Chef Jacques Pépin, well-respected cookbook author and long-time television personality, wrote an article for The Daily Meal today in which he expressed some very honest feelings about reality television-style cooking shows. Acknowledging that working in a restaurant is a stressful experience and can lead to flaring tempers, he says: "As an apprentice, I was kicked in the rear end a few times, but it was tough love more than nastiness. These are the conditions of the trade, and anyone who works in a restaurant is well aware of them."
Pépin goes on to point at television's recent spate of shows that aim to "humiliate" and "terrorize" young cooks and contestants rather than teach. As a Dean at the International Culinary Center, Pépin feels that portraying "the restaurant kitchen in a chaotic and negative light... is a disservice to our trade and to young people who want to go into this business." Though he doesn't mention shouty chef Gordon Ramsay by name, Pépin does note that Hell's Kitchen is among the shows where "every other word [is] a bleeped expletive." Having declared reality TV "totally unreal," Pépin recommends that cameras walk into the orderly kitchens of Thomas Keller's Per Se in New York City or Alice Waters' Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif. While rivalry and cruelty "may be good for ratings," writes Pépin, "it is unjust to dedicated cooks and unfair to the trade."