For someone who views cooking as a tedious necessity rather than something to be enjoyed, I find myself watching a lot of cooking-based television programmes. Not the proper ones where “celebrity” chefs show you how to cook stuff, though. I’m so not interested in Delia or Nigella or Jamie (particularly Jamie)’s tips and tricks.
The ones I like are the funny ones, like Come Dine With Me, which are more about the personalities involved than about the recipes. I love Masterchef, mainly because of Gregg Wallace and John Torode’s hilarious double-act, as they competed to see who could get more excited and shouty about the prospect of a successful chocolate fondant (the Holy Grail of Masterchef). I didn’t think I’d like Masterchef: The Professionals when I saw that John Torode wasn’t in it, but Michel Roux Jr is a more than acceptable substitute. What he lacks in teary eyed Australian emotion he makes up for with a sort of stern kindness – like the teacher you had at school who was slightly scary but you were desperate to impress, as my other half put it.
I’m also really enjoying Virgin 1’s Restaurant in Our Living Room, in which two sets of couples compete to – you’ve guessed it – turn their living room into a restaurant. On a budget of £500 they have to provide the food, the drink and the ambience for anything between 18 and 50 diners, all in the former comfort of their own home. I’m still half way through watching last week’s episode; the “restaurants” haven’t even opened yet, and already one of the couples is having a crisis because they’ve filled their house with junkyard tables which threaten to collapse under the weight of actual plates, and the other couple are bouncing off the walls after keeping themselves awake all night with copious amounts of Red Bull.
The home-based catering establishments stay open for one evening only, after which the paying guests pay whatever they think the meal was worth, and the couple who take the most money win. If they haven’t killed each other first. Cooking, as Gregg Wallace would say, doesn’t get any tougher than this.