Posts Tagged ‘Cookery’

Hell’s Kitchen 2009

April 14, 2009

marco pierre white hell's kitchen itv

There are teachers who, on your first day in their class, think it’ll benefit you massively if they act as though you’re already an advanced student. Thus, in your first ever French lesson Monsieur Higgins will regale you with an anecdote on how he refitted the bearings on his bicyclette and expect you to respond in kind. The PE Teacher will throw you into your first ever 11-a-side comptetive match as central defence and berate you when you prove hapless as you try to block the opposition’s christmas tree formation.

These teachers – who think putting you in a completely impossible position, watching you flail, rescuing you and mocking you for your lack of ability is an apt substitute for actual teaching – are bastards.

Marco Pierre White is one such teacher. Last night, he chucked his new staff of celebrities, has-beens and who-the-hells into an overlit kitchen and expected perfection, then gave his charges a subtle earful when they didn’t oblige.

Still, a bollocking from M. White isn’t half what it might be coming from one of his ex-students. Gordon Ramsay appears to have absorbed all that is negative from White – every poisonous mannerism and inflection – and nicked it wholesale for his own act. But where Ramsay is a hopeless joke of a man, an instant parody of himself with a routine that was starting to run thin five years ago, White himself is actually a balanced beast and often comes across as a wholly likable bloke. If only he’d stop wrapping those enormous Palestinian keffiyehs round his insane haircut.

Claudia Winkleman hosts, now ubiquitous to the point of omniscience. She takes over from the over-cynical Angus Deayton and injects a good dose of bland where old Ang’ only offered the viewer mockery for even watching in the first place.

Following last night’s episode, I’d be surprised if Winkleman’s make-up artist hasn’t been sacked as the treatment she appeared to have received at the end of an applicator brush made it seem she’d either been up all night weeping or was suffering from ocular hemorrhoids. It was difficult to look at her, full on, without feeling a twinge of unwarranted sympathy.

The show was uneventful, so let’s take a look at the contestants and their performance on the opening night of a show you won’t care about and probably won’t even catch in passing:

Adrian Edmondson
The most immediately recognisable, Ade is still the affable giddy goat with the posh voice and the nice line in fart gags. Burned his hand to a blister and didn’t moan much. I’ll only continue to watch if it can be guaranteed that he’ll win.

Jody Latham
Apparently an actor from Shameless, a show I’ve historically been told off for when admitting I’ve never watched it.

Ms. Dynamite
Christ – where’s she been? A definitive case of ‘whatever happened to?’, Ms. Dynamite appears having spent the last five years hidden in a shed.

Bruce Grobbelaar
That cheating goalkeeper with the moustache who wobbles about when he’s defending a penalty. Remained anonymous.

Grant Bovey and Anthea Turner
Appearing as a couple but not cooking together, Anthea Turner is Anthea Turner whilst her husband continues his campaign to prove himself Britain’s most tedious arsehole.

Linda Evans
American actress best known for Dynasty, Evans fell into default American-in-British-reality-show setting and remained statue-still whilst looking startled for the duration.

Danielle Bux
Lingerie model and wife of Gary Lineker. Very clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but very presentable. White immediately made her his right hand girl – so Lineker beware.

The latter two lost last night’s invisible challenge. Their punishment, as it turns out, will be that they’re out of the kitchen and waiting tables in the next episode.

Oh, the indignity.

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Heston’s Tudor Feast

March 19, 2009

The first episode in Heston’s series of Feasts garnered some rave reviews, but I was left scratching my head. Episode two had me running for a sick bucket. This week’s outing made me certain I was watching a literary adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes which cunningly attached both the modern culture of semi-celebrity and our great nation’s tedious obsession with food to that marvellous fable and its inherent truth.

The title of the story has become lazy shorthand for trends that have no actual worth, but in this case the similarities in the details are too glaring to ignore. Swindler Heston convinces food critics, celebrities and the rich that his fantastic creations are the finest available, whilst the informed viewer sees just how pointless the whole farrago is. The food critics, celebrities and rich folk, taking on the role of King, eat his wares and claim it’s the most wonderful fare they’ve ever consumed – when the audience can see that it’s not much more than a barely cooked fish covered in its own blood. A disgusting, turkey flavoured milkshake. Or a pie caked in birdshit.

Sadly there’s no small boy present to point out the error of their ways.

It was probably a bad idea on Heston’s part, appearing in this series. Though the ratings are probably good and the press has been positive, we’ve now seen inside his kitchen and had more than our share of seeing his methodology in action. And we’ve also seen that the majority of his output involves pointlessly wacky combinations of incompatible flavours.

The supposed mythical beast last night was a complete rip off – a badly-constructed special effect with a food compartment from which they served chicken roll. The dessert was rice pudding and a sweet puree in the shape of bangers and mash – which is an interesting concept for two minutes, before you remember you’re a grown adult. I remember seeing marzipan fruit as a youngster and being utterly disappointed when I sank my teeth into it. I doubt this was much different.

But that’s half of his game. He makes stuff look like other stuff. He uses sheets and sheets of gelatin to mould stuff into shapes they shouldn’t be in. His approach to food is Willy Wonka – which is fine for the odd novelty sweet, but for a main of meat and veg seems dashed silly. This isn’t really cookery – it’s a grown man playing about with ingredients as if they’re play-doh and serving them to star-struck idiots who’ve been told to behave as though it’s the height of sophistication.

The likes of Jay Rayner, Alex Zane and Cilla Black may coo over the food, declaring it to be amazing, but their plaudits seem a little hollow. It’s as though they’d expected riches and been confronted by the flabby girth of their own pomposity, as swindler Heston chuckled in the background.

Masterchef – Tonight’s Final

February 26, 2009

masterchef final

BBC2 have served up another sublime series of Masterchef this year and it’s difficult to choose which of the three finalists should win. In fact – I want them all to win, buy an island together and set up the most chaotic restaurant in the world, overcooking pies and not allowing cheesecakes to set until their hearts are thoroughly content.

But there can be only one – and my personal frontrunner at the moment is Andy, who last night managed to serve up what looks like a small, pastry panda sitting on a potato-bamboo raft (pictured above).

They’ve been through the tough times and tonight all they have to do is cook their best three-courser to seal their victory. They can count themselves lucky they’ve got past the stage where they have to cook for the critics. Anyone who has to go face-to-face with Jay Rayner without vomiting has been challenged, and being able to leave a meeting with that gorgon Kate Spicer without being turned into a miserable statue is a win in itself.

Let’s have a look at them in more detail…

* * *

Chris – The Small Boy:

Chris is a hapless little man, 24 years of age, who falls to amusing pieces when asked to lead a group. With the most unconvincing self up-talk of the bunch, you can’t help but feel sorry for him when he’s onscreen gazing at squid-ink pasta with an expression that reads ‘I am terrified of food’.

Reason to back him: He’s the youngest, is fresh-faced and seems like a decent chap.

Andy – The Comeback Kid:

Despite initally seeming like a bit of a braggart, Andy’s won us over despite his awkward swagger. Having failed last series, he’s returned stronger and is constantly rescuing Chris from disaster like a catering child-minder. Andy is pretty selfless and pretty bloody good at the old cooking. He’s earned his place in the final.

Reason to back him: The ‘comeback’ angle gives him the kind of story  Producers loves to put out there.

Mat – The Happy Egg:

Mat’s the oldest and probably the most accomplished of the three, with the best palette on the evidence provided. He’s also endearingly weeble-like, and his goatie somehow makes him even more humpty like. After listening to him speak every day for the past two or three weeks, I still can’t place his accent, mind you.

Reason to back him: He cries all the time. Happy or sad, Mat’s your best bet for a blub-off. The cameras love an eye-dribbler.

* * *

Who will win?

Who deserves to win?

One things for sure – ‘whoever wins, it’ll change their life’.

BIG GUTSY FLAVOURS!

Chickens, Hugh And Tesco Too

January 27, 2009

hugh fearnley whittingstall, chickens, tesco

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall again, taking his annual break from being an irritating bastard so he can talk a bit of sense about chickens, remarkably abstaining from going over the top and self-righteous about it. It seems HFW is capable of making interesting TV, and this kind of  thing just about compensates for the scabies-like irritation of his usual guff.

River Cottage is a saccharine, utopian vision of farming, in which Hugh is  free to  till the land without the pressure of the industry  and overheads looming over his  shoulder as most normal farmers would experience. Instead he’s able to  drain his book-royalty fund to pay for all the technicalities, making it nauseating, patronising bollocks.

