Brooklyn Beckham seems to consider himself a master of all trades. And the public in general (and some professionals particularly) like to remind him that he isn’t. The latest example is a cooking show, with an astronomical budget, in which the eldest son of David and Victoria Beckham displays, according to critics, a complete lack of talent for cooking and presenting.
In the microcosm of the rich and famous, the figure of the privileged kid seeking his own place in the world is eternal, and exacerbated by the relative wealth and fame of the parents. In the case of Brooklyn Beckham, that wealth and fame is considerable: born in London in 1999, son of David, the biggest soccer star in the world before the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi, and Victoria, a former member of the Spice Girls, arguably the biggest girl band in history, as well as being a successful designer and entrepreneur. At his christening, Elton John and David Furnish served as Brooklyn’s godfathers, while Liz Hurley welcomed guests to the private chapel in his parents’ mansion.
His first attempt at a professional career was in soccer, a logical choice given his surname. In November 2014 it was announced, not without pomp, that the 15-year-old Brooklyn had signed a contract to play for Arsenal’s under-16 team. “Arsenal realize he can be a huge talent. They have seen that potential and protected their asset,” a club insider told the UK media at the time. “Also, David Beckham has an excellent relationship with [former Arsenal coach] Arséne Wenger, who has been impressed with his talent, his attitude and his drive to succeed.” The association did not last long: in February 2015 Arsenal announced that they would not be extending Brooklyn’s stay in the academy.
There are two ways to read this. One, a setback: the son of England’s most-famous soccer player fails to make the grade. Two, a triumph: the son of England’s most-famous soccer player has decided not to follow in his father’s footsteps, and to forge his own path. At precisely that moment, he started instead to follow his mother’s. After the Spice Girls broke up, Victoria released a solo album to lukewarm reception and decided to opt for the world of fashion. Brooklyn Beckham’s soccer debut was swiftly followed by his debut as a model for the Reserved label in March 2015, when he had just turned 16. At the time his brother Romeo was the face of Burberry.
From fashion, Brooklyn moved into photography in January 2016, for a range of Burberry perfumes. This time, the public responded. #ThisIsBrit trended on social media to complain about what many viewed as nepotism. Among them was the photographer Chris Floyd, who told The Guardian: “David and Victoria Beckham represent sheer willpower and graft. Especially her, she’s climbed that mountain all by herself. They represent hard work and then their 16-year-old year son comes along and it’s sheer nepotism. He hasn’t done it from hard work, which is counter-intuitive to what his parents represent.”
Huge fan of Brooklyn Beckham's terrible photographs and even worse captions pic.twitter.com/012PeCcED4— Alice Jones (@alicevjones) June 23, 2017
It made little difference. The weight of the campaign led to the publishing of a book of Brooklyn’s photos in June 2017, just after he had turned 18. The book was titled what i see (in lower-case in its original version) with Brooklyn on the cover. The book consists of around 300 photos, with captions written by Brooklyn, which explain very little but perhaps say it all. “So hard to photograph, but incredible to see,” reads one, accompanying a picture of an elephant where the elephant is barely visible. “I like this photo: it’s out of focus but you can guess there’s a lot going on,” reads another. The book was accompanied by an exhibition at Christie’s with an extensive guest list of celebrities. The criticism was swift to follow, leading publishing house Penguin to issue a defence: “It’s a book by a kid for other kids.”
“Nigiri for the price of plutonium”
Cookin’ with Brooklyn can be viewed on Brooklyn’s official Facebook page. The videos are around 10 minutes long and consist of Brooklyn visiting a famous chef at their restaurant (among them Nobu Matsuhisa, the Japanese chef par excellence to the rich and famous) and then reproducing what he has learned for one of his friends, his fiancé, or a celebrity such as Sebastián Yatra. The show has generated controversy due to its cost – $100,000 per episode – and the fact that not everything that appears has been prepared by Brooklyn himself.
Mikel López Iturriaga, editor of this newspaper’s food supplement, summed up Cookin’ with Brooklyn: “If it is true that each episode cost $100,000, it doesn’t show. This huge amount is not visible in the production, the script, the sets, the guests, in the post-production, or in anything. Perhaps Brooklyn has shelled out for so much fresh fish at plutonium prices to make a half-decent nigiri that the budget skyrocketed.”
The show has also received criticism from viewers for some of the recipes employed on what is aspiring to be a sophisticated gastronomical turn: steak, sausage and mash, fried rice. One commentator wrote under a video of Brooklyn cooking a pizza for his fiancé, Nicola Peltz: “What’s it going to be this time? A boiled egg? A can of soup?”
Cookin’ with Brooklyn has also suffered from going up against Cooking with Paris, which has a similar format but is carried off completely differently. The heiress to the Hilton empire, Paris Hilton, is ready to make jokes at her own expense and does not pretend to be an expert. The spectator feels as though they are in on the parody.
“A show where someone hasn’t got the faintest idea how to cook can be interesting,” says Iturriaga. “Viewers who also don’t have any idea how to cook can identify with a host of this kind, and get closer to a world that can be quite hostile. The idea [of Cookin’ with Brooklyn] isn’t bad: learn first with a chef, then try and cook the same thing himself with friends. The result is another matter. Brooklyn proves to have no sense of humor, no complicity, no spontaneity, no flow… nothing that will allow him to compete in an industry where thousands of people make more interesting cooking videos at a fraction of the price.”
The comments Brooklyn shares with viewers do little to lift the whole: “I love steak, I eat it all the time. Sometimes once a week, sometimes two or three times,” is one of the less revealing. If he is genuinely enthusiastic about what he is picking up, it fails to come through in the final product. It is also difficult to quantify the success of the show. With approximately one million viewers per episode on a platform that is unpopular with its target age group, it can’t be considered a failure, but it falls short of being a triumph. By comparison, the divisive videos posted by Chefclub often reach seven or eight million viewers and the most-watched almost 24 million. Less prominent people in the industry such as Ají Causa, who specializes in Peruvian cuisine and does not have famous rappers as guests, do not struggle to reach three million viewers.
Despite it all, Brooklyn Beckham cannot be criticized for taking advantage of the opportunities that come his way, any more than Paris Hilton. In a world where access to the public is easier than ever and where popularity is rated (and income gleaned) by the audience generated, Brooklyn is merely following the prevailing wind. The only things that jar are seeing someone else take a hit as a result, and the waste of resources. “In an ideal world, the $100,000 that Brooklyn’s videos apparently cost, or the money Netflix has poured into Cooking with Paris, would be used to make cookery shows with a bit more substance,” says Iturriaga. “But on the other hand, I don’t think a show as inconsequential as Brooklyn’s is taking space off anyone else, and even less so given the small audience it is drawing in relation to its budget.”