My husband has got used to me inviting chefs to come home with us. He was startled the first time, but you get used to anything over time. And there was some smoked mushroom soup involved.
But let me go back a step. I have a book next to my bed – Don’t Try This At Home (Bloomsbury) – which is very funny reading: some of the world’s top chefs, like Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in Bray, UK; and TV luminary Antony Worrall Thompson – tell stories of memorable kitchen stuff-ups. There’s a Q&A at the end of each story, where the obvious questions are asked.
One of them is: "What dish would you cook in order to seduce someone?"
Because, let’s face it, chefs are the sexual alchemists of our age. Chefs are to grown-up men and women what his own reflection was to Narcissus: love.
I can command an entire room’s attention, for instance, with the news that my husband has seen Nigella Lawson with very few clothes on (sad to say, there’s a dispiritingly flat ending). He’s too discreet to tell it so alas, I cannot order the T-shirt: "I go to bed with the man who saw Nigella with very few clothes on."
I do, however, have every one of her books. And here's something spooky: I'm the same age, weight and cup size as she is. My accent's not as posh, but you couldn't tell the difference between her Coca-Cola Cupcakes and mine.
Listen, do you think it's Jamie Oliver's accent that got us going? Do you think he called himself the Naked Chef just for a lark? He’s got 10 television shows, 10 top selling DVDs and eight books out of it – and millions of us noticing how cute he is. If he never stuffs a mushroom again, he'll still be collecting more money than is decent from royalties on his media products, his kitchen-tool ranges, his restaurants, his endorsements…
Taking a leaf out of his book, bubby local foodie Jenny Morris – aka Giggling Gourmet – called her first book Rude Food, Nude Food, Good Food, and her second More Rude Food. Yes, we know dipping suggestively-shaped foods into rich sauces and dripping them into one anothers’ mouths is foreplay, but when someone says this literally, it still packs a punch. Jenny’s got a radio show, is a familiar TV face, takes food tours to exotic destinations, and this month launches her own range of kitchen goodies. Sexy stuff.
Another local foodie, Justine Drake, made fans very happy when she joined other celebs to strip down for Marie Claire magazine in February this year (in support of the war on HIV/Aids, nothing salacious); and Justine and I once personally succeeded in getting a line-up of chefs – including (sigh) gorgeous Reuben Riffel (Reuben’s in Franschhoek), the irresistible Irishman Gerard Reidy (then of Five Flies in Cape Town), the buff Michael Broughton (then of Sandton City, now of Terroir in Stellenbosch) – to strip down so we could blob Italian meringue onto their bodies. For a shoot, nothing salacious.
I don't think I need to go on. But I will say this: if you can take me to heaven when you cook for me, you can come home with me.
My husband says so too.
Do you agree with Heather? Does the modern chef embody sex on a stick? And if you did get to take a chef home with you, who would it be?
Heather Parker is the editor of Health24 and Bride magazine. She is one of SA's most respected journalists, and a serious foodie to boot.