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Monthly Archives: March 2012

KHOO 2

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, with your glossy lippy and your saturated Hipstamatic kitchen and your cheery everywoman accent and your multiple costume changes (where is that woman’s storage?) and your Global knives and your crowd-pleasing K-Tel cookery classics and and and. Who wouldn’t fall for your carefully stage managed Nigella’s-hot-baby-sisterish charms?

The second episode gives us more of the same: Parisporn, that hoary standby “cheery banter with market traders”, more nice-and-easy looking recipes (I must do fish in paper more often), flylady Fifties action, piping bags (she doesn’t ‘choux till it pops’ though), vintage enamel, and a whole raft of c’est touts and et voilas (does she actually speak any more French than I do?). And why does she have her salt in an annoying, finger-inaccessible jamjar though? That would drive me insane. Her beef bourguignion was waaay too liquid for me, but the salted caramel puds were genius though, an fairly easy hit as long as you know your oven pretty well.

The boulangeries of Paris are as fucking amazing as they are pictured, by the way. I once got up on three hours sleep to go to Gosselin in Les Halles purely because Jeffrey Steingarten recommended it in passing as selling one of the best baguettes in Paris, but that’s because I’m a tragic food-addled knob. I spent a fortune and ran for the Eurostar looking like some kind of mobile bakery. Good times.

 

FOODIE (noun. vulg.)

Off TV for a while: a couple of things I’ve read this week have touched upon the charmlessness of foodies and blogging. Firstly the Guardian has a blog piece about taking photographs of food, and the social meedja lifestyle bragging-rights upload that invariably follows. I am not immune to this phenomenon, and I sometimes Facebook pics of things I’ve made, but I draw the line at doing it in restaurants, for two reasons.

Firstly, I think it’s at least slightly rude. If Michelin-level cooking is ‘theatre’, well, they don’t let you take photos in the theatre, do they? The couple next to us at Hibiscus last year were photographing fucking EVERYTHING including the flatware with a big DSLR – and scribbling in notebooks between courses. It distracted me a little, but the fantastically withering look they got from the sommelier at one point was almost worth it all. Apparently Heston now bans cameras at the Fat Duck, but who can blame him? I can understand the impulse though, particularly if you’ve saved up a couple of hundred quid for something both excellent and ephemeral, and you want to savour the memory or show your mother. And I agree that the appeal of some food blogs, e.g. The Critical Couple, is the detailed photographs of courses in fuck-off restaurants round the world, which has got me drooling and saving more than once.

But the more egregious reason for not taking photographs in restaurants, for me, is the cognitive switching between experiencing and recording. This is worst at gigs with people taking hundreds of really bad digital photographs instead of actually experiencing music, the only art form that you have to appreciate in real-time. The instant that the most important thing about the evening becomes recording it, whether out of boredom, for braggingtons, or blog hits, you’ve gone down the rabbit hole of life-at-a-remove, the curse of the digital 21st century.

So I’d barely finished this Guardian piece when one of my great pop mates tips me to an article about ‘The Young Foodie Culture‘ in New York. From the punchable opening: “Chang arrives at the tiny Thai place with her friends Jasmine, a stylist, and Marcos, a graphic designer.”, it’s a meditation in smug box-ticking foodie wankery that needs the hashtag #firstworldproblems attached to every other bloody sentence. As several commenters note, it’s ludicrous to extrapolate detailed trends based on one person (although that didn’t stop a Guardian blogger having a go based on about five records played by a single DJ at a single Dalston club on a single night). I’m struggling to decide whether the journalist or his subject is more irritating, but he does touch on some real foodie issues, such as the gluttonous lack of interest in locavorism or sustainability. And then he records the actual delivery of a line like ““Don’t you always feel so humbled eating an artichoke?“. Yurgh.

Anyway, after typing all the above, I was hungry, so I went and got an expensive coffee eclair from Paul.

But when I took a photo of it it looked a bit like a poo in a box.

A lesson for us all, there.