But his chicken campaign has some relevance and feels current, raising it above the River Cottage standard. In this latest instalment, HFW buys a single share for about 500 quid in order to be able to speak to major shareholders and try to convince them that the industry standard is to harsh on the bird, and that the much more humane, RSPCA backed Freedom Food standard should be the base level. And it’s hard to argue with him.

Last time round, he was rewarded with only a bloody nose when trying to change Tesco’s ways as the marketing bods at the top of the tree steadfastly refused to speak to him, so it followed that by buying a share he would get more of a say. Hard to know how much of what followed was pantomime contrivance, but it was all good fun.

One fact that shocked me, early on, (though it probably shouldn’t have) is that Friends of the Earth have shares in Tesco. Isn’t that a bit weird? Probably not. You just expect a charity to make ethical decisions when it comes to investing – but then you remember ethics don’t really come into economics.

Anyhow, the first move was explaining his case to some shareholders, City types, in pinstripe with public-school floppy hair. All were left unmoved. The deadly silence that followed HFW’s little speech spoke volumes on why this wouldn’t actually, physically make a difference and could only succeed as a point well made. The welfare of a chicken, pecked-half bald as it sits in its own shit is of very little interest to people who want to put some money somewhere and return a few weeks later to find it’s doubled. Chickens be damned when cash can be reaped. Eventually, one long haired suit-wearer saw the correllation between Tesco’s reputation and the improvement of standards, but the reputation card didn’t work last time round, so was unlikely to this time.

The high point, for me, was HFW’s attempts to speak to someone of importance from Tesco on camera. Instead, he was greeted by a Media Spokesperson, or Head of Talking On Telly as she was dubbed. This creature, both attractive and coldly empty, spoke in  wittering circles of sales guff. She repeatedly bleated that Tescos ‘lead the way’ on this topic – a term she had clearly been encouraged to use as it’s such blatantly contrived bullshit, she couldn’t have come up with it herself.

‘Lead the way’ means utterly nothing. Where is ‘the way’? How are they ‘leading’ towards it? Who are they leading? Where will they end up? Why not just say something quantatitive and substantial instead of talking unmitigated shit?

It got worse. One of my pet hates is food packaging and how, these days, it’s virtually impossible to work out where meat came from, what the terms mean and whether the food you’re buying has been fiddled with. Apparently, according to the Media Spokesperson, to have anything resembling a description of conditions, even something as basic as the two words ‘indoor-reared’, would be patronising to the consumer.  And if that doesn’t display contempt for the customer, I don’t know what does. You don’t need any more evidence to prove that Tesco aren’t in the least bit concerned by what their customers want (unless it involves undercutting their competitors).

Eventually HFW’s target of converting 75% of shareholder opinion (an impossible task, with the rules set by Tesco) failed, as was destined. But this was a point well made.

The sad thing is, the core customer-base of Tesco – those who may have been influenced into not buying the lower end offal – were probably put off this transmission by the very fact of Hugh’s presence, and will be purchasing two-for-a-fiver chickens as I type these very words…

The Friday Question: You are MASTERCHEF!

January 16, 2009

pudgers

It’s a simple conceit. For today’s Friday Question, you, humble reader, are THROUGH to the final stage of the quarter final. It’s time to demonstrate your ability to the two spoon-loading pudgers with your signature three-course service.

So what would you cook up for Greg Wallace and John Torrode if you magically found yourself in the studio?

What do you cook best?

We’ll need a starter, a main and a dessert.

Then it’s over to Greg and John who are just like, hanging out at mine today (by coincidence) and will instruct me on what they think of your complex flavour combinations.

What three courses would you cook for Masterchef then, eh?

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Lurkers, now is the time to show yourselves!

NewsGush: Ramsay’s Cookalong Dead

November 25, 2008

Poor old Gordon Ramsay’s PR people. And a twinge of sympathy, if you will, for old scrotum-face.

First his indiscretions are made public by the gutter press and then his ratings come in quite some way below expectations. It’s not often that Gordon gets two doses of bad publicity in a week, and it feels like the world’s started turning in another direction all of a sudden.

Are people sick of his barking, bullying, self-righteous schtick? Have his vainglorious, tedious televisual displays of self-love finally rubbed his public up the wrong way?

Have the people, after all this time, finally realised he’s a complete and utter arsehole?

