Sun TV Magazine writer Jon Horsley explains why TV chefs are raising food standards and challenges you to prove him right by sending us your #tvdinner
If you’re a TV viewer of a certain age then it’s strange to think that for today’s university leavers, Lloyd Grossman is best known as the Colonel Sanders of the ready-made pasta sauce market. Merelya face on the side of a pasta sauce jar. Because for older TV viewers it’s impossible not to think him as the man who cogitated, deliberated and digested his way through 10 years of Masterchef.
While we’re big fans of Lloyd, when he was overlord Masterchef was a very cosy show. While not exactly elitist, it certainly had its fair share of well-crimped Home Counties housewives. There was always the feeling that they would lose half the contestants if they attempted to shoot the show during a Tim Henman match while Lloyd himself gave off the aura of a man who would turn his nose up at a dessert that was served coulis-free or without a whisp of gold leaf.
Masterchef – and – food has come a long way. We now have Gregg Wallace. Gregg Wallace doesn’t love fine dining. He doesn’t love frippery, foams or jus. He likes gravy, chocolate and flavour. Gregg is a greengrocer. He’s not done a degree in molecular cuisine. He likes rugby and food. And guess what? We love watching Gregg because we love food in the same way. We love eating good, plain accessible food. Six million of us tuned into the final last month, which was won by Natalie Coleman with a Scotch Egg.
In 1990 when Lloyd took over Masterchef, pesto wasn’t commonly sold on supermarket shelves, lamb was only ever served well done and Delia Smith and Keith Floyd were the only cooks on TV. Now there are channels dedicated to food and food alone. Despite that Delia is refusing to make any more TV, says that “no one is teaching people how to cook anymore” and claims Masterchef is intimidating aspiring cooks. Other cooks agree with her. Food writers’ food writer Simon Hopkinson reckons that “There are so many books and TV shows, they can be a distraction. I really want people to just cook.”
But with the greatest respect to Delia and Simon, they’re wrong. Food on TV is a great thing for all of us. I am biased, being as I talk to a lot of TV chefs for my day job – writing The Sun’s food page. And you know what? TV Chefs, TV cooks and people like Gregg, they really care about food. If you want to hear a five minute foul-mouther rant, ask Gino D’Acampo about people who put pineapple on pizza. Or if you want to hear an uplifting lecture about how food in France was better than that in the UK based around Service Station cuisine, ask Gordon Ramsay. These people care.
“It’s what chefs do when they get together,” said Michel Roux Jr. “We talk about food.”
They want us to try everything, sample everything, go to better restaurants, serve up better dinner parties. They want this because they’re passionate. But it’s good for their business too. It’s obvious: the better we eat, the more we want to try their products.
This is no longer an elite group. For every fussy food chef like Gordon Ramsay- who told me that Delia was one of the reasons that food standards in the UK have risen so far (before she started “cooking out of a tin”) there are less well-known cooks like This Morning‘s Dean Edwards, author of the excellent and beautifully named mince-based cookbook Mincepirations. Dean is writing to help people make easy dishes from the most basic ingredients. Mince. People are not buying Mincepirations for the pictures (they’re rubbish). They’re buying it to cook with. Every time Dean cooks, someone will try his recipe. Guaranteed.
It’s simple. People of all shapes and sizes are inspired by TV. To change gear – look at cycling. After the Olympics, 12,000 people signed up to be members of British cycling. According to a survey from the LSE hundreds of thousands more took to their bikes. That’s not because they suddenly thought they had thighs like Sir Chris Hoy- it’s because they liked what they saw.
So if they see relaxed Scouser Simon Rimmer on Sunday Brunch making accessible hangover food, John Whaite triumph on Great British Bake Off or Lisa Faulkner practically leading you through the aisles of a supermarket and telling them what to buy lunchtimes on Channel4 What’s Cooking, they’re getting closer to cooking. Not everyone, of course. Some people would always choose the takeaway or the ready-meal. But nothing would alter that – and anyway their takeaways are getting healthier and tastier because of the huge amount of food shown on TV. They could probably even get pesto or pink lamb if they looked hard enough.
All this is without even mentioning the massive mockney elephant in the room – Jamie Oliver. Forget politicians. Has ever one man done more to educate, assist and uplift our diets? “No” is the answer. Jamie’s tireless campaigning is remarkable. No one who watched Jamie’s School Dinners could doubt that this was a man helping the nation regain their feeding souls, their very connection with what they eat. His Ministry Of Food is an effort to help people live longer by helping them to cook. Could any thing be more evidently positive?
Anyway, we know you are inspired by TV, because you said it in our survey. Now we want to find out what you’ve learnt from cooking shows on TV. Whether it was a couple of drops of Worcester sauce on cheese on toast to how not to burn yourself on dry ice when cooking Heston’s Bacon and Eggs Ice Cream, we want to see your Jamie Oliver olives, your Gizzi Erskine ice cream, your Michel Roux, er, Roux.
Tweet us your #tvdinner pictures – and the best wins an amazing Saturday Kitchen Cooking Experience for two to spend quality time cooking with a talented and inspirational star chef in the central London media complex where the show is broadcast. This is an intimate, hands-on cooking session in which the winner will learn valuable tips and techniques in addition to touring the studio complex and participating in a fun game of the Omelette Challenge.
To be in with a chance of winning tweet @FreeviewTV or post on Instagram tagging @FreeviewTV with a photo of your TV dinner with the hashtag #tvdinner. Bonus points may be awarded if you can think of a funny caption like “catch of the day” or “Hawaiian Pizza 5.0”. You can also send your entry via email to firstname.lastname@example.org including your photo, caption, full name, telephone number, email address and postcode.
Prove me right. Show your creativity. Wow us. Prove that TV has great taste.