Wednesday, 29 September 2010

BBC 2 Whites, Alan Davies cooks up the laughs and Masterchef Pro

It was bound to happen, eventually they would commission a comedy about a restaurant that has more than just a passing resemblance to every kitchen we've seen in the last 5 years in cookery programmes from Masterchef to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. As a bona fide cookery porn addict I was dead chuffed at the prospect of a show that recognizes that I am an important demographic.

Whites premier episode did not disappoint. It had in it two of my favourite people in the world, Alan Davies and the delectable as well as indispensable actress, Katherine Parkinson. The rest of the cast is rounded out by some well cast character actors who make the kitchen come to life. There is the inept Asian who cannot move without dropping things, the near pleading sous chef who spends most of the ep begging Chef Roland White for help during a gruelling service. He of course eventually gets it in the form of an overly ambitious little shit who will do anything he can to undermine his authority in the kitchen. Katherine Parkinson ( front of house) and the old dear who owns the haute cuisine eatery also compete with the sous chef for Alan Davies time.

Is Rolland White, Marco Pierre White? You tell me. Next week we are promised a new visiting celeb chef named Shay who is more than likely a combination of mostly Jamie Oliver and a few other people for extra seasoning. The cooking jokes are fine and the action moves in a natural rhythm that I recognize as a proper restaurant. It's not the IT Crowd or BBC3's Ideal, but then it's not supposed to be. It's a sitcom about a professional kitchen. I'm not sure what the ratings will be like long term, but I will be watching as long as they keep making them. Whites is made for the cookery crowd and thank you BBC for that. I get the jokes, I like the characters and I find the situations realistic as well as engaging. Alan Davies can speak and pretend to run the pass as well as any actual chef. According to my wife, who waited tables for a time, the ditzy waitress and some of the characters in the kitchen are so spot on it's spooky. Assuming he wants to, Davies can ride this one as long as he wants to. I suspect the audience for this is bigger than the legion of cookery nerds like me. I can see this being sold overseas to mainstream networks as well as cookery stations.Would I eat there? Yes of course, the food looks tasty, well presented and the kitchen is cleaner than the horror stories we've encountered on another network

Does Whites work as comedy if you ignore the fact it's about a restaurant? I like to think so, the chemistry between Parkinson and Davies as well as Davies and his sous chef  sparkles. The tension between the sous chef and his new mortal enemy is equally engaging. The comedy resides mostly in the sometimes exaggerated pomposity of celebrity chefs and real kitchen politics as a force that are well exploited by the writers. Even when you know a gag is coming, it still works, that is the sign of a well crafted bit of television.Whites seems destined to be part of our viewing menu for several series to come.In case you're wondering who plays the music in the Whites credits....look here as I've found the answer, even have the youtube link to listen.

On the same night we enjoyed Whites, Masterchef: The  Professionals was back for an hour this time. I was like a child in a sweet shop. If you add the previous night's 30 minute premier episode, we got to see 5 different recipes considered hard enough to test a pro. Except for the fried livers, I would have eaten every single dish from beginning to end. My personal favourite was the all sea food Sole and shrimp plate followed by the simple but tasty wild mushrooms with the chocolate tart for pudding. I promise to track down the recipes and post as many of them as I can here in later edits, but for now there is nothing online at the BBC food section connected to the programme.

Of the contestants so far, I think a few are capable of going all the way to the final, but we have the rest of the week to get through so I won't be choosing my picks to win just yet. The French born Thiery Henry look alike is promising though. I was a bit disappointed in the calibre of some of the hopefuls. Some  of them couldn't even truss a chicken or clean mushrooms properly. As always the two things that will get us to the final are presentation and palette. The judging panel of Michel Roux Jr and Gregg Wallace are joined by Michel's trusted sous chef Monica Galetti to grill and steam ( pardon the pun) alleged seasoned professionals. One of the best of the bunch was so unnerved his hands shook and the private cook to a "famous family" was just plain awful, having tried to poison Chef Galetti with her badly prepared gritty partly raw mushrooms.  I don't suppose she cooks for any noble house what with her bland seasoning and crust as underdone as what she attempted to serve Mr Pudding. I hate to imagine an army of  poisoners of Dibley lurking in posh kitchens all over the land, just waiting to kill us. I prefer to think that most of the chefs out there, genuinely do know what they are doing, but judging from the examples so far, there is nothing like years of practice to get it right. The contestants having cooked the least amount of time, even with the best raw talent, were not ready for this ordeal. Follow up ep blogged about here with appropriate hunger inducing language...

In the coming weeks, both Whites and Masterchef: The Professionals will  entertain and get the saliva going. It is my fervent hope to try most of the recipes AND not balloon into an immense fat freak. So I best get those nightly runs in. Remember, laughter is food for the soul and great food is one of the things that  make life worth living. If you can combine both, you have truly arrived in Heaven.

1 comment:

Judith said...

Oh my, great blog! (I found it from your comment on the Nigella article in the Telegraph online.) I too am a telly addict and occasional cook, though living in NZ I don't get to see the range of programmes that you do. "Whites" sounds great, I hope we get to see it here eventually. Blog on, I'll be reading!