In what the British press is calling a “somewhat Orwellian move,” Jamie Oliver is installing closed-circuit TV cameras in his restaurants throughout England.
As The Guardian reports, the ostensible purpose for the increased scrutiny is quality control: According to a statement from the chef’s CCTV provider, “Every plate of food that leaves the kitchen is streamed in high definition live for Jamie and his team of executive chefs to observe in real time from one location.”
Oliver’s strategy has been criticized by no less than Wolfgang Puck, who told the paper that “it’s not NASA or the BBC, it’s cooking. Cooking is all about taste and you can’t taste television. … If they invented a television where I could taste the food, then I might say ‘OK, this is a way to work.'”
But Oliver seems not to be taking his cues from Puck so much as Thomas Keller, who installed a videoconferencing system in the kitchens of the French Laundry and Per Se, with the purpose of allowing chefs in restaurants 3,000 miles apart to communicate with one another and see how various dishes are prepared.
For Britons, of course, Keller is a less obvious reference point than the recent News of the World phone-hacking scandal, which explains in part why they’re more likely to cast Oliver’s cameras in a negative, Big Brotherly light. But maybe his kitchens could stand to be watched: If the paper’s commenters are any indication, the food at Oliver’s restaurants, much like the food of Huntington, West Virginia, could stand some improvements.