Where to eat at Christmas: Heston Blumenthal’s, Jamie Oliver’s or is it actually preferable to kneel down beside some tramps and purloin their raw rat meat while they pick their teeth clean of the coagulated fur?
First up on the menu for the viewers’ delectation is the chef ego.
There is no good reason for chefs’ names to prefix shows; unless of course they believe themselves to be the main attraction of the show rather than the food itself. If that’s the case let’s get rebranding – Hugh Edwards’ Six O’Clock News, Pallid-faced ginger kid’s EastEnders, David Tennant’s Dr Who, Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear and Noel Edmonds’ Deal Or No Deal (though the latter two may soon come to boil).
Perhaps it’s insecurity, but Heston regularly trumpets that “my restaurant has three Michelin Stars, and has been voted one of the best in the world”. Rather like the 10 Commandments, Michelin Stars are anachronisms, the original value and meaning of which has been lost in the depths of pointless history. Yet are both tenets of a faith that is blindly followed by its adherents.
Jamie is far more confident; in fact he now speaks to the audience as if you’re distracting him while he fishes for his dinner in a KFC refuse bin. He’s all clipped estuary English and studied verbal contractions, as though he’s reached such a level of public deification where he could cook his own vomit and expect you to eat it. “Don’t get too poncey!” he warns, as if a direct rebuke to Heston.
“Poncey” might be a term too close to the bully’s hatred of anything intelligent, but Heston must imagine his meals are served to God and Jesus for Heaven’s office party. He claims his meal will be “a multi-sensory approach to the Christmas meal – unlike anything ever seen!” This exaggerates the impact of his cooking and tries to mask the fact that it’s just food with talk of “multi-sensory” approaches, an impression compounded by his desire to make “a dining room that’s out of this world” for his guests.
One thing both chefs do share is that vexatious contrivance of addressing an illusory interviewer just to the right of the camera to distil the impression they are talking through a camera to a corpulent slab of indolence slouched on a sofa making God regret His decision to award adventurous fish lungs. Again, it’s merely a device to instil this impersonal inverted interrogation with a false impression of intimacy, but instead makes both of them resemble that rude, obnoxious social serpent who deigns you not fit to look at while speaking to you less they appear they require your interest to persist with their oration; happy just to keep stabbing you with their hackneyed words as if you were a freshly butchered pig.
The guests vary in both identity and purpose. With Jamie, his ‘guests’ are merely stooges with all the effective contributions of a brick wall for an incontinent dog to piss against. Out in the garden, cabbage expert Brian is diminished to echoing Jamie’s breathless banter, making his presence utterly redundant other than to show how knowledgeable Jamie is about cabbages. “This is such a staple in Italy,” Jamie says. “Yeah, yeah,” replies Brian.
Meanwhile, over at chez Blumenthal, Heston has invited the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, while Dara O’Briain grimly hangs onto his credibility as if it’s in the teeth of Cerberus and Rob Brydon does some silly accents. Sorry, no, they are not Heston’s guests they are his ‘friends’. Morons, attached to tubes sucking out all their unused brain cells to sell on eBay and replacing the vacancy in their echoing skull with a nest of twisted-up Heat magazines and a couple of Kate Moss dolls, who have devolved to become incapable of independent thought can exist on a drip feed of asinine culture from the lives of celebrities without the need for conventional sustenance.
Richard E Grant (Famine, his face looks like it’s been stripped bare of flesh by a passing tornado) and Kirsty Wark (War, her voice stomps through derelict arguments like a regiment of shiny jackboots) vie in the “who can make the loudest ‘mmm’ competition”.
Heston loves to kidnap the sensibilities of the viewer to deceive them into believing that journeying all the way to the Middle East “to where the Three Wise Men would have passed through” to find frankincense somehow makes his meal more authentic; cynically oblivious to the fact that the Three Wise Men might just be a device in a illusory dogma that has pinioned human evolution for more than 2,000 years. In the same way that fools will pay a million dollars (largely because they’re often American) for a John Lennon’s verruca scab believe that this makes them closer to their idol, getting frankincense from Oman – and referring to it as “complex” or “mystical” – or Tesco still doesn’t enhance the flavour or change the fact that it’s still just frankincense.
Jamie prepares meals with the same care and attention he might grit his drive – “What I’m going to do is wazz it up! Let’s have a little waz!” ‘Wazz’ seems to be his word for something when he can’t think of the correct word to use in the same way as the illiterate, disposable hordes employ the word ‘f**k’.
Heston also uses selective anthropomorphosis. He “sourced” four geese for the main course of his meal like a stockbroker picking out favourable shares, but later cannot bring himself to “cook Santa’s little helper (a reindeer)”.
The real triumph of both chefs is that they have somehow captivated the viewing public to cookery when the two primary senses – taste and smell – aren’t transmittable through a TV screen. This further entraps the viewer in thrall to the chef as any perception is wholly reliant on Heston or Jamie’s opinion on the food, such as when tasting myrrh Heston looks nauseous or when Jamie samples the goose and declares it “some of the nicest meat you’ll ever taste!” But we don’t ‘taste’ other than vicariously through Jamie’s taste buds enabling him to inflict his tyrannical ‘foodie’ views on us.