One could look at a celebrity chef as a celebrity. But there's something slightly different from them in comparison to say a Justin Timberlake or a Oprah. Celeb chefs are teachers and they inspire. It's not just about finding out what they are doing behind the scenes or getting a sense that you know them from pictures posted about their family or another venue for self-promotion.
Granted there are celebrity chefs that are using Twitter in that fashion. But there are also some who are using it as another tool to give out guidance, provide contests for winning swag, sharing their passion for cooking, and reaching out to converse with their fans.
These are chefs that I follow who I think are doing it right. They are using Twitter in the same ways we tell our clients to...it's honest, it's transparent, and it's giving fans (read: followers) something of significance to enhance the overall value of their brand.
Jamie Oliver (@jamie_oliver)
On Fridays at 2pm, Jamie Oliver does a #JamiesTwitchen competition where he asks a question and the winner receives an autographed cookbook. It engages his followers on a weekly basis. He also shares pictures of his personal and chef life (including his cooking program), shares behind the scenes videos and interacts with his followers by answering cooking questions, etc.
Tyler Florence (@TylerFlorence)
One of the unique things that Tyler Florence does through Twitter is his #twtlish. Five recipes are posted to his website on Mondays. Then on Friday, the winning recipe is made and discussed during #twtlist cooking class. The full recipe is posted to his website and then he walks through with tips or advice and answers follower's questions on procedure, ingredients, etc. It's like having a professional chef right there with you. I think it's brilliant. (It looks like in recent weeks, there has a been a bit less with this, but I'm sure it's to do with all the tweets he's got about filming and whatnot.)
Additionally, Tyler also posts pictures of his life, his work and the usual stuff you'd expect as well.
I do think that his personal website could benefit from a bit of an overhaul to also include his Twitter feed so people who stumble across it would get a better sense of some of the cool ways he's reaching out to his fan base.
Rick Bayless (@Rick_Bayless)
Followers of Rich Bayless get to see shots of new recipes as they are worked out in the kitchens of his restaurants and other behind the scenes type of stuff. But, Rick also responses to his followers by answering questions like "How long can you keep roasted poblanos?" with tips on how to do it properly. In fact, Rick even posted something yesterday explaining why he likes Twitter which you can read here. Here's an excerpt though:
On Twitter, I can do three things: I share photos of what’s going on in the restaurant (behind the scenes as well as finished dishes I’m really excited about); I share photos of cool food (and food-related things) I find outside my restaurant (markets, restaurants, events either in Chicago or away from home), and I answer some of the questions that are posted to my Twitter account.I really love that he gets it. Partly, I think because I've been watching his cooking shows for years on PBS and for me, personally, it's exciting to see the evolution.
Because I love being able to more fully open my world to folks through the Twitter portal and because I love being part of the community Twitter can create, I’ve decided to devote 15 or 20 minutes to it each day. That amount of time is typically what I can find while I’m waiting on a meeting to start or waiting for an elevator or drinking a cup of coffee.
Christopher Kimball (@cpkimball)
As founder of America's Test Kitchen, Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country, Kimball brings a lot of the same features as one would expect to his tweets. He posts tips and tricks (like how to get wax off your supermarket purchased fruit) common in Cook's Illustrated. He also responds to follower questions and even gives hints to the testing results they are doing for the magazine/TV show. Often he links to his blog where he posts photos with commentary on their shoots or highlights when you can sign up for what seems to be a monthly live online Q&A chat. Overall, he does a great job expanding upon the brand he has built for his shows and magazines.
Paula Deen (@Paula_Deen)
I question whether or not this is maintained by the real Paula Deen. Either way, Deen is using Twitter in a way that engages fans by interacting with them, hosting contests (or announcing contests at least), and giving some insider information about her life (thankfully not a ton about butter).
Now here are a couple celebrity chefs that are missing out. If you're not going to do Twitter right (as a brand/celebrity), you would probably do better to figure out another strategy for how you use it as a channel, or if it even makes sense for you to have one.
Bobby Flay (@Bflay)
Flay doesn't talk to anyone for the most part. It's pretty much him just broadcasting out into the ether. I find it surprising that he has almost 30,000 followers (and following NO ONE back) with pretty much nothing but news about his appearances. Yawn. I'm guessing many signed up thinking they'd get some thing more interesting out of him, but haven't bothered to unfollow (out of laziness or forgetfulness.) Either way, this Twitter account could also be maintained by an intern at FoodNetwork or something as far as I can tell because it lacks the personal, transparent touch that we see with all the other celebrity chefs who are tweeting well.
Giada De Laurentiis (@GDeLaurentiis)
Giada doesn't tweet much. And when she does the majority of them are self-promotional...new book, new show, etc. Recently her tweets have been about her travels but still not that interesting. She could definitely look to some of the other chefs I've listed to see how she should or could be using Twitter. From the first tweet in Feb 2009 through the rest of her 40 tweets, there has not really been much of any value to any fan. Somewhat surprising to me, she has over 25,500 followers (and following NO ONE)...I bet they're all waiting to see if she's going to do *anything*.