Reality TV and the Effect on The Restaurant Industry

Words: Jess Spiro

If you’re a food lover, then there is no shortage of food-based reality TV shows to keep you entertained these days. Shows like Masterchef, Top Chef and Hell’s Kitchen give viewers a glimpse into the cutthroat industry of the restaurant world, and they’re only delving deeper into that intense world. Prior to these shows, very little was known about the restaurant world. It was kind of dismissed as this deep, dark underworld, where people worked too hard and drank too much when they were done. Now, we are able to see what this world is all about better than ever before. As with all things in life, though, this effect has positive and negative aspects to it. We look at all the runoff from food reality TV.

To start, the restaurant industry is one of the toughest out there. It requires long hours, immense sacrifice and literal blood, sweat and tears. If you want to make it in the culinary world, you need to have an equal mix of talent and an unshakable work ethic. What these shows have done for the industry is shine a light on them. For the first time, the customers are able to see what really goes into those plates of food that are sometimes taken for granted.

Food is more popular than ever and these shows seem to have increased an awareness and an appreciation for the culinary world. Now, diners are eating with eyes wide open.

They are more adventurous and more accepting of unusual and unfamiliar ingredients. Chefs and restaurants know that they are able to push the boundaries slightly more than they could maybe 10 years ago; it truly is an exciting time to be in the food industry.


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These shows have also displayed that there is a very bright career in food. Yes, it’s hard and yes, you need to know what you’re talking about (you can’t just wake up one day and decide you want to be head chef of a restaurant) but being in food is no longer looked down upon like it used to be.

Being a chef is no longer reserved for the misfits and deviants of society, it’s now respected as an upstanding career choice for many young people. People have realised that cooking at a high level requires vast knowledge, patience, attention to detail as well as that all important work ethic.

So, with positives like this, could there possibly be negatives to the reality food TV phenomenon? In short, yes. Unfortunately, when you have shows as popular as something like Masterchef, there is going to be some downside to it. The first is that while customers are being exposed to new ingredients and techniques, there is sometimes a feeling from these diners that they know better. Because they know about processes like sous vide and confit, they expect that every dish they eat must include a complicated method. There can be a lack of appreciation for the simplicity for a well-made sandwich or beautiful plate of pasta. Diners want their food to jump up off the plate and sing and dance for them, even when it’s not appropriate. There is also a massive rise of the self-appointed food critic. These reality shows teach some aspects of the food world, and combined with online review forums, there is a population of diners who take it upon themselves too harshly and unfairly review restaurants.

Another negative effect of these TV shows is that they can gloss over what it truly requires to make it in the restaurant world. If you want to be a chef, and a successful one at that, you have to be prepared to work. A lot. You can’t simply enter a TV show, put together some dishes, win a competition and – hey presto! – be a chef.

My Kitchen Rules

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If you look at the workforce of the food world, any one of the chefs you talk to will tell you tales of many, many years grafting in a kitchen. They will all have had to patiently and voraciously work their way up the kitchen ranks. None of them would have simply walked into a head chef position.

It’s unreasonable to think that because you beat out 30 other amateur cooks that you’re qualified to lead a kitchen.

These shows are also filmed over a couple of months, which can be tough for the contestants as they’re away from home and family. That loneliness, however, is nothing in comparison to what they would experience in the restaurant industry. You have to be prepared to give up birthdays, anniversaries and most holidays. You have to be prepared to spend long periods of time away from your loved ones. Yes, winning one of these competitions is a great achievement but what comes after that is even tougher and that is what these shows don’t seem to explain. It may appear all glitz and glamour, but there is a lot of sacrifice required in this industry.

Hells Kitchen

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As all round food lovers, we are delighted that food is so popular these days. And these shows, just like the subject matter, are seriously addictive, and they just keep getting better and better. They include some of the world’s most respected chefs and restaurants and the challenges they put together are nothing to be laughed at. But, be warned, that if you’re one of those who watches these shows and decides that you can be the next Massimo Bottura or David Chang, take a minute to consider all we’ve discussed here. This industry is not for the faint of heart, nor is it anything like a cooking competition on the telly. Those who have appeared in these shows and then have gone on to have successful careers haven’t done so because they won a TV show, they’ve done it because they’ve worked incredibly hard at it.

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