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The Do's and Don'ts of Being a Chef Groupie

Jen Carroll with fans.
Jen Carroll with fans.
Photo: Bar for the Course

With the advent of cooking shows, travel shows, and reality show competitions, chefs are the new celebrities. No longer hidden from the front of the house, the path to chefdom can also lead to stardom, and has cast professional cooking in a whole new light.

The new world of celebrity chefs has also brought about the chef groupie, who tirelessly follows every bit of info about the new restaurant their favorite chef is soon to open, relentlessly tweets at them in hopes of a reply, and speaks breathlessly about the Spring update to their menu. More than a handful of our readers fall into this category, so we're here to help.

Eater interviewed a bunch of local chefs to find out what they find charming in a fan, and share some horror stories about people who have crossed the line.

"The fans really make being on TV fun, and you get to meet all kinds of great people," Jen Carroll of Top Chef fame told Eater. "But, watching me on TV doesn't mean you know me. And, it doesn't mean you know my family."

Carroll, who is an expert at chatting up fans and posing for pictures, had a few over-zealous interactions with some people she never even met in person. "One guy figured out who my parents were, and called up my mom asking about my childhood growing up. And, he wasn't a reporter writing a story, either," Carroll said. Also, when meeting her, hugs are fine, but not long ones. "If I have to push you away, you're doing it wrong," she chuckled.

Kevin Sbraga dealt with instant fame immediately after winning Top Chef, and he learned what he didn't like right off the bat. "I was at the pool a few days after I won, and this woman came up and brought her friend over, too," said Sbraga. "In like 3 minutes the woman was all kissing on me, on my neck, my face. It was gross. And, I was with my daughter. I had to call my wife to get me the hell out of there."

Sbraga said this behavior happens when he's on the road, too. "I was with Angelo Sosa at an event, and there was this guy who was eyeballing us the whole time. He started following us around the hotel, to try and figure out what room we were staying in," Sbraga said. "So, Angelo and I purposely split up, and had to lose the guy. Really creepy. He was apparently wandering the halls trying to find the Top Chef people. Also, the guys are worse than the girls."

But, you don't need to be a TV chef to be star. In Philly, being a chef means you're next in line for celebrity behind local athletes and TV news anchors. If you happen to be a chef groupie, we've compiled a good reference list from local chefs to make sure you don't alienate the object of your affection.

·Do follow me on Twitter before I get famous. I'll remember.

·Don't call me chef. You don't work for me. It doesn't sound professional, and I have a first name.

·Do support the charity events I'm involved with. The people who show support for that stuff are going above and beyond in the best possible way.

·Don't get pissed off if I turn down doing a shot with you. I have a job to do, and it's nothing personal. If I did shots with everyone, I would be hammered.

·Do try a food that's out of your comfort zone on my menu, and tell me about it. That shows me you trust my abilities with things that challenge you.

·Don't follow my family on Facebook or Twitter, and tell me what my cousin was doing the night before when I meet you for the first time. I'll be really freaked the fuck out.

·Do take pictures with me, even though I haven't been on TV. We're insecure, too, you know.

·Don't invite me back to your house, because I've seen Misery.

·Do invite me to cook for one of your private events, or fundraisers.

·Don't namedrop me at a bar or restaurant to try to get free stuff, or a table. Especially if we've only met on Twitter.

·Do bring your friends to my restaurant, or think of us for private parties. It sounds shallow, but committing to that is the biggest compliment a chef or restaurateur can receive.

·Don't like a photo of me from 25 years ago when I'm 2 and wearing a diaper on the beach. That's gross.

·Do say a quick hi, even if I'm busy.

·Don't sit down to have a full-on conversation if I'm in the middle of a business meeting, though.

·Do order the tasting menu. I like getting the opportunity to show off.

·Don't kiss me. A handshake will do just fine.

·Do become a regular. While we love all of our customers, being a regular instead of an occasion diner makes all the difference in the world when we're trying to stay afloat.

·Don't be unprofessional on my Facebook page. It's my job to be a chef, not a hobby.

·Do pick up a knife and try to recreate one of my dishes, and send me a picture of it. I love that my work can inspire people to try something new.

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