‘I’m a pig in a sweetshop’. Ooh Wallace, with your Wildean bon mots, you are rillllly spoiling us. Actually, he said ‘kid’ not pig, but he doesn’t enunciate properly and it’s all much of a muchness with our fruit and veg man anyway. Yep, Masterchef, in all its infuriating glory, is back. So, what’s new? Well, they’ve got their names embroidered on their aprons, rather than one of those badges you get at conferences, so the budget must have been upped. Anything else? Yep, there’s a new challenge. ‘It’s called the market test’, announced Torode proudly, as if his toddler had just taken its first step. ‘We’ve built you a market.’ Woah, slow down there with these breakneck speed ideas. I thought he was going to say he’d built a brand new combine harvester! Continue reading
Tag Archives: john torode
I happened to speak to someone who had made it to the very end of the (very long) MasterChef process a number of years ago. A life-changing experience? Yes. But they also reminded me that there is no money involved in winning MasterChef, and you don’t get paid whilst you’re engaged in the process either – when you’re not earning money from your day job. Success gives you a lot of exposure, you learn an incredible amount and it offers the winner the opportunity to work in a top professional kitchen (unpaid) but for people without serious financial stability or a high-earning partner, even for those who make it through the weeks of competition, this is one tough gig.
And now they’ve changed the set and the format. This is a ‘culinary cathedral’, according to the blurb. Well, I’m a food lover and it’s not my kind of church. And the style is X factor apparently. With ‘auditions’. Since I don’t watch the X factor, I can’t comment on that (is it because they’ve brought their families along, in what feels, watching, like a precursor to a massive and really weird church picnic?). And worst of all, I could not believe my eyes when I realised contestants are now expected to provide their own food. In they trekked, these gaggles of hopefuls with their carrier bags and picnic hampers and kids and partners and eyes full of hope that gets as crushed as their new potatoes as it all goes horribly wrong for most of them. And that’s exactly why I don’t want to see the families or hear the backstories. So many dreams of leaving current jobs, so many nights reading poncy cookbooks, all boils down to some especially bad trifle and lumpen mash. Following Grace Dent concurrently on twitter helps with this actually, providing the nice acidic edge you need to cut through the cloying treacle of India Fisher’s voiceover.
Never mind the cameras and audience, it’s such a strange and unnatural cooking environment. It feels more like It’s a Food Knockout than a culinary test. The strangest of all is the last-ten-minutes cooking part of the format when they have to pack part-cooked food from one part of the set onto a TROLLEY and wheel it though to finish the dish off then serve up to Gregg and John. They are perched on their boy band (Blind Date?) stools with a pile of immaculate white Aprons of Joy to give out to The Chosen Ones. The apron ‘prize’ makes even the Generation Game cuddly toy seem generous. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s ‘symbolic’.
In the words of John Torode to one poor contestant ‘Everything is soft and wet. You don’t have to chew on anything. It just disappears’.
Posted by Inkface
Posts on other cookery shows, see here
Woe, woe, misery and woe. The light has gone from my weekday evenings. And when Normal Masterchef returns with Gregg the Pudding Oinker, with it will come John Torode, all Australian and shouty rather than the pale and lovely Michel Roux. Very few people get Michel-as-lustbox. He is cadaverous, pale and wears truly terrible jackets. He looks like he needs a big sandwich made of Maman’s caramelised bananas. He has the gauntness of an etiolated marathon runner who never gets out during the daytime (which he is). Despite all, he is the King of Cooking Programme Lust.
Michel has is sternness combined with (occasionally) kindly mercy, extreme delicacy and exacting standards. This is very, very sexy indeed. One would need to try very hard not to be disappointing in any way whatsoever. The pressure to achieve the highest standards of taste and presentation would be immense. Swirl those nipple tassels unevenly and see his left eyebrow raise almost imperceptibly. Let your moustache go unbleached for a day too long and see a very small moue of disappointment. Serve the sushi from your bellybutton slightly too warm and Michel might sigh, deeply, painedly. But the joy, the pure joy, of making Michel smile…oooh! Oui Chef!
Posted by Working the Look
I have to confess I’ve not been keeping up with Junior MasterChef, so I was delighted to tune in today and see that talented Amber has got through to the semi-finals, alongside some other excellent cooks, George, Georgie and Hadra. And if that wasn’t thrilling enough -the second challenge involved climbing into the TARDIS and being transported to the telly studios in Cardiff where Dr Who is being filmed, so the young chefs could cook lunch for Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. I’m a grown woman and I was beside myself with excitement, so the young people must have almost exploded.
Dishes that were cooked were the actors’ favourites and included steak, chips, duck with pancakes, banoffi pie and ginger pudding. Not all went according to plan. The toffee for the banoffi went all floppy. The bearnaise for the steak was too sloppy. But Amber’s ginger pudding and *custard (the first time she’s ever cooked it) looked perfect.
*the first time I tried to make custard, it set like concrete on top of a trifle probably because I used to find the reading of measurements rather baffling
Pauseliveaction and I happened to exchange texts when I was watching it, and she said she was pleased, since she feels that Matt Smith could do with feeding up a bit. He and Karen/Amy were utterly charming. It was all entirely endearing. Even John Torode and Nadia Sawalha donned dashing scarves and looked really thrilled to be on the Dr Who set.
Tomorrow, the kids cook for JLS and Charlie Higson. I’m sure they’ll all be brilliant. But I’m still rooting for Amber!
