The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating
Oneworld Publications, 2017
When I created this site, one of the first policies I decided upon was NO DIET BOOKS. Having started out my food writing career as the editor of a blog that debunked nutrition claims (only to have it become a pro-diet blog when I moved on), I can’t stand the constant parade of bloggers and nutrition experts offering unsubstantiated, and often dangerous, health advice to readers. In that respect, I feel as if Anthony Warner and I are kindred spirits.
Warner has spent a quarter century in the food industry. With a degree in biochemistry, he has worked with food manufacturers to create many foods that appear on UK grocery shelves. He has spent the last few years blogging and writing pieces for other publications as The Angry Chef, trying to set people straight about the false information they get from self-proclaimed health and lifestyle gurus.
The book is heavy on the science aspect of things, which might throw some people off. Don’t pick up The Angry Chef for the snarky skewering of Gwyneth Paltrow or that Food Babe chick. That’s there, but Warner spends more time explaining science things than dissing the pretty skinny girls who want to sell you a book about their detox plan.
Warner works his way through various diets and health plans (because health gurus never want to call their plan a diet, to promote wright loss, even though that’s what it actually is), torching Paleo, clean eating, GAPS, detox and more. He spends a lot of time looking at the psychology of the sell, essentially how we’re tricked into believing the claims based on the use of language and plays to human nature such as the desperation of cancer patients for whom traditional medical treatments have failed.
Overall, the writing style, which works so well for Warner’s blog, becomes a bit disjointed here in a full book format. The offhand discussion between the parts of his brain and “Science Colombo” sometimes feels like it’s meant to be a comedy routine and not a discussion of health and science, and Warner often spends a lot of time on tangents of psychology that an editor should have demanded be tightened up significantly.
My concern with this is that it may turn off the very people who need the information Warner has to offer. As a society, we’re quite brainwashed into aspiring to some image of ideal health, and will try all kinds of cockamamie plans and tricks to try to achieve that. The slim, photogenic lifestyle guru with the detox plan (and matching t-shirts and tote bags for sale in her online shop) has the message down to a “science”. Warner’s message often gets clouded by his meandering writing style, or over-explaining either science or psychology to the point where the reader becomes bored.
While he’s right, and righteous, there needs to be more here to engage the reader, especially the ones who desperately need to be converted away from Paltrow Science and towards reason and logic. He offers some lists and tips to help weed out the charlatans, but probably the best tip always is to not take health advice from an uncredited stranger on the internet. Especially one who became a health “expert” by curing their own health problems with smoothies.