Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Masterchef: From Office Into The Pan

I sat there looking at the questions on the Masterchef application form. I had no idea what to put down. The whole show was a farce. The prize was a job as a trainee chef at a top London restaurant. They didn’t say how much you’d get, or what the hours were, or what to do when you’re thrown out on the street because you can’t pay the rent. I couldn’t see Wallace buying the Big Issue off me when he stepped out of his Bentley. And Torode looked like he wouldn’t give a fly to a blind spider.

Maybe the prize didn’t exist at all. I mean, who the hell would take them up on it? The whole thing was about getting on the telly, and society’s mushrooming obsession with fame. I couldn’t see any of the contestants swapping their cushy day jobs for 16 hours slaving in an underground furnace on a wage just enough to keep them alive. Not if there weren’t any cameras about. They weren’t as mad as me. Nowhere near.

The recent winners and finalists seemed to be too busy churning out recipe books to spend much time learning the trade. A few had apparently done a stint here and there in a top kitchen, and Thomasina Myers had set up her own restaurant. But how long she spent there given all the book deals and TV appearances was anyone’s guess.

All I knew was that even if I did get in the finals, it was unlikely to lead to any proper paid cooking work - one winner had turned up at Le Gavroche to find it was unpaid. I needed professional training and a way to support myself if I was to do it properly - to open my restaurant by the sea.

There was also the time delay. I’d have to get myself a cooking job in the mean time. The programme was likely to be months away, and I was dying to get back in the kitchen. One hopeful had to wait eight months before the producers contacted him, then spent 40 minutes on the phone whispering about why he wanted to be a chef with his boss earwigging in the background.

What the hell. I filled in the form anyway...

:: This blog eventually became a bestselling book, called Down And Out In Padstow And London by Alex Watts, about my disastrous attempt to train as a chef, including stints at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and Rick Stein's kitchens in Padstow. You might like it if you're a foodie or have ever entertained the ridiculous idea of entering the padded asylum of professional cooking. It's here on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book if you want a read...


La BĂȘte said...

Egg and Toad! They are hilarious. I love it when they compare notes before they kick people off the show. They don't speak to each other. They just read out their comments as if they're being filmed in separate rooms. They're both really weird. I bet they're sexual predators too. Are they? Are they sexual predators? Aww, go on.

Margaret said...

Thank you for visiting my foodblog and leaving a comment.
I'll pop back again and read lots of the very interesting postings!

MsMarmitelover said...

Oh god, well you've put me off forever.
Please continue...

Lennie Nash said...

Monsieur La Bete,

They are very strange aren't they. I imagine you have heard the same tale as I have had regarding Egg and Toad and the Borough market incident. I cannot confirm your suspicions, but you know..

Great news on the La Bete film deal. I think Rourke's still the man for the lead, Bafta or not. Too old yes, but he looks right for it. Why would you want Daniel Craig in make-up?

Keep up the good writing!


Lennie Nash said...

Dear MsMarmitelover,

No, I really think you should do it. If nothing else than to see how random the whole thing is. And I think you'd do very well at it. Go on...are they still looking for people for the next series?


Kate said...

Aww, don't stop now!

I take it that you won't be recommending the MasterChef Online Course, complete with e-certificate, then? ;-)

Lennie Nash said...

Dear Kate,

Ah, the e-certificate! Does it everything time for me. If my printer was only working, I'd be printing one off now and framing it. Those marvelous judges Egg and Toad have thought of everything!


PS. Can you send me a few of your delicious looking foodie photos on your blog, so I can put them on my blog and pretend that I cooked them? Go on...

Kate said...

Maybe I will ... after your next blog installment ;-)

MsMarmitelover said...

Your problem is too bloody busy with that cooking lark to write about it!
Why are you so secretive about where you are working eh?

Lennie Nash said...

Dear Ms Marmitelover,

You're so right. It's 2am and I just finished work, then back in for another big stint in a few hours' time (I'm too scared to count them!)

This job is killing me! Oh well, think of the scallop and those weary pilgrims Lennie (sorry I'm becoming delirious now, and fear I may spout even more tosh and bollocks than usual, so better log off and sleep.)

Prefer not to say where I'm working because it'd make my life hell here if they found out...hope you understand. But I'll give you a clue: two stars. Two weary, blood-spattered stars. Oh dear.

Nighty night MsMarmitelover!

eatmynels said...

Badass post.... admiration going out to you.. i tried it and couldnt take the massive abuse but when your too tied to think the cock ups get more frequent and burns hurt...keep us the posts!

Chef Shane said...

Love your work. I keep clicking your links, and reading more of your stuff, damn you. I should be in bed.
I WOULD have bought a Lennie Nash book from one of the Phnom Penh kids.
Masterchef is a bit of a joke to chefs, so this post was also a cracker. Yes, it's a big fake fame game, and for La Bete - the answer can only be Hell Yes!