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Grana Padano
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Today, to be a chef is to be cool.

I’m 42 years old and, while I was at hotel school, being the cook for many was a shift job. When no other alternatives were left, I worked as a tile setter, a plumber, a mechanic or as a cook and there was nothing very cool about it.

Twenty years have gone by and some things have changed.

On television, there are more chefs than dancers and, tragically, there are even chefs who dance... Cooking programmes and reality shows dedicated to chefs abound.

Some time ago, the stereotype of a chef was a big man, somewhat over-weight and bald. The wine which didn’t finish in his cooking quenched his thirst and gave him a nice ruddy and satisfied face. This was confirmed when I announced to my father that I wanted to be a cook instead of the captain of a spaceship and he answered me that I would end up fat, bald and probably alcoholic.

These days, the modern chef takes obsessive care of his image.

When looking for work, we are required more and more to entertain the guests and to speak different languages. The more we progress, the more the work of a chef becomes that of an entertainer. Soon, to hire us, they won’t interview us but rather we’ll have to pass their castings. Other than photos of our dishes, we’ll have to attach an assortment of photos of ourselves in different unnatural poses and parading in outfits of various colours and makes to our CV’s. Those chefs who know some dance steps will have an advantage, while the pause for singing will be obligatory for all.

These days chefs must stay in shape. Photographic services for web pages, specialised magazines and billboard advertising have become routine. Now, no more wine; chefs have turned into fitness hounds of the gym and workouts. The uniforms are necessarily tailored and damned snugly fitted.

Now it’s no longer shift work, to be a cook is a glamorous job! Boys now dream of becoming chefs and of having a TV show all for themselves.

Puppets, Big-Jim-style, which reproduce the great chefs of the moment and let our youngsters dream and play, have just been released on the market. The most requested are: the Bastard Chef, blond hair and evil grin; the Ascetic Chef, dishevelled hair, beard and the air of an annoyed intellectual, escorted by seven small, reverent critics; the Fat Chef, red hair, ponytail and sausage necklace; the Ninja Chef who slices sushi with a katana and of course, the Molecular Super Chef, with superpowers and a thunderbolt in his hand, a little like Zeus. The figure albums and videogames will soon be available.

OK, I admit that I’ve probably exaggerated a bit. However, this is the distorted image that the media are giving about us chefs and our work. I’ll stop here for today; in a little while I have an appointment with my cosmetician. My follicular transplant is already booked for next year.

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