Daily Archives: December 3, 2009

The Restaurant: Cooking really does get tougher than Masterchef

At the start of every episode of Masterchef we would hear Gregg Wallace excitably bark the phrase “Cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!”

I’m here to tell you that’s pants. Apart from the final, what did Masterchef contestants have to do? Stand in a nice clean kitchen and cook a bit of dinner. Lightweights. I’ve just caught up on this series of The Restaurant, and apart from possibly whipping up a soufflé while under fire in Afghanistan, cooking really doesn’t get tougher than this.

For a start, there is no level playing field in The Restaurant. The teams have been allocated pre-existing restaurants in Bristol. Some of them are nice – prime location, nice terrace outside, blah blah. Some are not so nice. One stank badly of fish, and it was probably a bit of a relief when the two who were assigned that one had their restaurant closed (this is The Restaurant-speak for “you’re fired!”) by the judge, chef Raymond Blanc.

Then, as well as having to start up and run a restaurant from scratch, Raymond piles on the pressure by giving them extra tasks. Last time, they had to produce the food for a tea dance, on the hottest day of the year. Again, no level playing field here. One of the couples specialises in “all year-round outdoor dining,” so you’d reckon a few sandwiches and a cake or two would be no problem. But another couple’s restaurant theme is westernised Nigerian food. Now, I’m no world food expert, but I don’t think the cucumber sandwich features heavily in Nigerian cuisine.  For the second task of the night, the pair, Daisy and Nadine, were asked to cater for a rugby club dinner, and provide low-carb, organic food. To be fair, they were a bit dim in interpreting “low carb” to mean let’s give them pasta salad, potato salad, bread etc etc. But when Raymond Blanc sailed in at the end for the final verdict, what he criticised most about them was that they’d lost sight of their Nigerian roots. That’s because you had them making afternoon tea and catering for a crew of picky sportsmen! What are they supposed to do? It’s not as if their marinated goat meat ever went down very well either. So D’Soiree, as their restaurant was temptingly called, was closed.

Honestly, it’s a tough old show. During the afternoon tea task, one of the contestants was rushing about so much trying to serve everybody that he ended up literally basting in his own sweat and had to hang out of a window with heat stroke. And he was Australian, presumably not unused to warmish conditions.  That wasn’t the hardest thing of the night, though. The hardest thing was when poor old chef Steve had to produce a cake in the shape of an aeroplane. Steve’s speciality is hearty English grub, and let’s just say he’s not quite at the Jane Asher level of cake design. After a sweaty afternoon assembling slabs of fruitcake,  he was so mortified by the results that he was almost in tears. His wife Rebecca went front-of-house to advise the guests. “Be kind,” she suggested, as Steve carried out something that looked like an iced shoebox with a tail fin.

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Spooks: Ros’s old mentor goes rogue

Last week Lucas had to face up to demons from his past when his former interrogator turned up. This week, when CIA agents kept being killed under mysterious circumstances, it turned out that the person behind it was a figure from Ros’s past. Coleville was her former mentor, the person who’d recruited her into the service. He was seeking revenge for a woman who’d been betrayed by MI5 as part of a deal several years earlier.

No-one knew him better than Ros, so they let Coleville believe Ros had been one of the agents involved at the time, which meant she was next on his hit list. In what was the most tense episode of the series so far (lots of split screen moments and Hermione Norris keeping her upper lip stiff even in the most extreme of circumstances), it was a cat and mouse game where Coleville evaded all the armed officers who’d been put in to cover Ros’s back, and the showdown was just between the two of them. When he heard that Ros hadn’t been involved in the former incident at all, Coleville turned his gun on himself.

Meanwhile, Section D were worrying about the death of Sam Walker.  A suicide note had been found which mentioned that he’d been diagnosed with cancer, so the official story was that he killed himself – but via some techie business to do with mobile phones, Tariq discovered he hadn’t been alone when he fell. There was only one other person in the building – CIA Sarah.

As if having to cope with a girlfriend with a very dodgy grip on the American accent wasn’t enough, Lucas now has to face the fact that she is also most probably a murderer.

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Waterloo Road: Don’t stand so close to me

This week it was the turn of deputy headteacher Chris Mead to be in bother. He’s a bit attractive, is Chris, and in a school full of girls with rampaging hormones and only Bolton Smiley as peer group eye candy, he was getting more than his fair share of female attention. IT lessons took on a new dimension as girls spent the time creating animations of his pert posterior for the school website. That sort of thing.

It all got a bit out of hand when one of the girls, a promising chemistry student he was giving extra A level help to, turned out to be moonlighting at a lapdancing club. Chris took it upon himself to save her soul, but almost risked his career in the process. It all turned out fine in the end, and Rachel offered to take him out for a drink. Now she’s got over the loss of Bob the Builder, will Rachel’s next romance be with the lovely Chris? He does have fabulous hair, so I’m not ruling it out.

Rachel had other things on her mind, though – chiefly, what secret was Lindsey keeping? At the end, Lindsey finally told Rachel about what had been happening prior to her mum killing her dad. Of course we all guessed in week one that the dad had been abusing Lindsey, but Rachel didn’t. “If only I’d seen the signs!” she wailed to Chris.

There was a little shock for Tom Clarkson this week, when Josh’s mother revealed that a turkey baster had been involved in Josh’s conception. Tom is still the father, only kind of one step removed. I’m not quite sure what difference this makes to the scheme of things, but Tom didn’t seem happy.

“But enough of all that trivia,” I hear you cry. “Did Jo Lipsett and Steph Haydock get it on last week, or what?” A question that Steph herself was quite keen to know the answer to, particularly as the rest of the staff kept making jibes about her manliness. Jo kept her guessing for a while, and then told her that nothing had happened. “Anyway,” she smiled sweetly,  “I don’t fancy older women.”

(More Waterloo Road reviews here)

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