Who Were the Most Influentual People in Culinary Arts and Why?

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Chefs from many cultures have impacted the culinary arts. From the first chefs to focus on the visual presentation of meals to those currently experimenting with fusion cuisine, the most influential people in culinary arts have made their mark as pioneers in culinary education techniques, created movements to improve products used, exposed the shortcomings of the culinary industry and created new styles of cuisine.

James Beard

  • James Beard's place as one of the most influential people in culinary arts is secured by his pioneering efforts in cookbooks and his place as the first television cooking show host. Beard began catering in 1935 to support his acting career, eventually opening a food shop, Hors d'Oeuvres, in 1937. In 1940 and 1942, Beard released pioneering cookbooks, "Hors d'Oeuvres & Canapes," the first cookbook dedicated to cocktail food, and "Cook it Outdoors," the first cookbook dedicated to outdoor cooking. Beard continued to write cookbooks and in 1946 he became the host of the first televised cooking program. The James Beard Cooking School was opened in 1955. Beard focused on cooking with fresh, local ingredients.

Julia Child

  • Julia Child was a champion of French cuisine and a tremendous asset to the cooking world. Her importance can be verified by her numerous awards and accomplishments. A student of France's prestigious Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Child sought to enrich American cuisine by incorporating French cuisine. She co-authored "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," a 734-page tome that stayed at the top of the cookbook sales list for five years. It is now a standard in the culinary industry. She hosted four successful television cooking shows, earning her the George Foster Peabody Award in 1964, and an Emmy Award in 1966. Child also hosted three cooking specials. She was a constant fixture on Good Morning America during the 1970s and 1980s. Child has a long list of cookbooks to her credit. She was the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame in 1993 and received France's Legion d'Honneur in 2000. Her television kitchen became an exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in 2002.

Emeril Lagasse

  • Emeril Lagasse became a celebrity chef through his successful restaurants and television cooking shows. He studied culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He also studied in Paris and Lyon, France to further hone his culinary abilities. Lagasse rooted himself in the New Orleans area as the executive chef of Commander's Palace, a New Orleans fixture. He opened his first restaurant, Emeril's, which combined numerous cuisines including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Asian and Caribbean in 1990. The Food Network took notice of Lagasse's abilities and tested him on two cooking shows, both of which failed. The third and fourth shows were huge successes, especially "Emeril Live!," which toured the country. Lagasse lent his identity to a line of cookware, Emerilware, which was the first in a long line of celebrity chef cookware, including lines bearing the names of Paula Deen, Rachel Ray and Giada de Laurentiis.

Ken Hom

  • Ken Hom is a pioneer of Asian Fusion cooking. In recent years, the Asian Fusion style of cooking has seen a rise in popularity, with Vietnamese/Thai or Thai/Japanese being the two most commonly blended styles. Hom created innovative recipes which he shared on his five cooking shows airing from 1984 to 2000. Hom has cooked for many heads of state and is an oriental cooking consultant for numerous restaurants worldwide and the menu advisor for Cathay Pacific Airlines.

Gordon Ramsay

  • Gordon Ramsay is a pioneer in the reality cooking show genre. Both "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares" offer insight into the culinary industry. Ramsay's tough love and aggression offer a wake-up call to all the budding chef restaurant owners who have always "dreamed" of owning their own restaurant, but lack the experience. Looking beyond their entertainment value, these shows are important studies of restaurant management and operation. By offering these views into the restaurant world, many aspiring restauranteurs may think twice about opening a restaurant.

Jamie Oliver

  • Jamie Oliver is a visionary in the food industry. While good chefs know that the source and quality of ingredients used is important, Oliver is the only one making a movement to do something about it. With his show, "Food Revolution," Oliver is showing how important it is to know where your food comes from. His goal is to educate people on their food sources and encourage consumers and culinary artists to know where the products come from.

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