I had no idea food could be so dramatic. If Masterchef was in the theatre, it would be John Hurt riding Helen Mirren impersonating Sir Ian McKellen quoting Beckett. It’s all burning hot logos, sweat-etched desperation and ‘if she doesn’t get this pastry JUST RIGHT, we’ll be looking at a lemony puddle of disaster wrapped up in a lifetime of failure.’ Brilliant. Of course, part of the appeal of this programme to me is the sheer lack of understanding I have where cooking is concerned; these people might as well be trying to crack the correlation between the Fibonacci sequence and Harpic, because I can’t honestly fathom how someone can choose three ingredients and make a meal out of them. Kippers, tomatoes and parsley? Norwalk virus. Lamb, apricots and butter beans? Cat shit. It can never come to any good. That’s why Poundland sell can openers.
Tonight all eyes are on the coveted Masterchef apron – someone should mention they’re probably available on Firebox by now – and tensions are running high as two contestants are heading for elimination tonight. That doesn’t mean to sound quite so sinister, though you can sort of imagine poor Lee taking a deadly vial of blue Halumi and stringing himself up from the pelmet if he doesn’t get through. He’s like a walking Waylon Jennings song – his partner’s left him, he’s lost his job. He’s seeking self-actualisation though a potato and chive risotto. If you hear a bang, that’s probably not tomato on the sea bream.
There’s a tangible air of desparation in this programme; I mean there always is where competition is involved, but take Jonathon for example –
‘I can’t paint, I don’t draw, I can’t sing. I dance – badly. Cooking is definitely my creative output’
Isn’t that one of the saddest, most self-depracating things you’ve ever heard? What will this man do if he doesn’t get through? WHAT WILL HE DO?!?!?! And God love Ian, the house-husband and father of four. He used to work for a telecommunications company, and now wants to be able to do what he loves best; eating. And cooking. But mainly eating. At 39, he wants to change his life around.
‘Imagine,’ he says. ‘Four kids and with a face like this’
You know it’s a line he’s used down the pub a million times, but Jesus, these contestants are sensitive. Why they’d put themselves through the absolute torture of watching someone eat their panicky muddles of foody cock-up is beyond me. Anyway, thankfully anyone displaying signs of paranoia/pathological depression and/or personality disorder was saved for now. Bethan was first to leave with her shite pasty (‘It’s neverbeen as bad as this, honest’), quickly followed by Sai’s pork disaster. Insert own jokes about John Torode here.
These people might as well be trying to crack the correlation between the Fibonacci sequence and Harpic.
And on to the professional kitchens, which would probably be the worst thing I could ever imagine putting myself through. I hate heat, I’m shit with food and I go to pieces whenever someone shouts at me. You know the cock-end who stalls three consecutive times on green because people are beeping? That’s me. I would be to a kitchen what Ian is to the Maple Syrup diet. Speaking of which, the restaurants were starting to fill up – not just with Ian, but with customers – and food service was starting to begin at Swan at the Globe and Le Porte des Indes. With only one hour to learn the ropes before they are expected to deliver perfect dishes to paying customers, this is the sort of thing my nightmares are made of. My daughter won’t even eat my scrambled egg. I think Tandoori Chicken would be a bridge too far.
Remarkably, brilliantly, - by my standards - they managed pretty well, by which I mean they weren’t sitting in the fire escape rocking and pulling their own eyebrows out. That said, watching Jay juggle disintegrating salmon and Margaret’s total beration – ‘Chef! I’m losing the plot, Chef!’ - for trying to send out raw pork was toe-clenching, a little like watching Big Ted drowning in a pool of acid. And then Jemima falling in as she tries to rescue him, using Little Ted as a raft. Maybe a bit dramatic, but you know what I’m saying; it was sad. And dramatic. But mainly gonad-crunchingly excruciating.
For the final part of the programme we go back to the cooking of individual dishes. Jonathon baked saturn peas in rosy mash with a dollop of franzipan mole, but it was a bit too woody and the flavours didn’t gel. Jay’s firebird chips with celeriac confit were a surprise hit, but given he sounds like he’d be serving you up on a bed of liquorice mash if you didn’t like his food, he could have got away with horseshit sausages with a piss jus. So in the end, it was poor Lee, Ian and Margret who bit the bullet. Someone get on Firebox. And keep an eye on Lee.
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