William Skidelsky finds pans tainted with celebrity
Buying pans, I've found, lets you indulge your secret Jamie Oliver fantasies
I've been spending a lot of time in department stores recently. I've just bought a flat, you see - and having never possessed much by way of furniture, cutlery or cleaning equipment, I've had to put in some serious shopping time.
The most pleasurable aspect of this has been buying equipment for my kitchen. I've enjoyed this for three reasons: it is inexpensive (at least it seems so when you compare it to other aspects of the home-moving process); it is simple (find one store you like and you can do most of your shopping there and then); and, most importantly, it allows you to indulge all your innermost "celebrity chef in your own kitchen" fantasies.
The manufacturers of cookware have clearly cottoned on to this last point. Many ranges these days carry the endorsement of one or other celebrity chef - for example, there's the Nigella Lawson kitchen utensils collection and the Marco Pierre White White Heat pan range. Some chefs, rather unfairly, have managed to colonise several areas of the kitchen at once. Jamie Oliver, besides having his own selection of Royal Worcester plates, cups and serving dishes, has no fewer than three pan ranges: Jamie Oliver Stainless Steel, Jamie Oliver Hard Anodised and Jamie Oliver Italian Series. By my reckoning, that's a total of 38 pans and 50 items of china bearing the imprint of our most ubiquitous celebrity chef.
Resisting the urge to turn my kitchen into a shrine to Jamie Oliver, I rejected his (admittedly elegant) pots and pans, as well as such appealingly named items as his Big Fella 12-inch dinner plates and "Diamond Geezer" mugs. Instead, I settled for various items from the less aggressively marketed Anolon Professional pan range, which struck me as looking the part (satisfyingly sturdy and modern) and being reasonably priced. If you are someone with pretensions to be a serious cook, you have to make a basic choice when buying pans: do you go for über-professional copper (in which case you're looking at between £70 and £150 a shot), marginally less fancy stainless steel (£50-£100), or mid-range anodised aluminium (£30-£70)? Deciding this, it seems to me, is largely a matter of aesthetics: the old argument that it's worth buying top of the range because it lasts longer doesn't seem relevant, because even anodised aluminium pans are guaranteed for life. And when it comes to cooking, a good aluminium pot seems capable of doing most things effectively, although I dare say someone who has paid £150 for a copper casserole would disagree.
When I got home and unpacked my pans, I realised that my equipment wasn't entirely untainted by celebrity: Anolon pans are endorsed by Raymond Blanc, who uses them at his cooking school. Oh well, you can't have everything.