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Category Archives: John Torode

STICKING OUR FACES IN IT

Here up on the eighth floor at BdGTTt Towers we don’t just snark and drool at the telly box – no, just occasionally we get out and about into the ‘real’ world. So this Sunday past me, Fanny and guest Brenda Cheesecake went on a blog outing (blouting?) to the heaving Good Food Show at London. Although, given how tied in with the telly box it turned out to be, this was an entirely appropriate day trip.

The immense Victorian shed that is the Olympia Exhibition Centre was packed to the gunwhales with stalls, people, and tasty samples. Real wonderland stuff, the full flowering of the home-and-garden wing of the British Food Revolution. Everywhere we looked, the ‘artisanal’, the ‘bespoke’, and the ‘all-natural’ beckoned.  Whitley Neill gin, orangey and exotic. Vestal elderberry liqeur. Mr Todiwalas pickles (Christ, these were good). Clonakilty black pudding. 9bar honeyish, yummy energy bars. Diablo’s curious toastie waffle irons (bakelite!). Sipsmith’s gin and vodkas. RealAle.com. The Artisan Smokehouse and their smoked oils which I can’t wait to try with some roast potatoes. The Garlic Farm plaits, The Cornish Cheese Company and whoever was doing the funny little beetroot candies that tasted a bit like the post-dessert thing they give you at The Square   …all got a lot of interest or a sale out of me. Upstairs was ‘The Wine Show’, where I was particularly taken with an Argentinian Torrentes from Cupari Wines. SALE. There was a ‘VIP section’ with some more serious dinners which didn’t look very VIP, like every temporary ‘VIP’ section ever installed, anywhere. Pleasingly, pretty much everything bar a couple of the sponsors were mostly small, independent stalls – you were usually talking to to the people who made whatever you were gulleting. Big Food mostly kept its nose out.

But that was only the half of it. There was a (ta da!) MasterChef ‘pod’ where all our favourites banged a few pans and smiled for the audience. We caught a glimpse of Ash Mair (MC Professionals winner 2011) doing his stuff (isn’t he busy with his new restaurant?), and watched Shelina (MC winner 2012, lest you need reminding) bang together a red snapper dish with crab courgette flowers with the usual Mauritian seasonings and a couple of great tips about not letting fish curl. The ‘pod’ was MC’d by James Nathan (MC winner 2008), who asked Shelina how her post-MC career was going with just a hint… just the tiniest hint, of…. what’s that?…. hmmm… anyway, Shelina explained what she was doing with her hotly-awaited new cookbook and her cookery school as James explained that he’d been cutting fish for Rick Stein for the past couple of years. Such is the way of things.

Anyway, all that was just a warm up for the special event in the kitchen-equipped ‘Supertheatre’ out back. We take our assigned seats (this was an extra fiver) and even get a warm-up man. We missed Hollywood & Berry on Friday, but on Sunday we get Wallace & Torode’s Laughter Show. They dance on their entrance! They hug! They banter! They tell us they actually met fifteen years ago, but have been working together for only eight! John cooks fillet steaks with plenty of excellent tips (beef being, of course, his chosen specialised subject) while Greg bangs out some Turkish-ish biscuits with enough ‘sweethearts’, ‘darlin’s’ and ‘angels’ to pad an entire Eastenders story cycle. The visibly lighter Mr. Wallace informs us that he’s lost two stone, but doesn’t tell us why. Both of them seem to be actually enjoying themselves. First class family entertainment, anyway.

We wander out, and Fanny squeals at the sight of Michel Roux Jr. just walking about, like a normal person! Anyway, there’s more things to nibble on, and plenty more to see (we don’t even get round everything in several hours). A cynical person could survey this temple and see a lot of middle-class people gorging themselves on free Yakults and pickles like Daily Mail Roman emperors, being sold to, indifferent to the wider problems of British food. Theatre. Entertainment. Bread and circuses. There’s some truth to that. But there was also a sense of possibility and connection and inspiration that I hadn’t seen at similar things previously. A sense of joy, actually. Food in Britain. Everything you need.

Afterwards, we repaired to the nearby Cumberland Arms which managed to serve me the best pub roast I have ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot. Well done.

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and the winner was …

pretty obvious really.

Well done TV’s Emma Kennedy on winning Celebrity Masterchef 2012!  My favourite from the moment she graced my telly box.  That huge grin, just-got-out-of-bed hair and infectious enthusiasm had me from the get go.

“My mother is going to scream for about three months without stopping – we’re probably going to have to sedate her.”

The winning three-course menu was as follows:

*pea, mint and ricotta ravioli with pancetta butter and pea shoots

*pan fried turbot topped with samphire with vegetable filled leek cannelloni, crushed roast potatoes and a beurre blanc sauce

*Ile Flottante with almond praline topping and short bread biscuits

I knew she was on to a winner with the starter (I had scribbled a similar combination in my little recipe book only days before) and that pudding!  One of the best I’ve had at Koffmanns (la-de-dah, sorry!).

Someone had commented on the Digital Spy page ‘OK that Emma won. But wanted Danny Mills to win. Greg & John loved his fondant pud, so why he didn’t win I’ll never know’.  Because his main wasn’t 100%!  The second that John criticised his trout I knew Emma had won.

