Tv Dinners: Masterchef – The Professionals.

masterchef_02At the start of every series of Masterchef, I begin with the intentions of watching all the way through, I might learn something, I reason and if nothing else there is always the opportunity to cackle at the poor efforts of the misguided and talentless. Misanthropy, your name is surely moi. Although I am not mad keen on Gr-Egg Wallace, although I find the camerawork, editing, voice over work, and some of the ‘challenges’ irritating at best, there must clearly be something in it that draws me back. I suspect it is often a dearth of competition for my attentions from another source. But this series of Professional Mastershite shout chef has just turned me off completely. So far there have been 20 episodes of heats and quarter finals. 20 epsidodes of the opportunity of watching unattractive young men (for the most part, monobrowed, poorly shaven and flabby) fail to bone/cook through/construct or make something basic. 20 episodes of some hammy, stroppy sous chef claiming she would only put ‘the best’ through to cook for Michael, and then putting through abject failures simply because well, she had to. 20 episodes of watching the same dishes presented the same way – the only difference being the main ingredients. Classic recipe tests where the young chefs had never heard of the dishes, much less cooked or eaten them and 20 episodes of having to watch Gregg shovelling food into his mouth. Not pretty.

But you know, tonight, the first of the semi finals. One assumes, before watching, that these guys will know how to cook and cook well. They will, for an instance, be able to cook vegetables, manage a crepe or some lemon curd. Phrases like ‘expecting perfection’ , ‘skill and commitment’ and ‘great chefs’ are bandied about by the narrator. Lets hope we’re not disappointed.

In this semi-final, the chefs begin their day at a central London restaurant, Roussillon. I quite like these bits – they are not, as is the case with sleb masterchef, somewhere crummy, they are at a proper establishment. I love a nose inside a professional kitchen, as all my readers know, I particularly love to watch what happens in a michelin starred restaurant kitchen. The chef is French (so much the better).There is  Lady Chef and  Boy Chef. We want the girl to do better(natch). They are in charge  of making a cheffy dish each. Girl chef messes up a touch (cue sonorous music and narration of ‘Marianne needs to focus’). Switch to Boy Chef, narrator reliably informs us that Boy Chef  ‘needs to cook his egg perfectly’ – thanks for stating the bleeding obvious for us there, eh? Anyway, Boy chef overcooks his egg. Quelle horreur! More confusing editing. More moments of tension. Onto the money shot – quite posh patrons in the dining room. Unlike with Gregg we don’t have to watch them shovel it in. The customers liked it. Hurrah. Onto post mortem. It was stressful. No, really? To cut a long story shorter, the boy won. Boy Chef and Lady Chef then go head to head to cook a truffle risotto. The Girl chef won that one. So what have we learnt? Well, you know.

Back to the studio, where they have an hour to cook a suitably cheffy meal for Gr-Egg and Michel. Oh no! Michel wants to see their hearts on the plate! Michel is expecting the best.. ohh.. lets hope Boy Chef doesn’t make him a risotto then.. Gr-Egg asks Lady Chef how much effort she is putting into this competition. I am not sure I understand the question. Anyone want to respond by yawning, stretching and mumbling ‘mmh…20%’ and turning their back on him? I have to go and put the kettle on now. I can’t stand any more of this inanity.

They love the way Lady Chef’s food tastes. But it’s too simple. Boy Chef hasn’t cooked his beans, and his starter lacks flavour (Michel was expecting the best, remember) His main course tastes good but it’s not right. Surely, surely this means Lady Chef goes through? There is some meaningless ‘conversation’ (the judging conversation is often so disjointed and strangely edited its impossible to tell they’re in the same room) and it doesn’t matter what Gr-Egg says anyway, does it. Whether it’s shouty chef John or chef Michel, they make the call. After all, what is he? A green grocer. After a long, X-factor stylee pause, Lady Chef goes through. Bon. Gr-Egg says, ‘Everything she touches, tastes like its been cooked by an angel’. I nearly choke on my lemsip. Fade to black.


Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Oddysey

I must confess it was with a heavy heart that I anticipated the most recent series of travelogue/cookery programme/Rick Stein show, Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey
. Much as I cannot usually resist a food show (although, please read my review of Economy Gastronomy for an example of one that will not be troubling me again), I was worried after his Mediterranean series that I would not be able to face any more of him. There was never anything wrong with Mediterranean Escapes, or whatever it was called, in terms of food. The food is always delicious – and translates well onto screen and the printed page. The photography is always good, the locations are often stunning. They always seem to find interesting local people and stories to talk about. So far, so deserving of a lucrative series travelling around the world in comfort, cooking and eating.

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Economy Gastronomy

economyLast night, as I settled down to my beans on toast (thats why there was no recipe btw, you don’t want me to tell you how to make beans on toast, do you?) I decided to treat myself to a bit of telly. Happily, the space usually filled between 8pm and 9pm with The Bill, Holby or Property programmes, none of which I can bear, has been joined by a new cookery show, Economy Gastronomy with the apparently talented Paul Merrett and Allegra McEvedy. I say apparently, because although I know they are very accomplished chefs, it is impossible to tell from this silly programme whether they have any talent about them at all. Taking a hapless  family who managed to spend £330 a week on food (I was expecting to see Lobster and Caviar and Fine Champagne, instead I saw Ready Made Desserts, Chicken & Crisps) and turn that into £210 average spend a week in Asda. I still think £210 is an incredible amount of money to spend on food a week-  I think I spend about £100 including booze and everything else.  Billed as ‘their system to save time and slash our food bills while eating better than we’ve ever done before’  (or housekeeping for Dummies) by the Beeb, I was very much looking forward to some new ways to save money at the shops whilst watching some new food porn. Sadly, this show did not show me how to eat better than I ever have done before, and really, in terms of money saving tips within this programme (I took notes, just for you) we were offered such gems as:

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