You’ve heard of the national dish, or flower, or many other kinds of symbol, but what doesn’t make it onto touristy postcards quite so much is the national fetish. If you live in a culture for long enough, you are bound to spot some kinky inclination sooner or later. It doesn’t have to be just one either. In Britain I think the longest standing national fetishes have been cross dressing, and female domination. Just watch a ‘Carry on’ movie and you’ll see what I mean! But what’s more interesting, I think, is a new national fetish which has emerged over the last decade or so; Sexy Chefs.
Whether it is Delia Smith with her firm grasp on kitchen utensils, Gordon Ramsay’s rough and rude approach, or just Nigella Lawson’s breasts, we Brits have a definite thing for sex appeal in the kitchen. You could argue that all celebrities sell their looks and sexiness to make it onto television, and that this isn’t a phenomenon which is unique to cooking shows at all. This is true to a certain extent, but the raw sexuality of the UKs tv cooks by far outstrips other presenters. It is also far more noticeable than in other countries (it must be a very strange little minority who tune into Paula Deen’s US cooking show for anything but literal sauciness!). British celebrity chefs have become the nation’s new rock stars, and I bet there are fans flinging underwear at them when they emerge from the studio.
But why on earth have chefs become such sex symbols? If you’ve been in a restaurant kitchen, you certainly wouldn’t have made the association between the sweaty, smelly, red-faced men and women working hard, and kink. With intense work hours spent on their feet, in a very high stress environment, chefs don’t make for obvious candidates of bedroom wildness. Even at home, cooking isn’t really very sexy. It involves un-sexy smells, hard work, and definitely un-attractive clothing (unless you want your sexy outfit splattered with food). Certainly there are plenty of kitchen fantasies, most notably involving the kitchen table, but those tend to fit into the post-cooking part of a sexy evening, once the cook has had a chance to spruce themself up.
But the link between food, and therefore cooking, and sex is pretty clear. You’ve probably seen the term ‘food porn’ in the media; meaning the kinds of tempting images of food you get in advertising, in magazines, or on blogs designed to make you salivate and really want it (the food, I mean). Just like porn itself, food porn is all about titillation, and stirring up desires. It is also all about guilty pleasure, because the real food porn worthy dishes are hardly good for you. You watch a thick, heavy, rich chocolate sauce roll slowly down the surface of a moist, glistening cake… You know you shouldn’t look, you know you shouldn’t let yourself be tempted, you’d feel ashamed if anyone caught you, but you just can’t tear your eyes away. You can almost taste it. Food erection anyone?
The jump from food porn to sexy chefs is not hard to make. And celebrity chefs don’t have to appear realistically, with steamy sweaty faces, bad skin, smelling like everything they just peeled and chopped… they get to appear as dressed up as the dishes themselves. They have pristine kitchens, with professional lighting and makeup, and the camera pans and zooms at all the right moments. Just like real porn, a lot of work goes into to showing the act in the best possible light – in this case the act just happens to be cooking.
Just in case you really don’t know what I’m on about, I suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine, locking the door and switching off your phone, getting into a bathrobe, and putting on a British cooking show. Just make sure the neighbours don’t overhear.
(Editors note: You could also just skip most of the cooking and skip to the juicier bits with this link: TV chefs talk dirty)