I’ll leave the last word to the Champion:

“It’s very weird putting on the MasterChef apron. It’s like getting an England cap and putting on an England shirt. It’s the culinary version of that. Not so much when you’re in the studio, but when you go on the outside challenges, you have the MasterChef badge on and you want to do them proud … It really is amazing. I can make tuile biscuits. I’m just happy with that. I can have that on my headstone. Emma Kennedy RIP, she could make good tuile biscuits. I’d take that”.

 

 

i’m not a celebrity, get me in there!

So, we’re at the end of week two in the Celebrity Masterchef kitchen and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  I decided against the previous series – for some reason the fact that it was relegated to BBC1 lunchtime really put me off.  Having said that, 18:30 isn’t much better and I ‘series record’ it but, y’know, I couldn’t be arsed.  Seeing snippets of it on Saturday Kitchen each week has convinced me that I made the right choice.

Anyway, back to the here and now.  Week one, I’d say my stand out was Javine and week two definitely Emma.  I love Emma Kennedy, I want to be her friend.  I feel she is the CMC version of me.  As we are introduced to her, she conveys the giddy excitement that would take hold of any MC fan should they get that telephone call.  I imagine it would go a little bit like this:

Agent: Hi Emma.  So, the BBC got in touch and we discussed the possibility of you taking part in this years Celebrity Masterchef.  You’re a big fan, right?  Are you free for the next few weeks?

Emma: OHMYGODYESPLEASEMASTERCHEFISMYFAVOURITETHINGONTELLYEVERIWILLCANCELANYPLANS

Agent:  … I’ll take that as a ‘yes’ then.

“to celebrate I might go home and try to make a quiche”

If I were to receive a similar call and end up in the famous MC kitchen, it would not be taken lightly had I replicated Emma’s joy at being there.  “Fanny, I get the distinct impression you’re not taking this seriously enough” would be John’s comment as I grin “But I am!  I’m just so excited to be here, I love you guys!”

Having been billed as a MC aficionado Emma made, as Gregg would say, a school boy error.  The final task of the week was the critics round – two courses for previous CMC contestants to sample.  It seems that Lisa Faulkner might get to attend all of these, lucky girl.  Or maybe not. Read the rest of this entry »

 

masterchef de mission

… And we’re BACK!  Ah, back to the grindstone after a two week Olympic odyssey and what do I have waiting for me upon my return home?  CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF!

Andy Hunt, Team GB’s chef de mission, told a story of a recent interview on American television.  “So, Andy, what exactly do you cook for these hungry athletes?”   “…”

Fittingly, our celebrity contestants include Olympians Rebecca Romero and swimmer Steve Parry.  Romero won medals in rowing and track cycling becoming only the second woman in history to win medals in two different summer Olympic sports.  There’s also Danny Mills for all you football lovers out there.  There’s also a bit of Madge Bishop for all you Neighbours lovers, too.

The rooky chefs stormed out of their blocks with the surprise box featuring a gurnard!  Now, many of our contestants are familiar to me in a culinary capacity.  There has almost certainly been a Come Dine With Me appearance here or there.  I’m sure ‘husband snatcher’ Javine has competed – she seems a pretty good cook but I think the dark horse early on is Jamie Theakstone.  You always need a useless cook early on and I think this year it’s the aforementioned Parry, bless him.  Upon being given a pasta machine to play with, he exlaimed “I’ve cooked pasta before but only out of a packet.  I don’t see any packet!”  This was after shocking Torode with his presentation of sliced rice and fish … mmmm.

Episode two gives us the ‘drama’ of cooking on an epic scale for students at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (sexy).  Once again the head chef kicks some ass “I wouldn’t give that to my cat!” but they pulled it out of the bag and Javine and Steve’s chilli proved a hit giving one lady a ‘chilli con carne sniffle’.  That’s good apparently.

Tomorrow’s third episode will provide the first elimination – will it be Steve or will our favourite Australian barmaid be in for a quick exit?

 

TORODE! TORODE! TORODE!

On Saturday Kitchen’s Best Bites on Sunday there was a rare re-run of John Torode actually cooking something, a jammy beef rendang. The MC mask is off, he looks really relaxed, fires off gags, and his Australian accent is a lot more noticable (g’day!). Lovely knifework too (like all proper brigade chefs he can do that thing with an onion that drew blood from me the last time I tried it). The segment featured at least a couple of plugs for his book John Torode’s Beef, which has one of the most unattractive cookbook covers I have ever seen:

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“John. John? Heeeeyyy. Don’t worry about the hair. Can you sit on this throne (THRONE!) in stagey blackout and look a bit diffident? Then we’ll get the trainee designer to stick billion-point Machine all over the cover like it’s 1996 or something.” Weirdly, I went past the Dalston Oxfam shop on the bus yesterday and there was a copy in the window, his bored-puppy face watching the hipsters stroll by.

It seems to be pretty popular with Amazon buyers, if fairly sticking-to-the-knitting. Also, when I Googled for ‘john torode’s beef’, the first auto-complete was for ‘john torode’s wife’. The public have declared their real interests.

 

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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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