TV Clone Wars: Katie Lee

Are we preparing for a clone war?

Consider Frank Bruni‘ s insightful profile of Katie Lee in The New York Times Magazine. Katie’s main claim to fame seems to be that she was previously married to Billy Joel, and parlayed that rubbed-off fame into gigs as a chef/host on the first season of Top Chef (replaced by Padma Lakshmi) and a spot on CBS’s The Early Show and various other cooking opportunities as well as a cookbook. What does she cook? A kind of burger melt on white bread from West Virginia and other homey foods from her working class background.

Her story is about how the TV food world values the ability to entertain and look good in front of the camera, over any real talent to make and teach about wonderful food.

Both Ray and Deen have inspired Lee. “Rachael didn’t go to culinary school,” she said. “Paula didn’t go to culinary school. They opened the doors for people like me. Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t have had this career in food.”

Is she a chef? Is she a cook? Is she an entertainer? Should we be using a new kind of word to describe this kind of phenomenon? On her own website, she claims to be a chef.

Katie’s aim is to become the next Rachael Ray. That means collecting endorsements and product lines, TV shows, talk shows, magazine and media appearances, and stretching that beyond food and cooking. It seems like there are plenty of Katie Lees vying for spots on cable networks with less and less documented cooking talent.

Someone remind us: what happens in the Clone Wars?

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