Not sure if you’ve seen Cookalong Live, but it’s a fine example of a presenter being prised into a format they really, really can’t handle. For a reference point, think Davina on her eponymous chatshow as she made millions change channels, as they realised there was less to her than they’d originally thought.

Ramsay is forced to be nice to people whilst working within a very limited timeframe and he can’t handle it. I watched the first episodes and found myself feigning a posh, Glasgow-inflected accent, shouting ‘Ey! Big boys! Where’re your balls?!’ as he fluffed link after link and hopped up and down on the spot in pure panic so much that my household now bursts out laughing every time we see him. ‘Hippity Hop’ we call him. Cookalong is a hop off more than it’s a cooking show.

From 11.3% of the viewership to 6.3% is quite a shocking drop over the course of three weeks, but if  you’re hoping we’ve seen the back of him, you’ll be disappointed as he, Oliver and Fearnley-Whittingstall return to our screens again sooner than you may have expected with another series of patronising lectures and book advertisements in the coming months.

Hooray! Yes?

Yes?

Yes?

The Restaurant

September 25, 2008

Though we’ve been keeping up with this over at Swineshead Towers, and despite its enormous similarities to The Apprentice, there’ll be no weekly breakdown of each episode as Badger Madge over at BMTV seems to be making a decent fist (titter) of it herself over here… and here. It’s undoubtedly improved on the first series and there’s a lot to enjoy in joining the affable Raymond Blanc as he orders a load of wannabe restauranters to undergo tests that would make any normal human being unravel within minutes.

Just as a taster, last night’s saw the teams of two – who each have been given their own restaurant for the duration of the show – delivered half a pig each and set the task of cooking and selling as much of the squealer as possible. Marks would be given for profit and then deducted for wastage. The format is exactly the same as the Apprentice and remarkably it doesn’t suffer from the transposition, apart from in one area.

Nick and Margaret are, by now, firm favourites when it comes to how Apprentice fans feel. The incredulous looks on their disgusted faces have become a part of the fabric of the show. In their place, on The Restaurant Monsieur Blanc is shanked by a couple of thorough bastards. Not cantankerous, lovable silver foxes like Sugar’s charges – these are just oily, smug shitbags and they take a bit of the fun away from proceedings.

David Moore wanders into the restaurants with the kind of fixed, shit-eating grin that lets you know that he thinks you’re shit before he’s even seen the supposed shitness of your shit and said ‘it’s shit’. His blank, jelly-baby face occasionally warps into a sneer, but on the whole he gives nothing away, making him the sneakiest Casper lookalike in the country.

Sarah Willingham is even worse. Permanently overdressed – like she thought she’d been invited to lunch with her Majesty – she takes herself far too seriously. The main problem wirh Willingham is that she asks leading questions to the contestants which offer nothing to the show, other to explain at point blank range what you already know is happening. If a cut of pork has been burned she’ll ask ‘do you realise that that’s burned?’ and both viewer and contestant will nod while shrugging as she smiles at how clever she’s been. She’s not a patch on Sugar’s Margaret. But then… who is?

Still, it all works out alright in the end when we hit the boardroom (or whatever they call it on The Restaurant) as Blanc sits in the middle of them and adds an air of respectable, reasonable Gallic charm to the proceedings. He does the job of Alan Sugar but he does it his own way – which is to be fair and offer appropriate advice. His approach is as effective as Siralan’s because, more often than not, contestants are blinded by his unerring friendliness and complete obsession with stuff you masticate and as a result they admit their failings immediately, as though they’ve let Daddy down. It’s very impressive.

And the food?

Magnifique!

NewsGush – Too Many Cooks

August 27, 2008

Great news for morons from Channel 4, home of morons. As part of the Autumn schedule we’ll have even more cookery on the box as Gordon Ramsay swears very impressively (and live, dangerously enough) whilst Oliver will try and fail to change the world. Again.

Jamie Oliver travels to Rotherham to launch his latest campaign and face some of his fiercest critics in four-part documentary, Jamie’s Ministry of Food. The Channel 4 chef wants to recruit the locals to his drive to encourage home cooking at the expense of unhealthy ready meals and has taken the wartime ministry as his inspiration.

Gordon Ramsay will also be back aiming to extend the nation’s culinary repertoire, this time with a full seven-part series of Live Cookalong. 

So, if you love watching arseholes cook stuff while you eat cereal, you’ll be well catered for.