Celebrity cook and cookbook author Nigella Lawson was in India recently, curating a dinner for premium clientele of a credit card company. Reports suggest that a small number of seats were made available to outside gentry, and people paid as much as 25,000 rupees for each. However, the five-course meal left a bad taste in the mouth of many guests, as it was no match to their expectations. Calling the experience an “insult to a diner” owner of popular restaurant The Table, Gauri Devidayal wrote in her Facebook post, “The meals reinforced my conviction that most TV chefs don’t really know much about cooking and what it takes to serve paying customers day in and day out, and that we’re all such suckers for celebrity status.”

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Nigella Lawson was recently in India and curated two limited seating dinners.
  • A restauranteur, however, termed the dining experience as an “insult” to the diners.
  • What does a person expect to get, when they shell out as much as 25 grand for a meal?
  • When has money been a guarantee of good food?

Reports suggest that a small number of seats were made available to outside gentry, and people paid as much as 25,000 rupees for each.

Considering the stature of the cook and celebrity in question, one is amused to read that the dinner ‘curated’ by her was substandard. So, are celebrity food events not worth the hype? What does a person expect to get, when they shell out as much as 25 grand for a meal anyway? Gastronomic epiphany, a satiated palate, or just a chance to rub shoulders with a celebrity, to win bragging rights on social media or in your friend circle? Perhaps it is all this and even more. And as your list of expectations grows, the chances of them falling flat on face in reality soar as well.

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One has to remember that celebrity cooks’ food events are more than just about food. As Tara Deshpande pointed out in reply to Devidayal, “The 25 k people paid was possibly more about meeting her.” Which is indeed true. When has money been the guarantee to good food? Haven’t we all eaten memorable meals for a price way less than this? So the Lawson fiasco yet again stokes the fine dining debate, where the uninitiated likes of me wonder what do people pay for, when they pay so handsomely for dinners and lunches? Exclusivity is one thing. There were limited invites to this event and that is a thing to boast about. You got to be where not even a handful can brag to.

The second is experience, which what fine dining is all about. Great food is just a component of this experience, others being the venue, the wine you’re served, the company you are in and ofcourse the rare chance to taste something ‘curated’ by globally famed food goddess herself. Isn’t this the stuff memorable experiences are made of? However, no one ever promised that this experience, albeit being a memorable one, will be pleasant.

Who can forget the infamous Justin Bieber concert, where to the shock of his fans, the singing sensation did not even make an effort to sing his own numbers to his fans. Why does it surprise us then, that people would pay in 25,000 to get a hand shake and a selfie with Lawson?

Third, of course is Nigella Lawson. As Devidayal commented on her own post that it was supposed to be more about “an audience” with the celebrity. People pay much more to watch their favourite superstars dance on stage, donning garish costumes and limp dance moves. Who can forget the infamous Justin Bieber concert, where to the shock of his fans, the popstar did not even make an effort to sing all of his songs for his fans. But those who attended still take pride in informing others how they got to ‘see’ Justin Bieber. Why does it surprise us then, that people would pay in 25,000 to get a handshake and a selfie with Lawson? Living in India, we have a much better idea of how fandom and celebrity worship works, than most.

Coming back to the initial question, the high profile food events may or may not work, depending on what you went in seeking. If a chance to mingle with the celeb cook or have a photograph with her or him is your aim, then it might as well be the best thing to happen to you. Different people, different priorities.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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