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Helen Mead: Chefs have been awarded rock star status
1:34pm Monday 12th May 2014 in Latest
I’VE started shouting at the TV again. I’ve been watching Masterchef, or as I call it The ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ Show.
I thought I’d heard it all, with jus, which let’s face it is simply good old-fashioned gravy.
Now there are quenelles – small oval-shaped dumplings of mash (although nothing on Masterchef is ever called ‘mash’, it would probably be known as ‘creme fondant pomme’ or something like that) or mousse or whatever is on the menu.
I watched one contestant labour for ages over these silly little mounds of food, which have to be meticulously created with a spoon and a certain twist of the wrist. Why they can’t just use an ice cream scoop beats me. They have to sex up food, and turn it into something it isn’t.
Then there’s this new expression that seems to crop up regularly – ‘deconstructed’, aka ‘couldn’t be bothered to put a proper meal together.’ This is basically a meal with each component part sitting separately on the plate. Like beans sitting not on the toast but beside it. Is this supposed to be clever?
Were I to serve deconstructed stew to my family, with little piles of chopped carrots, chopped swede, mushrooms and stewing steak, and, of course, the ever-present drizzle of ‘jus’. I doubt they would be impressed.
Watching cookery and restaurant-based programmes I’ve come to the conclusion that if there’s jus on the plate, the meal will be woefully inadequate and will not satisfy a gnat. If you’re dining in a place that serves jus, it will cost a month’s salary, but an eaterie dishing up gravy will be reasonably priced.
Programmes like this over-complicate simple procedures and dupe us into thinking that food is something it isn’t.
The end products rarely look appetising. There are few meals on Masterchef which I would be happy to eat, although I was heartened when, in one of the early rounds, a male contestant produced what was, essentially, beans on toast. The judges were not impressed. I felt sorry for the man. Had it been deconstructed, with a spot of jus and a boiled egg quenelle, he’d have sailed through.
It amuses me when the top chefs come along to help judge. Everyone speaks in hushed tones, gawping and looking as though they may faint. Today’s chefs have somehow been awarded rock star status.
I don’t think Fanny Cradock got quite the same reception on the cookery shows I watched as a child.
Perhaps if she’d made a spot of jus and deconstructed a meat and potato pie we’d have swooned. Or maybe not.
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