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Friday, 14 December, 2001, 06:20 GMT
TV chefs turn up kitchen heat
Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver's creations "intimidate" hosts
The popularity of celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver has resulted in fewer people holding dinner parties, according to a survey.

Pressure to serve up dishes as good as those created by the likes of Nigella Lawson and Ainsley Harriot is turning people off the kitchen.

Professor David Warburton, of the University of Reading, who carried out the research, coined the phrase "Kitchen Performance Anxiety" to explain the phenomenon.

He said the term applied to party hosts who feared being judged on their cooking and entertaining.

It is interesting that many guests don't expect perfect food and would prefer that their host or hostess concentrated on good company and wine

Professor David Warburton
Professor Warburton concluded that some people suffer from a disorder similar to social anxiety or social phobia, both of which are already recognised conditions.

He identified a number of symptoms of Kitchen Performance Anxiety in a study of 16 couples, aged 25 to 45, throughout dinner party environments.

Psychological symptoms range from mental block during cooking, through to mental distraction.

'Unrealistic expectations'

A rapid heart rate, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and headaches are physical symptoms of the disorder.

Professor Warburton said: "Cooking for guests has always caused slight worry and some butterflies because it's natural to want to give guests the best one can.

"Unfortunately, my research shows that for many people it has moved beyond this and become tremendously stressful because they burden themselves with irrational and unrealistic expectations of their cooking skills.

Hosts feel under pressure to create the perfect menu
"For these people butterflies can become physical sickness and nervousness can become extreme irritation and impatience.

"They may even avoid giving dinners altogether.

"It is interesting, however, that many guests don't expect perfect food and would prefer that their host or hostess concentrated on good company and wine."

A questionnaire sent out to 1000 people showed 54% felt under pressure to make a dinner party meal look as good as those created on television or in cookery books, while 87% said they were unable to relate to celebrity chefs and what they cooked.

Holding a dinner party was worse than attending an interview or going on a first date, according to 61% of respondants.

All these factors resulted in 68% saying they held fewer dinner parties than before because they felt more pressurised.

The report was commissioned by the makers of the wine Piat d'Or.

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See also:

10 Nov 00 | Health
Dinner party dilemmas
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