…said Marco Pierre White, in the car on the way to Kitchen Wars.
Kitchen Wars is a format that should work. Sort of. Bastardly chef goes around the country selecting chefs for an X Factor-type showdown. Except there’s already been a kitchen X Factor, it was that thing to find the great British dish or something a few years ago and after the endless rolling Masterchef regimen and the soaring, triumphant wonderfulness of the Great British Menu what it was decided we needed in the schedule was something slightly like that but with no cooking depicted and an overarching air of sexism.
“She already knows what I think of women who talk too much” begins Marco, as the Kitchen Wars truck sets down in Liverpool. Good, well, that’s an excellent start to that coveted prize of ‘worst host on a cookery related programme.’
The format of Kitchen Wars is that chefs cook dishes for Marco in 30 minutes, checked on a sandtimer he carries around with him like some sort of mutated Richard O’Brien character. I’ll have the Aztec zone, please- the Industrial Zones’s ovens are clogged with iron ore.
Theoretically, as it’s half an hour he could show four to six chefs competing in an hour long show without cutting too much out and while showing plenty of cookery technique. However, it’s not just the chefs he’s interested in- he also wants to grill their partners on the restaurants they own. Yes, not just a bastard mix of cookery shows, this is a bastard mix of that most bastardly and miserable of all bastard shows, The Restaurant with Raymond Blanc. If you’ve never seen the show, imagine the most clueless collective of twats, with no kitchen training or business acumen, too gormless to wing their way onto the Apprentice, trying to convince Raymond Blanc that they could either cook or run a restaurant, because they’ve always kind of fancied doing it you see.
So MPW is looking for couples. He keeps saying he’s looking for couples so often that you wonder if the kitchen in London is just a massive swingers’ party and why no platonic restaurant partners would be included but smoothing over that, this means that you see each chef for exactly 0.2 seconds at the start and finish of them cooking a dish- there’s another 20 to get through during the hour-long show, after all and also they have to ask their partners some probative questions, like ‘what car do you drive?’ (men) And ‘have you had your tongue pierced?’ (young lady from Cardiff)
I have to admit, after the latter incident I was forced to turn it off. Marco looks bored, I’m certainly bored, it’s embarassing. The chefs do return briefly after their partners have been interrogated about their lifestyles (which doesn’t exactly alleviate the swinging suspicion) mostly to be told ‘hmm, it’s not exceptional’ before I’ve even had time to work out what the heck is on the plate or for Marco to squawk ‘NO, you have failed, the half hour is up!’ and turn on his heel in a cloud of apathy.
The prize is to cook a three course meal for 25 people in an hour and forty five minutes. Wait, that doesn’t seem like a prize at all! Neither does it feel likely to particularly lead to actual culinary achievement, assuming that includes prep time. Marco knows this, even the chefs that are put through know this. This doesn’t teach anyone anything about cookery or the restaurant trade (probably the saddest element of the show is the partners ‘arranging the service’ on a little picnic table on a windswept Merseyside plaza in front of a glorified fast food truck, where MPW sits, in full chef whites, looking as angry about all this as anyone else is) and it doesn’t have any point. It’s too fast, too sloppy and doesn’t even bother with the most perfunctory attempts at generating tension.
End the war, I say, it’s never solved anything.
(Mogella Gnawson’s Kitchen Peace Agreements to be screened in my living room c. 9pm)