Ever since the days of Fanny Craddock, the Galloping Gourmet and Saint Delia Smith, TV has loved a cookery programme (For those of you who don’t know who Fanny Craddock is watch here. She is something to behold). A few years ago Cookery became “The new rock’n’roll” (after dance, comedy and errr rock’n’roll. I’m waiting for bowls to become the new rock’n’roll. I can see middle-aged men in white nylon trousers and polyester shirts filling stadiums with their trademark “smash the jack” and “in the gully” moves. Ok, perhaps not. Let’s get back to cooking). We can thank (?) Garry Rhodes, Ainsley Harriot and most importantly, hours of daytime airtime to fill, for cookeries rise to stardom. However in recent years, two comedians, a grumpy baker and as sweet old lady in a marquee have taken it to the next level. (What is the next level from rock’n’roll? Presumably the concept album.)
The Great British Bake Off, or just Bake Off to the lazy (which I am) has revitalised the home baking industry in the same way that Changing Rooms sent the sales of MDF through the roof in the nineties. But Bake Off contestants are still amateurs. “What about the professionals?” no one (except for TV commissioners) thought. “How would they cope?” Well Bake Of Crème de la Crème shows us what none of us were thinking. It’s like the proper Bake Off, but different. Mel and Sue have ben replaced by chef Tom Kerridge, who always has a smirk like he is going to crack a joke, but never does. Paul and Mary have been split into a trio consisting of a grumpy French man, a really pedantic lady from Singapore and a much nicer lady with glasses. (By the way I am in no way decrying their professionalism. These three are all experts in their field, but to the layman who has never heard of them, they just come across a grumpy, pedantic and nicer).
The tent has been replaced by a stately home and the contestants cook in teams of three. They only have two challenges and a scoring system so complicated and convoluted that it effectively make the scores in the first round redundant and at the end you can see teams trying to do the mental arithmetic as to whether they have won or not. During the challenges there is a lot of people calling each other “chef”. (Why do chefs do that? I suppose it’s a bit like policemen saying “Serge”, but in this case, they are all chefs. It does seem unique to the catering industry though. When I get my car serviced I have never heard the guys calling each other “mechanic” or in the supermarket people calling for “shelf stacker” or “till operator”. Perhaps they have bad memories for names and so it’s easier.) There is also a lot of subtitles and bleeping as it would appear chefs can only either talk under their breath or swear at the top of their voices.
What they create though is amazing. I love the fact that they use wood working rasps to shape chocolate and seem to have an amazing supply of moulds, but that’s the DIY man in me. One thing that Bake Of Crème de la Crème does lack compared to the original Bake Off is double entendres, but that’s because Gok Wan has them all in his new show Gok’s Lunch Box.
I think ITV are “sweating the assets” (phnarr, phnarr) these days and getting people in vaguely related industries to cover each others jobs. Mark Heyes, the fashion expert of Lorraine, was doing a series on home decoration last week and now Gok Wan, more famous for grabbing ladies bits in the name of fashion is dishing up culinary advice with a side portion of double entendre. The name of the show, Gok’s Lunch Box (oooh Matron) should be an early indicator of what to expect. Their seems to be some sort of contractual obligation to get as many references to Gok’s Lunch Box (snigger) into the script as possible climaxing (giggle) in my personal favourite “Now that he’s unloaded the contents of my lunch box, lets see what he’s going to so with it” (ROFL!!! Crying with laughter face! #didhereallysaythat…as the kids would say).
The show format is simple; three friends nominate three cooks to make a meal using ingredients from Gok’s Lunch Box (sorry, I can’t stop saying it now. I’m being obsessed with his lunch box) and the friends blind taste it. It’s sort of Ready Steady Cook meets Come Dine With Me, but you have to cook with a 6 foot Chinese man channelling the spirit of Kenneth Williams in your kitchen. Well I say in the kitchen with you, he keeps popping in and out so you are never quite sure were you are with him. Honestly, you think you get a grip on Gok’s Lunch Box and he pops it out, but before you know it he’s come back in via the back door (ok, stop laughing at the back. I think it’s time to move on).
There are no double enetedres in Masterchef. Greg Wallace and John Torode are hardly the Chuckle Brothers. They are more the Shouty Brothers. Why two men who are in the same room insist on shouting at each other whilst stating the flaming obvious is beyond me. They do of course have their own catchphrase “Cooking doesn’t get any tougher that this” (which is actually not true. Personally I think trying to create a scene from Narnia out of mousse, fondant and biscuit with grumpy, pedantic and nicer all watching is harder than having the Shouty Brothers glaring disapprovingly at you. Ok, John is hard to please, but just do a decent pud and Greg will be you friends for life).
This version of Masterchef is the amateur version and in the early stages you start to see the difference between a “keen cook” and a “Masterchef”. I love the Invention Test when they are given a box full of ingredients and have to make a dish out of it. (Hold on…that sounds vaguely familiar). That’s when you see those who can create something truly special, and those who just chuck all the contents together and call it a “Ragu”.
All three shows cater (no pun intended) to the viewer’s different culinary ability. Anyone can have a got at the recipes in Gok’s Lunch Box; if you are feeling adventurous, then try a recipe from Masterchef; but Crème de la Crème is purely for the professionals. If you want eat one of their creations, you need to pop out to you local bakery. Which I am off to do now as all this talking of food has made me hungry. Does anyone want anything?