Sunday, January 6, 2008

TV Chefs

I’ve got a nasty feeling that the image above, sent to us by delighted Fat Expat contributor Derek, is a Sexton Blake, but I’m not going to let that ruin a perfectly good joke. Apparently the featured packaging was withdrawn hurriedly.

Why IS it a joke? Why does it make people laugh? Perhaps it’s the fact that the man behind the sausages (as well as some distinctly rum-tasting instant couscous and a number of barbecue marinades and other daft processed food products) really does come across as something of a… well, you know. My old mum saw him doing a live demonstration once and thought he was foul-mouthed. But then she thinks Jamie Oliver’s food prep is filthy – and she’s right, too.

She likes James Martin and so, despite myself, do I. I should hate him – I’m the one that wants to drink beer out of Gary Rhodes’ skull, after all. If Gazza says ‘that eats beautifully’ again, I’ll deck him, I swear. It’s the camp way he intones it as he flips the pan for another porno close-up lacing of thick, rich sauce on that luscious parsley-sprinkled fennel and pancetta mash.

So James ‘baby boy’ Martin, or whatever the grannies are calling him this week, should really get my hate gland overheated. But, strangely, I respect the food he makes, the earnestness with which he does it and the range of things he puts out. I like his food and (yes, I admit it!) even enjoy Saturday Kitchen occasionally, even if I privately think our Jim's carefully cultivated ‘mummy’s boy’ image disguises a raving, mind-screwing, drug-abusing anal sex fiend.

Before you get carried away by my prejudices against TV chefs, do bear in mind that not one but two Fat Expats have given Gary's Dubai opening (ahem) the thumbs up: Both HMHB and EyeOnDubai have eaten chez Rhodes in Dubai and enjoyed it – and many people also rave about Ramsay’s Verre, despite the fact that it notably, achingly lacks the stars that adorn so many other Ramsay properties.

One thing is certain for poor old wannabe C-list destination Dubai: the TV chefs are coming and it won’t be long before the squat, ginger and almost totally charmless Worrall Thompson and the grinning, slack-mouthed mockney Jamie arrive on these shores to grant interviews to the slavishly on-message journalists that put together our lifestyle magazines and tabloids. They’ll be followed by a piratic gang of dubious TV chef ‘names’ all promising to give us a better, smarter, nicer, more impressive food life and all opening up multi-million dollar license deal restaurants that give us the dubious benefit of a house-trained sous-chef plucked from the ‘original’ team to cook up the great man’s menu and perhaps an annual visit from the hallowed one himself to do a round of PR and change that menu over to this years’ fashion. And, of course, following in Ramsay’s footsteps, to say ‘fuck’ so that the magazine can excitedly print it as f***.

Which is really w*** of them, by the way.

The end result will be that you pay a whacking premium on the food on your table just to take the overhead of the licensing and marketing operation into account - and don't think for a second that the food cost isn't getting squeezed to pay for that licensing deal, either. So you get second rate ingredients cooked by a second rate chef to a formula put together by a chef turned TV personality.

I get the feeling that you'd be better off buying the cookbook if you're that interested and then going out to eat as a treat somewhere more interesting, innovative and, dare I suggest it, less celebrated. And you'd probably be better off with Spinneys' brand sausages, too.

What do you mean, grumpy?


EyeOnDubai said...

Hmm, sort-of agree, a bit...

Second rate chefs? Angela Hartnett (first The Connaught, now Cielo in the US) Jason Atherton (now getting rave reviews at maze), Jason Whitelock (Tokyo)

Verre served me the best meal I have ever eaten, period, reaching a level of consistency, precision and sheer clarity and intensity of flavour that I have been trying to emulate ever since.

Michael Goodman at Napa was more adventurous, taking bigger risks (foie gras creme brulee? mushroom schnapps?), and their wine dinners (Bonny Doone and Frogs Leap night in particular) were extraordinary. Why, oh why did they make it a steakhouse???

AWT has already been (the Mark Williamson launch) and Rick Stein declined my invitatiion. Sorry to have missed Dave Thomson at Peppercrab.

Now, all we have to do is start making a DECENT local program about food and let's see if anyone is paying attention!


Alexander said...

Sort of agree, too. But Hartnett et al aren't in Dubai, sadly.
Verre given huge credit by all concerned: not sure I'm quite as bowled over, but to be fair I haven't been in a long, long time.
Missed AWT. Whatapitynevermind. We like Rick Stein - he gets so passionate about food it's got to be real!
Thompspon at Thai Kitchen (did he also do Peppercrab?) was amaaazing. Blogged that.
But the really important bit is the highly principled call for a decent local program about food.
We'll be lucky!!!

Mita said...

I love the blog on TV chefs and thought the photo was very apt - he does come across as a bit of a pl***ker!

Like all the mighty, I love good food and watch BBC Food most avidly but could never afford the kind of restaurants mentioned here. I have to say I do like James Martin, but adore Rick Stein and Hugh something from the River Cottage series. They make cooking fun and so easy -

But I agree with you - the real "food heroes" are not spoken of like some of my foodie friends who will experiment and try something new all the time.

nzm said...

I like Rick Stein too - and his beloved departed dog Corky used to send me into fits of laughter.

poor old wannabe C-list destination Dubai? HMHB, you're being too kind! LOL

EyeOnDubai said...

Peppercrab? Sorry. Thai Kitchen it was, and I missed it!

greedy girl said...

Rick Stein's The Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall, really was memorable, simple and classy, rather than teeth- clenchingly, jaw-achingly ostentatious. Rick himself is such an old plonker its hard not to take to him, and little chalky! He obviously loves it and it shows.

Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall is always fun..however..

I think Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Ainsley Harriot should be put in a voluminous sack, filled with thumb tacks and given a good beating by Gordon 'f*@#*ing' Ramsay wielding a sizeable plank of timber...and perhaps a place should be reserved for Delia Smith, (any one who measures EVERY singly damn thing precisely into tiny little ceramic dishes is just a little bit frightening...

pricks with forks indeed...

one spleen...vented.

Mars said...

prick with a fork...haha...it took me a while to get it...

Swati said...

I couldn't agree more about Ainsley Harriot & Gary Rhodes. I would also add that girl Ching to that list. I love James Martin - Anthony Warrell Thompson gets my BP up but sometimes I do like Jamie Oliver.

Not very regular but I like Laura Calder & Bill Granger both

Having said that Verre was much nicer recently , however, the triumphant stars as per me go to Shang Palace & Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire