exclusively to culinary output).

Shows such as MasterChef, Bake Off and Hell’s Kitchen are now global brands – MasterChef alone is produced in more than 40 countries and shown in over 200 territories.

This has made international stars of chefs who have cultivated a successful media persona – with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, a seven time Michelin starred chef with over 40 restaurants worldwide, taking their profile to a whole new level through their involvement in television projects. 

However, establishing a successful restaurant brand is not necessarily a pre-requisite to launching a culinary media career.

The rise of social media and self-publishing channels such as YouTube, has democratized the playing field to an extent, meaning that anyone with a concept that resonates has the opportunity to grow a follower base. 

The likes of Laura Vitale (Laura in the Kitchen – 3.86 million subscribers) and Andrew Rea (Babish Culinary Universe – 9.7 million subscribers) have achieved huge online popularity with relatively little previous culinary experience.

Channels such as Tasty (currently YouTube’s most popular cookery channel with over 20 million subscribers) have popularized the bird’s eye view cookery demonstration, with short, punchy videos that make use of text elements and infographics and where the “chef” often doesn’t even appear on screen.

The channel originally started life as a BuzzFeed launched Facebook page and taps into the social trend of snappy, easily digestible (pun intended) micro-content, consumed (stop it!) mainly on mobile devices. 

So, what’s not in doubt is the ubiquitous nature of culinary content on both traditional and social media channels; however, what is perhaps less clear, are the factors behind this enduring popularity.

To start to tackle this question, we headed to what felt like the most logical place – the IMI kitchens – to talk with Culinary Lecturer Jonas Grip.


“Food is something we can all relate to,” he explains.

“And when people are watching a cooking show on TV, they are seeing something that they can, at least in theory, create in their home.

“I think that this gives them a sense of being more than just a consumer of the television media, and in fact they feel more like an active participant.”

Chef Jonas seems to strike at the heart of the matter here – human beings are empathetic creatures, and we derive both satisfaction and enjoyment from observing positive situations that we can imagine ourselves a part of. 

Added to this is the sense of creation that is inherent to cookery and baking. Since the dawn of time, man has sought to build and create, and cooking gives us a very accessible sense of being able to achieve this in our day-to-day lives.

As this article published in the National Library of Medicine suggests, cooking can lead to increased self-esteem and greater psychological well-being. With baking especially, aside from the creative element, we tend to associate the process with bright colours, decoration and treats – all things which stimulate a positive reaction in us.

This was brought into sharp relief during the Covid pandemic, where a combination of being stuck at home, having more free time on our hands, and seeking different ways to entertain and occupy ourselves, led to a huge boost in the popularity of home baking.

Indeed, the Economist reported in 2020 that Google searches for baking terms and Instagram posts tagged with #homebake soared during the early weeks of the pandemic.

Source: The Economist


However, there also seems to also be a deeper neurological basis for our fondness of seeing food on screen (even if we can’t actually taste it).

The Salk Institute has conducted a research study showing how the brain combines shape recognition with sensitivity to imagined taste and texture when processing vision.

In effect, this means that, when we are watching cookery shows on TV, we are deriving some of the pleasure of tasting the food purely from our visual input and processing. 

The combination of familiarity, pleasure, comfort and aspiration seems to be at the heart of our continued enjoyment of cookery shows.

Whether the nature of the culinary content is instructive, competitive or merely decorative, the base element of food and our relationship to it, triggers something in us that we find compelling and rewarding.

In recent times, IMI alumni have been no strangers to the culinary media, with Indonesian alumna Machel and Singaporean alumnus Nares both appearing in their countries' respective versions of MasterChef.

Both former students performed incredibly well, with Machel reaching the top five and (as we type) Nares having just being announced as a finalist in the current season of the Singapore version.

We can’t help but feel some pride that the culinary education the two received at IMI has gone on to lead them to such heights. But of course, our culinary graduates go on to a wide range of different successful careers, from head chefs to restaurant owners to food scientists.

The beauty of the culinary arts degree at IMI is its combination of practical training with management theory education. By ensuring our students are as well equipped to run a business as they are a kitchen, we give them the possibility to choose many different career pathways on graduation. 

Not only that, but the degree's UK-validation by Manchester Metropolitan University gives it worldwide recognition and delivers British academic excellence alongside our Swiss hospitality expertise. 

Small class sizes, a beautiful study environment and personal academic and careers support – it’s no wonder our graduates turn out to be superstars!

You can find our more about IMI's BA (Hons) Culinary Arts degree on its dedicated webpage.


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