Stanley Tucci caused quite a stir when he uploaded a video of himself making a Negroni. (Instagram: @stanleytucci)
Coronavirus restrictions have seen many of us experimenting in the kitchen, sharing recipes and discoveries with our friends on social media.
It has also prompted a few… trends.
First we had the ‘Quarantini’ cocktail — an concoction of gin, honey and anything citrusy which took off on Twitter.
The whipped coffee phenomenon struck next, an instant coffee and sugar drink which now draws in over 184 million search results on Google.
Most recently, the internet was abuzz about Stanley Tucci’s Negroni masterclass.
In a video posted to Instagram this week, the actor delivered an ad-hoc, step-by-step guide to how to make the cocktail.
“We’re going to make a Negroni up,” he explained, as wife Felicity Blunt filmed.
“Mostly people have Negroni on the rocks, but I think actually, they’re quite nice up.”
Well. The adoration was immediate.
The video attracted over 500,000 views in 48 hours and prompted fans to ask for “More Tucci tutorials plz”.
“This is why you are a national treasure,” fellow actor Josh Gad commented.
“The Negroni shall henceforth be known as the QuaranTucci,” wrote another fan.
But the overwhelming popularity of Tucci’s video should not surprise us; he is, after all, a cookbook author.
Actors, singers, politicians and even cricket players are consistently drawn into the world of food, managing to successfully channel the skills which made them famous into popular, bestselling cookbooks.
And we love it.
Data provider Nielson’s BookScan states there is little doubt that “star power drives the biggest cookbook sales”, and offerings from celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Donna Hay regularly dominate both cookbook and non-fiction charts.
Welcome to the world of celebrity cookbooks
Within the celebrity cooking world, Tucci is a safe starting place — he has released not one but two cookbooks, to critical acclaim.
His first venture into the genre, The Tucci Cookbook, made the New York Times bestsellers list.
The late Anthony Bourdain praised the book, saying that “Stanley Tucci understands Italian food and Italian cooking”.
Tucci’s second book, The Tucci Table, had longstanding UK Delicious Magazine editor Karen Barnes wanting to “to draw up a chair at their kitchen table, be part of their family, dive in and eat the food”.
But Tucci is far from the only big Hollywood name to have released a successful cookbook.
He joins the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Alicia Silverstone, Freddie Prinze Jr, Reese Witherspoon and, of course, Gwyneth Paltrow (who has released five).
R&B singer Kelis (who trained for a year at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school) has written one cookbook, and British model and author Sophie Dahl has written two cookbooks, alongside presenting two BBC 2 cooking shows.
Then, there is rapper Coolio, whose cookbook Cookin’ With Coolio promises “Five star meals at a one star price”. He also had a cooking show bearing the same name, which was produced by the brains behind The Bachelor franchise.
Making the most of star power in the kitchen
Matthew Hayden’s “culinary treats are as consistent as his runs,” according to Justin Langer. (ABC RN: David Lewis)
So what it is about a person in the public eye releasing a cookbook, that makes it so attractive?
Of course, there is that inherent celebrity appeal — having a person you are used to seeing sing or act try their hand at cooking is exciting, or even entertaining. But there is more to it than that.
“When it comes to celebrities, I do think they’re able to make food and cooking more achievable,” ABC Life’s deputy food editor Sonya Gee said.
“They’re not chefs and that’s appealing to people cooking at home, especially if you don’t identify as a ‘foodie’ or haven’t cooked much.”
Australian Cricketer Matthew Hayden made the most of that kind of advice in his foray into the culinary world.
Capitalising on the line “If a cricketer can cook, surely you can have a crack at it!”, he authored two bestselling cookbooks.
His recipes include things like macadamia and feta-stuffed chicken, and coconut and chilli crab curry. But if the sound of his food is not enough of an endorsement, according to Justin Langer, “Haydo’s culinary treats are as consistent as his runs”.
Celebrity mistakes make home cooking more accessible
Another factor which compels people to follow the cooking advice of public figures and celebrities is because it can be more authentic.
