Calling Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Tom Colicchio and Rachael Ray "celebrity chefs" almost doesn't give them enough credit. While all of these chefs are constantly on television -- Colicchio deciding which "Top Chef" contestant should pack his knives and go, Batali bantering with Daphne Oz on "The Chew," Flay battling it out in kitchen stadium and Ray chatting to Gwyneth Paltrow about gluten-free muffins on her talk show -- they are also powerful businesspeople with a huge amount of influence. Have you ever seen Ray hawk her line of kitchenware on QVC? That woman can sell. And if you've ever heard Colicchio speak about the massive hunger issues plaguing America, you know that he is a powerful advocate for change. These four individuals each have a pretty big pulpit for their brands, and their success isn't an accident.
As part of Bloomberg Television's "Titans At The Table" series, Batali, Flay, Colicchio and Ray all joined host Betty Liu at Manhattan's Upper West Side location of PJ Clarke's for an early dinner. They spoke about their brands, passions, goals and, of course, controversies.
In the clip above, the four "titans" discuss what it's like being both chefs and television stars. They have no time for the haters -- which all of them have. Flay argues that flack comes mostly from the food industry, and it isn't the rest of America that actually cares. In a different part of the interview not included in the clip, Colicchio responds to the criticism over his endorsement of Diet Coke. "No, didn't bug me at all. I slept at night," he tells Liu.
There are a lot of theories about why celebrity chef fandom seems to be at an all-time high right now. In an era of obsession over Instagram food photos, non-stop Twitter feeds (including Mr. Batali's!) and navel-gazing food media coverage, it's sometimes easy to forget that part of the reason that food as a subject is so popular is because there's a lot of change happening in our food systems today. And these four individuals are part of that movement, whether they meant to be or not.
"It's fun to be popular. It always was. I don't know this from high school, but I learned later on. But there's a lotta good to it. And the little bit that's bad about it, if you don't wanna talk to your customers, you should be home," says Batali.
Flay admits that he knows some people criticize him for not being a "real chef," since he spends a lot of time doing food TV. "I would say that most of the consumers would not say that. I think that what we -- what we hear mostly are people who are in our business, our contemporaries. And I think a lot of it stems from some jealousies," he explains.
"We can't focus on negative energy," adds Ray.
The full Bloomberg Television interview will air on June 25 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The program will re-air Saturday, June 29 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET/PT and on Sunday, June 30 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET/PT. Watch the preview above.