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Category Archives: British

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WAN(T)

Gok Cooks Chinese. Brilliant. Ronseal, mate. Can’t possibly imagine what’s going to happen now. Oh, I can. And I have. And now I’ve watched it, unnecessarily. This programme is so utterly, utterly pedestrian in its format and execution it could almost be on prime-time midweek Channel 4. Oh.

You probably know Gok. I have a near pathological aversion to the sleb-rag X-Factor daytime TV entertainment that smothers mainstream UK media – like drowning in a mix of fake tan and regurgitated WKD – and even I know who fucking Gok Wan is. I know what to expect. Specs. Camp. Asides. Well, thankfully, no one is keen on disappointing me. He actually comes across as entirely charming and personable, and he obviously loves his food. Shame that whoever produced this almost supernatually ordinary ‘vehicle’ had about as much imagination as a free prawn cracker starter. There was a budget, yes, and they spent it on speed-ramped rostrum pans, a lifestyle-porn kitchen big enough to take a moody lighting rig, pointless Jolliver animated inserts, will-this-do? voiceover, yeah yeah. There’s an insert of Gok standing and throwing things about which unfortunately reminds me of the opening titles of the Ali G show. The familiar grammar of a hundred precedents. Let’s make this cuddly. Let’s make this easy. Let’s make this boring.

So Gok gets to work on fried rice in ‘his’ whoah-no-really posh kitchen. “Egg in the wok, a little bit like an omelette”, he opines as he, um, scrambles the eggs in the bottom. Bish bash frozen-pea bosh and he serves his rice on a board, with chilli sauce overflowing on the edge, like someone completely fucking insane. Things pick up when he starts cooking with his dad Papa Wan, who is dry as a bone and great value. He used to work in various Chinese restaurants (as very clearly did Gok, judging by his seriously fast cleaverwork and casual pan flipping). The usual family photos and bonding follow. It’s all about the sleb journey, right? Gok’s strangely unappetising-looking stir-fried beans with shrimp are trumped by his dad’s nommy pork char-sui. They also, surprisingly, make a version of the joke once delivered in public by Prince Philip: “If it has got four legs and it is not a chair, if it has got two wings and flies but is not an aeroplane and if it swims and it is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it.”

Still, at least parental chipping makes for drama of sorts. Back at Wan Towers, the vehicle drives on solo. Thoroughly unconvinced, Gok reads the VO script anyway: “So simple, so quick.” (with a vast stock cupboard of dry goods.) “…that you can get really easily from the Chinese supermarket” (well, yes…) “You can be the Bruce Lee of your kitchen.” (FFS). Even the one blatant innuendo is forced out through gritted teeth. The producer used it anyway. Do I have to? Yes, Gok, you do.  

As mentioned, his food unfortunately doesn’t actually look all that special to the eye, but the presentation has been porned-up to the max. So this lovely simple you-can-do-it home cooked food goes to the tracking shot ‘pass’ on huge slabs of Michelin-y greenstone and slate. He clearly knows his shit though; there is a lovely illustrated tip about cutting meat at an angle to hold its shape, and a delightful cheffy moment where he seasons cooking food by dipping one side of his stock-wet ladle into a bowl of pepper and the other side into salt before returning it to the wok. He’s got it.

The really, really annoying bit comes when he visits the kitchens of Hakkasan, the multi-award winning, game-changingly excellent Chinese restaurant. We get to watch the head chef make beef with black beans at high speed, as his brigade watch nervously. Gok gets out his PE teacher stopwatch and times it at 1 minute 41 seconds. This is sped up, as a montage. We don’t get to see a top chef make a dish in less than two minutes. That, apparently would be boring to the audience, rather than fascinating, especially with an detailed voiceover. Nope. One minute forty one of high-speed sexy cheffing? Nah, people would be switching over to Auction Hunters, mate. What utter contempt for the viewer. What a waste of time. What a waste of Gok.

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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.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in British, Commodification, Critics, Dislike

 

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 …

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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.” “

 

THREE STAR PORN

QUESTIONS QUESTIONS QUESTIONS

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01dllbj

Why is India Fisher – who someone on Digital Spy recently described as an “aggravating, breathy droner” – ever more firmly channeling Chris Morris c.1994 in full-on Michael Burke mode?

Why can’t Sergio Herman, bearing a remarkable resemblance to Ed O’Brien from Radiohead, stop switching poutily between Michelin-drunk commandeur and pissant rock star? Nice jacket, though.

Why did Shelina get so stiffed with her three-star-kitchen task, being forced to make something that looked like an upmarket doner kebab with half the brigade staring at her and giggling?

Why hilarious whub whub pseudo-dubstep over the prep?

Why do I still have to sit through fifty near-identical reaction shots rather than even get the tiniest hint of how Andrew made his ten-out-of-fucking-ten potato leaf and potato cup fondue starter?

 

Gluttony in the sidecar

Cooking for one, as the last few years have taught me, is not a great deal of fun. For starters it’s nearly impossible to cook the right portion if you require, say, ‘some aubergine’ and some things, like roasted butternut squash or any large cuts of meat, aren’t really scaleable. Of course it’s perfectly possible to eat a lovely, nutritious and varied diet for one and there are some advantages (never having to hold back on the chilli, being able to eat burger sauce on toast for tea if you really want) but when I was cooking for just myself, an indulgence felt more like a guilty binge than a luscious meal.

Cookery shows have clocked this- the presence of either a pseudo (or literal) restuarant setup on chef shows or the implication that there’s a family or friends ready to drop by and eat everything on cook shows, coupled with semi- magazine programs like Saturday Kitchen and the inevitable interaction between chef and audience (Nigella is cooking for you) gives a sense of performance to the creation that mitigates the gluttonous aspect.

But what if, like me, you seek the gluttonous aspect? I don’t watch cookery shows as a technical manual or as a form of self-flagellation that my dresses are not nearly so swishy and my hair not nearly so neat as yr latest ladycook magazine special, I watch them because I want to see some pleasant things to put in my mouth. I’m an average-to-decent cook and not all that bothered about being let in on the fannydangly secrets of Jamie Oliver’s fish pie but (especially as my partner isn’t all that interested in food) I am certainly looking for other openly drooling chums. Read the rest of this entry »

 

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