We see this in the success of Tucci’s Instagram video, or in cooking tutorials posted by celebrities such as Chrissy Teigan.
“Cooking demos on Instagram in particular are way more likely to include mistakes, which is actually what people want to see,” Gee said.
It is a world Teigan excels in.
Fans praise the model for her relatability and no-filter approach. She often shares her cooking disasters, trials and errors, which makes what she does in her home, seem more achievable in our homes.
With 29.2 million Instagram followers, Teigan’s voice dominates the medium.
Her website, Cravings by Chrissy Teigen, crashed upon launch because there was so much traffic to the site.
Her first cookbook, also called Cravings, was an instant New York Times bestseller, and was the first cookbook to debut in the top spot on USA Today’s best-selling books list.
“If you’re expecting a model to write a cookbook full of diet recipes for you to perfect your bikini bod, I think you’ll be a little surprised here,” she writes, before introducing recipes for gnocchi and Thai papaya salad and fried chicken wings.
Her second book, Cravings: Hungry for More, hit number one on Amazon while it was only available for pre-order.
From crook to home cook
Along the same vein, rapper Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart’s Emmy-nominated television show, Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, was hugely successful, in part, because it appeared so authentic.
Praised for the hosts’ “easy chemistry” and banter, the show — aired in Australia on SBS — had Stewart and Snoop cook for celebrity dinner guests like Octavia Spencer and Matthew McConaughey.
Snoop then used the platform to release a cookbook, From Crook to Cook: Platinum Recipes from Tha Boss Dogg’s Kitchen.
It is comprised of “50 recipes straight from his own collection … OG staples like Baked Mac and Cheese … and a taste of the high life with remixes on upper echelon fare such as Lobster Thermidor and Filet Mignon”. Stewart authored the opening words.
There should be little surprise then, as we cook more and our time staring at screens increases during the COVID-19 pandemic, that cooking shows have also seen a boost in ratings.
Television shows like MasterChef, allow us to watch mistakes and stresses and triumphs in the kitchen, from people who, at one point, were ordinary home cooks.
It launched the careers of contestants we might well now call celebrities, such as Hayden Quinn, who has two cookbooks and a couple more television programs under his belt, and Poh Ling Yeow, who went from MasterChef to film three seasons of Poh’s Kitchen on the ABC, followed by the SBS series Poh & Co.
Ling Yeow’s first cookbook, Poh’s Kitchen — My Cooking Adventures, stayed in the top 10 charts for six weeks, and she subsequently released two more recipe books.
Both Quinn and Ling Yeow are back for the latest season of MasterChef, as is now-hatted chef Andy Allen, who went from being an electrician to winning MasterChef’s fourth season, opening Sydney restaurant Three Blue Ducks, and now judging the show.
Use this time to get creative in the kitchen
MasterChef Australia’s new judges: Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen. (Twitter: Masterchef Australia)
But, instead of just watching people cook on the telly, former MasterChef alumn Tim Bone suggested getting amongst it and replicating a celebrity’s culinary delights in our own homes.
“We’ve all got a bit of extra time on our hands. Get in the kitchen because it’s a great outlet,” Bone suggested.
“I definitely use cooking as a stress reliever, it really calms me and I think a lot of people could take advantage of that.”
If you have children and want to involve them in your cooking experiments, using a recipe from someone they know and love could also help spark their interest in the food world.
Harry Potter has a cookbook (yes, he counts as a celebrity!), and even the Cookie Monster gets in on the action in his Foodie Truck YouTube episodes.
In this digital age, and especially while isolating, cookbooks and recipes from all kinds of celebrities are widely available online.
There are also countless YouTube tutorials and Instagram videos on hand — there really is no limit to who you can pick as your creative cooking muse.
If nothing else, being able to say that you had a go at Snoop Dogg’s Filet Mignon will give you something to talk about on your next Zoom meeting.
Why not make yourself a QuaranTucci while you’re at it?