20 Most Influential: The Celebrity Chef

Non-commercial foodservice has stars in its eyes for these famed culinarians.

The Celebrity Chef

There is no doubt that celebrity chef worship has had a tangible effect on modern foodservice like never before. With the rise of the Food Network, “Top Chef” and countless other food-obsessed media, every customer has become a critic, and often what satisfies them is food with an aura of fame. And it’s not just the customers who have starry eyes.

“I know that [celebrity chef culture] motivates our younger chefs,” says Ron DeSantis, director of culinary excellence at Yale University. “Celebrity chefs get the more mature chefs thinking, but they really fire up the younger chefs. I have a couple of them ask, ‘How can I get on ‘Chopped?’’’ I think that is great because it tells me that everyone here is alive and well in their professions and they’re not just sleeping on the job. They are excited about cooking and being a chef.”

The most interesting thing about how celebrity chefs influence non-commercial markets is the variety of ways the culture pops up in operations. The most obvious cases of celebrity chef power wielding are Jamie Oliver’s “Food Revolution” and Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative. Both these efforts use the weight of famous chefs to try and enact real change—for better or worse—in foodservice, especially in school meals. Another aspect of this culture’s reach is the celebrity chef partnerships that bring in recipes to operations, such as Marcus Samuelsson’s street foods concept at Restaurant Associates cafés or Mai Pham’s Asian cuisine at Sodexo accounts. Finally, there are the tried-and-true guest chef series that bring these chefs into operations for cooking demonstrations and to help train and inspire staff.

“Our students watch these shows and then demand higher quality food,” DeSantis says. “They don’t want cafeteria food. Our goal has never been to be the best college and university cafeteria in the world. Our goal is to be the best restaurant-style foodservice in college and universities. Celebrity and star chefs help us with those efforts.” 


Foodservice Director has undertaken a bold initiative by identifying people who we believe are having the biggest impact on non-commercial foodservice. Our list may surprise you and should certainly intrigue you. Our honorees have backgrounds as varied as their personalities. They range from the father of the modern-day food truck to the wife of a sitting president. They include operators and suppliers, chefs and consultants, CEOs and civil servants. There are traditionalists and there are mavericks. Well-known names share space with hot newcomers. In all, 17 people, two groups of individuals and one institution compose the list. It’s time to meet FSD’s 20 Most Influential.

More From FoodService Director

Sponsored Content
low sodium foodservice

From Furmano's.

Although salt often gets a bad reputation in the health and nutrition industry, a small amount of the nutrient is necessary for proper body functioning. It’s an essential mineral the body uses to control blood pressure, help muscles and nerves work properly and balance fluids. However, it’s important for consumers to watch sodium intake, because some studies have shown that it may increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

One group of people who are at high risk for too much sodium intake are elderly consumers, as the...

Industry News & Opinion

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is serving free meals to students in North Carolina who were affected by Hurricane Florence.

Students in the disaster area will be able to receive the free meals through Oct. 26. The government says that the meals will potentially benefit 31 districts and more than 284,000 students.

School districts will be able to serve meals that do not follow meal pattern requirements or meal planning through Oct. 19 in order to help administer the meals as effectively as possible.

“During a storm like this, the state may face...

Managing Your Business
school supplies

Students at School District 27J in Brighton, Colo., and Pueblo City Schools in Pueblo, Colo., returned to a shorter school year this fall . Both districts have switched to a four-day school week in an attempt to cut costs and help attract and retain teachers.

While the switch could have a positive outcome for the districts, the nutrition teams are facing challenges such as staffing , a potentially off-kilter commodities supply and concern over how to provide food to students on the extra day.

Open communication

On Monday when school is not in session, School District 27J...

Industry News & Opinion

More than 200 schools in Colorado participated in Colorado Proud School Meal Day, Alamosa News reports.

The day is meant to highlight Colorado agriculture as well as educate students on healthy eating.

At Mountain Valley School in Saguache, Colo., staff served tomatillos, collard greens, purple potatoes, beans, squash and pickled beets, while students at North Conejos School District in La Jara, Colo., enjoyed Colorado peaches.

In Sanford, Colo., students at Sanford Schools got to try local potatoes and were able to vote on if they liked them or not. A map of...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code