Look. I admit it. I really enjoy TV cooking programmes. I’m sure that in my dotage I shall spend more time perfecting acts of culinary wizardry than I can afford today. I’m not a cooking programme whore though; I do have a Premier League: The Hairy Bikers (I know, I know); Masterchef; Rick Stein (you know, the poetry one) are 3 of my top 4. But for me, the Champion of Champions – the Campionissimo if you will, is The Great British Menu.
I know I shouldn’t. If I engage my rationale mind, I can see through it. The total fabrication of an excuse for a national banquet (“Let’s celebrate the work of the Great British Seaweed Farmer”). The promotion of chefs to celebrity status even when many of them clearly either haven’t got the charisma, or in the case of the glorious Mark Hix, the desire. It was great – seemingly, he just couldn’t be bothered. Whilst his competitors slaved over their stoves, deconstructing sea bass into sea and bass, he cobbled together a pie, or jelly and blancmange and sat back, reading the paper, having a fag. (Even better that he got not one but two dishes through to that year’s grand finale. Mind you his Stargazey Pie was inspired, and I’ve had a few good ‘uns in my time).
This time round, the feast is oddly, Olympics themed. To compensate for all the Fast Food from America that is going to be consumed during the event, the BBC have struck out early, encouraging us to celebrate our Olympians with a gargantuan British feast in their honour. I actually only tuned in last week (Northern Ireland), and this week it was my home region, the North West. And it’s been sensational viewing – have you seen it?
Marcus Wareing, the celebrated 2 Star Michelin chef took apart a Preston chef, Johnnie Mountain. Johnnie’s track record on the fish course has been poor. In two attempts, the best he has done is 4 out of 10. This time, he pushed the boat out, submerging himself (oops, that must be ‘pushed his submarine out’ then) in the world of molecular gastronomy. He visited the Fat Duck to get top tips, and there he is with his baths of liquid nitrogen, ice cream wafers and smoking devices making a beach…and sea. No chunk of fish in there, but anchovies and clams and various other fruits of the ocean. And it looked pretty. But we can only glean that it tasted pretty bad.
And Marcus was not a fan. In a 30 second, calmly delivered diatribe, he took poor Johnnie apart and gave him a 2, accusing him of ‘playing with toys’.
Johnnie, unsurprisingly, was a little peeved and stormed out, clanking pots, pans and assorted sous chefs behind him. Cracking viewing, and all the better as it supported my hypothesis that Marcus Wareing is a plastic northerner and an all round tit, even if he can bake a good tart. But any way, that’s not the point.
The point is this: I am looking for your help.
I’m an advocate of beer and food – cooking with beer, pairing food with different beers – you know what I mean. I haven’t quite got to BBQ’ing a chicken with a can of beer up it’s bottom, but it’s on the list of things to do this summer. But industry efforts are all very self-serving and ponderous.
So, here’s the plan: when the winning course is announced on a Friday, I shall post a short blog with my recommended beer accompaniment and a short rationale for said choice.
I’d love your comments, but better, try and top my recommendation (this won’t be hard, trust me). We shall then, with the wonder of modern science and the use of a public voting system (which shall be independent, and by the time it comes round, properly thought out) sally forth with our recommendations. A column in the Guardian will quickly follow I’m sure, and by next year, yours truly will be on The Great British Menu recommending great beers to go with the great food*
Up for it?
*Sneak preview from the BBC. Next year there will be a Feast Celebrating Great British Muck Spreading. Sounds like sh
Johnnie Mountain: I’d eat in your restaurant mate. Give me Wareing’s table.
© David Preston, Beer Tinted Spectacles. Originally posted on Posterous, June 2012