 

it’s saturday morning and who’s gonna play with me

So, y’know, with my head jammed with thoughts of Masterchef, what’s for dinner and what restaurant will I be taken to for my birthday [hint, hint] I can’t help but rise bright and breezy each Saturday morning and wonder “who’s on Saturday Kitchen today?!”

In recent weeks the producers have really pulled it out of the bag – Jamie Foreman was pretty awesome, Chris Isaak took me back to my youth and this week, Jennifer Carpenter.  Yes, she’s a glamorous, svelte lady but she tucked into her cream tea (Cornish or Devon, not quite sure) with complete abandon.

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oh, oobee doo, i wanna be like khoo

Yes, I admit, I was skeptical upon seeing the adverts for a forthcoming show about a pretty lady in Paris – blurgh!  But I actually quite enjoyed it.

Maybe I stupidly fell for the lovely clothes, the nice lipstick and exciting atmosphere of gay Paris.  But what I did like was the size of her kitchen: she could stand in the middle, reach out and touch each wall.  Impressive.  Her simple French dishes were created on a little gas ring, grill and oven with the fridge doubling up as a chalk board (nice idea but there’s a far better Etch-a-Sketch in Chez Fanny).

Yes, I wanted to be one of Rachel’s hip mates, squeezing in to her petit appartement to eat madeleines stuffed with raspberries and curd and drink tea.  Well, maybe one day I will.  Rachel runs La Petite Cuisine a Paris out of her miniature flat so one day, I’m sure …

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You can take the man out of the grocers…

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/masterchefs-gregg-wallace-says-he-still-765689

“Gregg, 47, was at the Ideal Home show in London yesterday dodging advances from fans on Twitter eager to become the fourth Mrs Wallace.

One tweeted him: “Sad news.. but you know a lot of ladies on here will be thinking, ‘My turn’.” To which Gregg replied: “So naughty.” “

 

a maid in the living room, chef in the kitchen …

Having just watched David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, it made me consider what the average viewer wants from their presenter.

David is Canadian Italian and a handsome chap, in that eye-twinkling-I know-I-am kinda way.  What with him and that cheeky Danny Boome, it’s just not right.

As a 30-something female, I’m used to having a procession of attractive women give advice on how how to entertain friends, bake the perfect cake or create the ideal Sunday roast – all with a wink and a licking of the lips.  I’m no longer a 25 year old threatened by Nigella’s heaving bosom or embarrassed by Dervla Kirwan’s M&S voice over.  I pretty much expect a knowing look to camera as a sausage is suggestively eaten and find this amusing.  I’ve never met Nigella but I bet she’s a bloody good laugh and knows what she’s doing and it’s all done in jest (I have, however, seen her briefly at a book event and can confirm her ridiculous beauty).

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i’d quite happily put my face in it

I think if a certain Mr G Wallace Esq were ever a guest judge on Top Chef: Just Desserts he might actually explode.

I’ve watched quite a few series’ of Top Chef and Top Chef: Masters over the years – they have the intensity of your MC OZ (screened six days a week) combined with our own MC: The Professionals.  Contestants on Just Desserts are all pastry chefs of differing experience and abilities with their main judge and pastry king being 50’s throwback Johnny Iuzzini.  Gayle Simmons is our master of ceremonies (a regular TC judge) and the Arsene Wenger of French cuisine, the wonderful Hubert Keller, completes the head panel.

Iuzzini, Simmons, Keller & the other one

Season openers always begins with the 12 (or so!) chefs meeting for the first time – it’s a common occurrence that there are familiar faces or the people have crossed pastry paths in the past.  The judges turn up and give them their first challenge.  “I couldn’t believe how beautiful Gayle was in real life and how Johnny’s eyes starred deep into your soul” was how one chef put it.

Let me tell you now, JD is camp.  Very camp.  You are beset by a visual feast of pink, chocolate, sugar and cream – your teeth will itch.

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hopped up on melonballs

So, the inevitable has happened.  Masterchef has found it’s Queen – it was a no-brainer as they say, but Tom gave it a good shot.  Now, I have to wake up each morning knowing there will be a Greg Wallace shaped hole in my life.  Probably for the best.

