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aussie rules

I could use my recent accident as an excuse, but I won’t.  Lounging around, nursing a fractured metatarsal, I set to work, doing really important things like catching up with lots and lots and lots of Masterchef.

Masterchefs Australia and New Zealand aired on Watch only for its British counterpart to crash the BBC party a few weeks later. Back were the familiar Aussie faces of Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris.  George is nearly half the man he used to be and looking very well on it too.  In the New Zealand kitchen we have Simon Gault, Josh Emmett and the fabulously named Ray McVinnie.  Josh has been in place since season two when Ross Burden bowed out due to ill health.

Josh, Simon & Ray

Josh, Simon & Ray

After a brief flirtation with Canada, it’s clear that my heart still lies in Australia.  Canada was good, don’t get me wrong, but the competitive element was ramped up pretty high with mystery box winners having the opportunity to remove a cook from an elimination round, catty comments and deathly stares.

One thing in Canada’s favour?

Bacon.

Lots of bacon.

And not a croquembouche in sight.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

bitchin in the kitchen

Shit sandwich.

Worst. Programme. Ever.

Worst. Programme. Ever.

 

baking bad

SIGH Unfortunately I have to blog the good, the not-so-good and the bloody awful.  The Fabulous Baker Brothers are getting a repeat on More4.  Baking powder? Ex-squeeze me?  Yes, if there’s one thing I don’t want repeating on me, it’s this.

Now, I like to think I’m a reasonably nice person who tries to see the good in most people.  I feel bad at bitching for no real reason and I often default thus: “oh, I’d have a drink with Gareth Southgate no problem but his post-match interviews leave a lot to be desired …” etc.  However, even I would struggle to nip down to the local boozer for a drink with the Herberts (even if I was in Chipping Sodbury).

A butcher, a baker ...

I would politely request that anyone currently finding Rachel Khoo annoying watch one episode of FBB – you will never complain again.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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

 

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.

 
 

oh, danny boy

Thus far my journey through the culinary TV listings has been pretty good.  Enjoyable in fact.  It had to end sometime.

Let me introduce you to Danny Boome:

Danny by the Sea is an ITV Anglia show from 2005 being screened on the Good Food Channel.  This is 30 minutes of my life I will never get back.  An ex-model from Cambridgeshire takes us on a trip to Cromer.  As a fan of seafood Cromer seemed a lovely place to visit – the fishermen were great, the pier was nice – I would’ve prefered to be shown around by Jamie or Rick, is all.

I got a distinct whiff of Naked Chef (backwards baseball cap and baggy jeans) as he cooks a Cromer crab risotto for the fisherman and larks about with the end of the pier crew.  Ever the lad, we even get the classic jokes: “Many an afternoon I spent on the pier trying to catch crabs!”

Danny’s second dish of the day was a slightly odd looking crab cake which his guests seemed to like.  With many shots of the glorious surroundings there were even more of his cheeky chappy face.  Pretty shellfish if you ask me.

 
 

masterchef: passing the test

As La Fanny notes in the previous post, the essence of cooking well is actually “IT’S GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT”, rather than “IT’S BETTER THAN SEX” — culinary excellence is not (in itself) that high a bar to clear; there are tens of millions of excellent cooks in the world, and only a very few of them wish to be high-profile chefs in the Ferran Adrià sense. Masterchef has to preserve this low-bar high-bar dichotomy: essentially it’s a very severe (and carefully calibrated) obstacle course to discover the very very very best “ordinary” cook.

(Hence the need to siphon off a different class of competitor, with Professional Masterchef, which has a somewhat different sequence of pathologies…)

The obvious ones (for Masterchef OG) are:
i: technique (not burning stuff; not undercooking it; knowing how to prep meat; a basic knowledge of what to do in a kitchen and what not to)
ii: palate
iii: timing
iv: inventiveness
v: working knowledge of the tradition
vi: dealing with pressure
vii: curiosity and ability to learn Read the rest of this entry »

 

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