MasterChef USA

If you find MasterChef annoying – and with its absurdly inflated sense of drama, insufferably smug food critics and Gregg Wallace bellowing inanities like a shouty egg, how could you not? – you’d be well advised to stay away from its American cousin, which makes the British version look like a model of understated restraint.

Take the judges. One’s called Joe Bastianich, who sounds like he should be the mayor of New York. He’s joined by Graham Elliot, a tattooed hulk of a man with an ego to match. And the third is Gordon Ramsay, who seems positively humble by comparison. Let’s all just take a moment to digest that sentence.

Then there’s the whooping. As the judges took to the stage for this week’s fourth season opener, the contestants whipped themselves into a frenzy that made a WWF smackdown look like the Cheltenham Literary Festival. By the time JB had taken out the series’ $250,000 prize money and flambéed it in a wok (don’t ask), many looked in danger of fainting.

First to cook was Natasha, 26, a self-confessed ‘good looking girl’ whose empanadas were ‘fiery, smoking and hot - just like me’. The judges told her she was amazing, which seemed like the last thing she needed to hear. She was followed by Christine – 19, overweight and shy. Gordon liked her, Mayor Bastianich didn’t, so Tattoo Guy had the casting vote. ‘Here’s the thing,’ he said. ‘You’re young, you’ve got natural skill. For me, it’s… a no.’ Ha ha, you made the shy teenager think you were going to say yes, then said no, and watched her cry! You guys slay me.

Being America, of course, everyone was worryingly keen to kill their own dinner. ‘We use a .22,’ explained one woman, slamming a dead rabbit on the worktop. ‘One quick shot and he’s gone.’ Brian from Texas also used a .22, but was equally partial to food flattened by trucks. ‘I cook roadkill every week,’ he declared, while frying up a shaved beaver. Nom.

Also on the menu were cactus soup, frog chips, breast milk cheese and a live ostrich, which obligingly walked in to meet its fate, without a Bernie Clifton in sight.

Truly, cooking doesn’t get any weirder than this.


TV extra: 


You Saw Them Here First

‘The show that plays the game of name that famous face before they were famous’ (to steal its snappy intro) is a well-worn but reliably irresistible concept. Because who wouldn’t want to see Sheridan Smith as a kid on Blue Peter, or Daniel Craig appearing with the National Youth Theatre on Newsroom South East?

The only place it slightly fell down was its attempt to inject an element of suspense: Who **could** this teenager who looks EXACTLY like a young Keeley Hawes be? Find out after the break!



New Blood

With its fast-cutting, freeze frames and pounding techno soundtrack, this new crime drama is a long way from the sleepy Hastings of writer Anthony Horowitz’s other TV creation, Foyle’s War. In other ways, though, it’s creakingly old-fashioned, from the 80s-style buddy cops (newcomers Mark Trepan and Ben Tavassoli) investigating a botched drug trial to the shouty guv’nor berating his young mavericks for their ‘Batman and Robin antics’. Throw in a pair of glamorous supermodel assassins and a shadowy government conspiracy, and it’s quite the most bonkers thriller of the year.


Published in Waitrose Weekend, June 9, 2016

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