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...