The magazine this week published its top ten list of ‘celebrity chefs’ or TV chefs who are catching the eye of the food manufacturing and retail sector as the next generation of chef endorsers.
However, The Grocer, a sister publication to BigHospitality, warns that chef endorsements need to be approached with caution by both the chefs and the brands. “Get it wrong and culinary credibility and brand equity could be damaged,” it says.
Success stories that have benefited both sides of the endorsements include: Heston Blumenthal’s and Delia Smith’s partnerships with Waitrose; TV chef Jo Pratt with Tilda rice and Tenderstem broccoli; and Nathan Outlaw with Davidstow Cornish Cheddar.
But not everyone gets it right. Chef endorsements gone wrong, according to The Grocer, include Antony Worrall Thompson’s cleaning wipes; Gary Rhodes’ face across Tate & Lyle Sugar; and Ainsley Harriott’s infamous ‘prick with fork’ sausages.
Celebrity chefs: caution required
As a result, aspiring celebrity chefs and their agents are thinking carefully before putting names to brands.
The reason for caution is simple, says Tommi Miers, Masterchef 2005 winner and co-founder of the Wahaca Mexican restaurant chain, who has turned down many endorsement propositions: the public can spot a sell-out a mile off.
“Credibility is everything,” she says. “If you start putting your name to things that you don’t believe in, it will be so apparent from the word ‘go’. The more you put your name to things, the greater the risk of losing your credibility is.”
According to the sponsorship consultancy Synergy Sponsorship, brand ambassadors need to demonstrate a real affinity for the organisations they work with and find ways to enhance their customers’ experience of a product or retailer through the association.
“You can’t just slap someone’s face on a pack,” says Jenny Mitton, account manager at Synergy.
“If you’re going to align your brand to a personality, you should be looking to give something back to your consumers. Waitrose has done this very well by creating an experience through the Heston and Delia recipes but I’m never quite sure how Jamie Oliver actually adds to the experience of shopping at Sainsbury’s, for example.”
If the stars are not giving something back, or are seen to be simply selling out to the highest bidder, the public will soon become wary, says Andy Richards, MD of the agency ASL Celebrity Chefs.
“People can get fed up with seeing the same faces again and again,” he says. “The superstars will always be in demand – Gordon Ramsay’s booked out for more than a year in advance and costs £30,000 a day and the Hairy Bikers are about £10,000 to £15,000 a day – but there is a need for new blood. We’re constantly looking for new talent.”
New celebrity TV chefs?
The Grocer predicts that this new talent will come in a variety of shapes and forms. Its top ten predictions for the new generation of celebrity TV chefs are:
- Tommi Miers, Masterchef winner and co-founder Wahaca. “Hot stuff”.
- Dean Edwards, Masterchef finalist and ITV regular. “Brands are bound to be lining up.”
- Jo Pratt, chef, author and enthusiastic endorser. “Has no qualms about putting her name about a bit.
- Nathan Outlaw, chef patron of eponymous restaurant. “Bigger fish could soon be circling.”
- Yotam Ottolenghi, Israeli vegetarian chef and author. “Already a hit with the lentil fanciers.”
- Jason Atherton, chef-restaurateur and previously “the best chef in the Gordon Ramsay Group.”
- Luke Thomas, named Future Chef 2009 aged just 15. “Is this the next Jamie Oliver?”
- Lorraine Pascale, former model turned TV chef. “Sashayed from the catwalk to the kitchen and took her success with her.”
- Gizzi Erskine, named Britain’s sexiest chef 2009 and TV regular. “Bigger things surely await.”
- Anna Hansen, Kiwi TV chef. “One to watch.”