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Britain’s terrible food paradox continues: “Celebrity Chef restaurants worst in country”

Being someone who actually enjoys food, rather than treats it as a positional good, I’ve blogged about our perverse, commodified, relationship with grub before now. However I take it as some vindication that the new Harden’s guide says restaurants run by celebrity chefs offer some of the most overpriced and worst-cooked food in London.

Heston Blumental and Marcus Wareing come in for a particular clobbering, and Gordon Ramsey doesn’t get off lightly either.

This will be a rich subject for future historians – how a nation of food banks sits glued to the telly watching kitchen-based reality shows while its more affluent citizens fork out small fortunes to dine at what are effectively marketing stands for media personalities, where they can play make-believe in the reflected glory of an imaginary life. For now, however, it beggars belief. This country has no idea how to eat, which must mean it has only some scant idea of how to live.

In truth, Britain’s relationship with food has been going downhill since the Inclosure Acts, and it has seen worse material inequality too, but what strikes me today is the utter intellectual poverty of the moneied. In previous generations and eras the people with cash were, however unintentionally, patrons of the arts. This should really be a fuller post, but historically the wealthy sponsored the Renaissance and the Baroque, or they spent their own (sometimes dwindling) inheritances to carve out their own careers as Romantics and Modernists. Their wealth and privilege afforded them some sort of confident aesthetic sensibility, which is essential for any kind of honest judgement. It is in fact the stuff of which culture is born. Now they’re as craven, mindless and programmed as the rest of us. There is something deeply pitiful about David and Samantha Cameron, Tony and Cherie Blair, Simon Cowell, Bradley Cooper, Lily Allen, David Beckham, Lindsay Lohan and Nigella Lawson (supposedly a chef herself) all booking and paying to show off their expensive dental work in a restaurant that has been slammed not just by Westminster Council – for countless environmental failures – but by the country’s pre-eminent restaruant guide for truly awful food. But the food never mattered. The paparazzis are waiting patiently outside, and that’s all that counts.

There is a terrible vacuum evident here; food is one of the windows through which we can see it. The fig-leaf that is “economic growth” can only cover so much.

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