One thing to note: going cold turkey on UK MC is a cinch.  Once Masterchef Australia gets it’s needle in your veins (or should that be meat thermometer?) there is one hell of a withdrawal.

"Meat thermometer? Who stabs somebody with a meat thermometer?"

If you think you’re addicted to Masterchef, you may not be able to handle the Australian version.  Believe me.  This is culinary crack and goes a little something like this …

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what we don’t see is what we don’t get

had an interesting twitter discussion afer the MC final on thurs, with BDGTtT commenter @zone_styx, about the issue of all the hidden elements in masterchef:

zs: curious about the timeframes with Masterchef generally – competitors sometimes seem to improve by magic mastering super technical skills they haven’t been exposed to; dramatically more complex palettes out of nowhere do they get intensive research/brainstorming periods? help from series researchers?

self: working as sou-chef under the “mentors” = intensive research/techniquestorming surely? the winners are v fast at picking stuff, and the palate doesn’t come out of “nowhere”; the confidence under pressure is the real (showmanship) element. These three [eg the winners] all every evidently had better latent palate and skills from early on; just unfocused and (in koj’s case) anxious

zs: it’s prob just the compression of editing & missed a lot of this series, BUT am often surprised at disparity btwn hopeless task performances etc, then sudden rabbit-out-of-hat elimination dishes. would have to go back and find you examples really — maybe the schedule leaves them time to ‘woodshed’ in american phrase in between eps.

self: one of the things i find interesting is that you VERY rarely get a shot of anyone working from notes, yet clearly they can’t all be working purely from memory and improvisation.

zs: yes! one shot of *very* long itemized to do list tonight: several A4 pages! (Andrew’s).

self: aki tweeted that one big difference between what we see and the actual kitchen is NO MUSIC: it’s very quiet. my guess is also that in the “task” sections, they actually get a lot more coaching and advice, from professionals, than we see. now it’s over may actually quiz some of the contestants on twitter about such production details for the food-on-telly blog

in the interests of dialectic i am perhaps repping somewhat over-strongly here for the programme’s “integrity” as a genuine competition, but i entirely agree that the intensity of the demands of watchable (hour-long) drama over 12 weeks leaves a lot of mysteries, when you step back and think about it. Obviously you can’t go from untried amateur to in-reach-of-a-michelin-star in half a day: so how long does it take to shoot? How much off-camera time do they have? People reading is dull TV: it’s only fair to let people practice (which to start with means fail) off-camera. But is there a lot of talking — teaching basically — that we don’t get to see?

 

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wwjtd?

Something I’ve heard on more than one occasion this year on Masterchef is “but you don’t even LIKE [insert foodstuff]!  Why on EARTH are you cooking with it?!!”

Calm down, John.  Is he really saying that he a) only cooks with ingredients he likes or b) he likes every food known to mankind?  I read somewhere that our favourite antipodean chef is allergic to crabs (no sniggering please) and that once he tastes the contestants food he nips off to have a shot of adrenaline.  Now, that’s hardcore.

I understand that there are types of food or certain ingredients that one might abhor – my own food hells are coffee and olives (EVIL, EVIL) and I can’t say for sure that I could give a fair and balanced critique of a coffee cream parfait.  I would, however, attempt to cook one in the hope of wowing the judges although my ability to taste as I went may hamper my efforts.

As I peruse a menu deciding between meat or fish, pudding or cheese,  I know what to avoid.  I may go so far as to chose a great sounding dish and pick out the offending fruit but don’t feel I should be divaesque with demands to “hold the olives!”  If a chef deems that they bring all the flavours together, who am I to quibble?

John and Greg’s apparent shock at Afsaneh’s attempt at cooking liver was well founded in the end.  Even though she knew it didn’t need much cooking, it was very over done.  As two experienced food guru’s I believe their dismay is pure entertainment.  Many years ago they found it hard to believe that chocolate and beetroot could be combined to make a tasty cake.  Well, it did and you can find it in many gastro pubs around the country.  They must be aware of all the new food trends and blends so, just maybe, they like to flatter the amateur in to thinking they’ve discovered a new flavour combination.

 
 
 
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