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Celebrity Chefs - of the 1930s - at London's National Portrait Gallery

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At London's ever-fascinating National Portrait Gallery, it is hard not to be drawn immediately to the Tudor-period paintings such as the vigorous portrayals of Henry VIII and the dazzling ones of Elizabeth I. For one thing, that's where the escalator from the lobby takes you, and by the time you've finished scrutinizing those second-floor exhibits you're ready for a beer.

But the other galleries are full of real treasures too. For instance, gallery 31 on the first floor (i.e. one flight up), contains paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures of twentieth-century figures from composers to politicians to prize-fighters. In one corner of the room, until February 14, 2014, are drawings of three French chefs who worked in London in the 1930s by Florence Enid Stoddard (1882-1962). To me, the interest lies in the depiction of these chefs -- who were at the top of their profession -- not as grease-spattered toilers in steamy basement kitchens but as dignified artisan-managers. In other words, they're drawn the way we think of prominent chefs nowadays: as figures to be admired as creators, not despised as servants.

If you're within striking distance of Trafalgar Square, you should be visiting the National Portrait Gallery anyway, and if you go, be sure to take the stairs, not the escalator, so you can have a look at these drawings and the surrounding exhibits.

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