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Buddy Oliver! Tilly Ramsay! Welcome to the terrifying age of the nepo chef
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Buddy Oliver! Tilly Ramsay! Welcome to the terrifying age of the nepo chef

This month, CBBC will debut Cooking Buddies, in which young viewers will be taught to make such varied dishes as spicy tomato pasta and fish finger sandwiches. Taken at face value, this sounds like a tremendous idea. A cookery show for kids has the potential to hit all the classic BBC criteria – it will be fun and educational and hints at a happy future in which I won’t be the one who cooks dinner for my family every day until I die.

However, there is a rub. Cooking Buddies will be presented by Buddy Oliver, Jamie Oliver’s 13-year-old son. Cooking Buddies, of course, follows in the footsteps of 2015’s Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch, in which Gordon Ramsay’s (then 13-year-old) daughter Tilly documented her summer holiday in Los Angeles while also cooking some food. In other words, the age of the nepo chef is upon us.

If you have been keeping your eye on things, you won’t be surprised by this development. Everywhere you look, there seems to be a glut of nepo babies, using their parents’ connections to shut out people who don’t have such an easy entry point into a given industry. There are nepo babies in film, in music, in television and – some have whispered – in journalism. Depending on how kind you are feeling, these offspring are either taking part in the family business or piggybacking on someone else’s success for an easy ride. Realistically, it was only a matter of time before they came for food.

That said, in truth, they came for food long ago. Jack Stein has made a good career of following in the footsteps of his father, Rick Stein, and what is Michel Roux Jr if not the ultimate nepo chef? The thing about Buddy Oliver and Tilly Ramsay, however, is how young they are. These are not people who have reached adulthood and laboured over a multitude of career choices. Rather, they have just about squeaked into their teens before starting to copy their parents.

Buddy Oliver makes pizza in his new show, Cooking BuddiesView image in fullscreen

Also, it is worth looking at how their careers compare with those of their parents. Gordon Ramsay had a long road to television. He started out washing pots in an Indian restaurant, studied hotel management at technical college and trained hard in long shifts at restaurants around the world, building an impressive reputation, before making the jump to entertainment. Similarly, Jamie Oliver was scouted while working as a sous chef at the River Cafe.

They had demonstrable proof that they were good at what they did before they started doing it on television. Buddy and Tilly may be incredible chefs, but even their biggest fans would have to concede that they have enjoyed a much shorter path to success.

Another consideration is that, because they started so young, it is impossible not to see each as an extension of their father’s brand. Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch was produced by Studio Ramsay, while the copyright to the BBC’s photographs of Buddy are credited to the Jamie Oliver Group.

On the plus side, though, there is no hiding with cookery. Had Tilly been a rubbish chef, her show would have been a disaster; the same will go for Buddy’s show. Cookery isn’t like acting or singing, where, with money and charisma, you can power through with questionable talent. For proof of that, look at the aborted cookery career of Brooklyn Beckham – a man who still thinks he can waltz into the top level of any profession he chooses just because his parents are famous. Compared with him, Tilly and Buddy can walk the walk. If they decide to carry on being professional chefs, by putting in the hours at the coalface, they will undoubtedly do well.

Ultimately, though, we won’t know how that goes for years. Look at any list of nepo babies and you will see a clear divide. The ones who receive, and possibly deserve, the most scorn are the ones who will be for ever doomed to live in the shadow of their parents. Think Scott Caan (son of James), Ireland Baldwin (daughter of Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin) or Chet Hanks (son of Tom).

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The ones who get a pass, on the other hand, are the ones who outshine their parents to such an extent that you forget they are nepo babies. Nobody thinks of Jennifer Aniston as a nepo baby, because she has been so much more successful than her little-known actor parents. The same goes for the son of the film-maker Robert Downey Sr and the son of the 1993 Perrier comedy award winner Dominic Holland, who stars in a rather famous franchise about a man with spider-based superpowers.

This is the real test for Buddy. Once he has become so successful that he obliterates his dad’s career, then we will know he has made it.

Source: theguardian.com