Posted by Inkface
I would fondly like to imagine I could have been on Junior MasterChef, had it been around in the 70s. My copy of My learn to cook book had food splatters on many pages; not just the recipes for coconut ice and ice cream sundaes. I baked the family Christmas cake every year (I don’t think it ever got eaten. I’m not sure the icing was penetrable without the use of power tools). I even cooked the family roast in my teens. Best not to linger on the unmitigated disaster of the gravy though. Not worth the salt of my tears, to misappropriate a Norma Waterson line.
But chicken laksa? Goats’ cheese and caramelised onion tart? Smoked salmon risotto? None of that. Some of the youngsters on the new series of Junior Masterchef have been coached perhaps a little too much by eager family and friends.
The Junior series is based in the same kitchens as adult MasterChef but with a jolly makeover, involving brightly coloured stuff around the place, and beanbags instead of sofas for the contestants to sit on. John Torode is avuncular and cuddly. He begins by giving the young people a masterclass in making Toad in the Hole before letting them have a go at cooking it. He then judges their efforts with Nadia Sawalha, who has the remarkably perky, up-beat temperament of a crisp meringue.
They clearly create a positive environment, because the contestants cook well and seem really proud of their achievements, as indeed they should. No-one knocks their batter to the floor, as I would have done, or leaves out a key ingredient, like the time I omitted flour from chocolate-chip cookies, which essentially meant I made a sweet, chocolate oven omelette, that not even the dog would touch.
I was, however, shocked when Mr Torode told the contestants to prick their sausages before cooking them ‘so they don’t explode’. Rubbish! He clearly needs to watch a bit of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Nigel Slater to catch up a bit. Not the modern method at all – you only needed to do that with rubbish bangers full of cheap filler.
When the kids cooked their own dishes, it got a lot more fancy than Toad in the Hole. Except for Amber, who cooked food that seemed to fit her character and age better than some of the others. Amber, India Fisher tells us (yes, she’s still narrating) recently cooked up £800 at a Jewish charity fundraiser. She has a similar shape to me at her age and I really warmed to her. At one point she says earnestly to camera: “I needed to get my onions a bit more floppy” bless her. She cooked tasty fried potato latkas, lovely herby meatballs and a smashing looking chocolate, cream and raspberry roulade. Not fancy, but they require skill, and she clearly knows her way around the brightly coloured kitchen implements.
Anyway, they all did really well, but the lovely Amber won, which made my day.
Posted by Inkface
What have we learned? Well, we learned from Gregg Wallace that Dhruv has “the palate of an angel.” If I ever ponder angels, I don’t normally think about their food-tasting capabilities, but I suppose you might do if you think of cookery as a high art form, as Gregg and his little mate John Torode do.
I do know, because India Fisher repeatedly told me in such an insistent and breathy voice that she couldn’t be ignored, that all the finalists could “produce exceptional plates of food,” “deliver flavour,” “wow the judges” etc etc and blah blah blah.
Masterchef this year teetered between must-see and must-turn-off TV, and the turn-off bit was in a huge part thanks to India Fisher’s narration. Her voice is beyond irritating, and this is not helped by scripts that are so repetitive they sound like they’ve been churned out by a primitive script generating machine. In fact I’m not entirely convinced that India Fisher isn’t in reality a Scriptbot 500. For next season could we please have someone else doing the voiceover? My vote would go to Richard Armitage or Steven Mackintosh, either of whom could make chicken quenelles sound like something sexy rather than a blob of chickeny mush.
At last, MasterChef has shifted from its rather dull, static formula, and taken the final three chaps, ‘children’s doctor Tim’, ‘media man and dad Dhruv’ and ‘food blogger Alex’ to India, specifically to Jodhpur. This meant we got some utterly stunning scenery.
It also meant that everyone was out of their comfort zone, in terms of food and the ambient temperature, which appeared unbearable even at 6am when their day began cooking breakfast for local dignitaries on the roof of a magnificent building.
Boiling sun, boiling oil, entirely new dishes, piles of spices they were not familiar with (well Dhruv might have been, since his mum is Indian). For once, I really did believe the MasterChef cliché that ‘cooking doesn’t get tougher than this’. I was worried they’d get heatstroke and wanted someone to pop a nice sunhat on Tim. And talking of Tim, he has every right to pursue his dream, of course he does, and he is a fantastic cook. I do wonder however what the kids he treats make of him clearly not wanting to be a doctor anymore. But I digress.
My favourite part of the Indian challenge wasn’t what they perceived to be the climax – cooking for royalty, for the very picky Maharaja in his vast palace (although I found it hilarious that a whole other meal had been prepared by ‘proper’ professionals chefs in case they ballsed it up). The best bit for me was watching them become school dinner ladies, cooking dishes for a hundred teenage girls.
Vile British flabby tasteless school dinners made my primary school life hell. The idea of being served the most delicious, tasty, freshly-prepared dishes, even by chefs with sweat dripping off their noses, was so exciting. The girls were beautiful. The person who I guess equated to a head dinner lady, Mrs Singh, was utterly gorgeous (and funny). And the dinner boys produced some pretty fine food too.
We saw less of Gregg and John, heard less of India Fisher, and the show was better for it. It was so much more alive and vivid – there was so much sumptuousness to see, the food was diverse and genuinely interesting to watch for once, and you could almost smell the spices, feel the heat and sweat along with them. Much better.
Posted by Inkface