The Restaurant Inspector, C5
Channel 5 is on a mission; a mission to save Britain’s ailing businesses. Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi is busy sneering at chintzy bed linen somewhere in Dorset, while Fernando Peire, director of The Ivy, is in a depressing road-side restaurant making Gordon Ramsay look like a genuinely nice guy. I was under the impression that The Ivy was just a place for celebrities to flash their knickers in front of while getting in and out of cars, but apparently its success has absolutely nothing to do with the location and the gaggle of paparazzi hanging around outside. Fernando is now determined to use his industry knowledge to rescue struggling restaurants up and down the country. No business in the hospitality industry will fail! Not on Channel 5’s watch!
When I see a road-side restaurant I usually think of Psycho and drive faster. When I look at Acorns, owned by 19 year old Ollie, I think of a retirement home or a pre-school. Ollie wants to be a millionaire by the time he is twenty-five, but is currently losing £800 a week because of his terrible food, weird décor and horrible attitude. It quickly becomes apparent that Ollie doesn’t seem to have a very nice personality, proved when he calls one of Fernando’s secret diners “fat”.
Fernando sighs wearily at the ugly dining room, the horrible school dinner vegetables and Ollie’s lack of management experience. He wonders if he might have met his match (he hasn’t) and if he might fail (he won’t) before setting Ollie and chef Martin a challenge to think up a USP for the restaurant before breezing off back to London to check that The Ivy has burned down or run out of celebrities in his absence. This is a task that Ollie and Martin will almost certainly fail at, but they do come up with some amazing ideas, “We think this space is wasted, so we’ve been looking into how big a tank we’d need for a shark. It’s something different, it’s a talking point.”
Fernando rolls his eyes and thinks that Ollie and Martin might have missed the point, but I think it’s an amazing idea. I would almost certainly stop at a ramshackle restaurant near Bristol to eat a mediocre carvery next to an illegal shark tank.
Shark vetoed, Fernando takes the hapless pair out to a café in Bristol so they can try some decent food and get ideas. He wants them to try something that they wouldn’t normally eat as this is what a real restaurateur would do. This proves to be an easy task. Ollie doesn’t eat lamb, nor does he like mussels or egg or steak. He doesn’t know what chorizo or falafel is. Fernando rolls his eyes to heaven once again at the idea of a restaurateur who hates food, failing to see that the real problem here is that Ollie is nineteen. He isn’t even a proper, fully formed human yet. His bones haven’t even stopped growing. Of course he doesn’t know what chorizo is, it’ll be years before he starts venturing into the speciality meat section of supermarket. I personally look back on my late teens as the wafer-thin ham and budget cheddar years.
The generation gap between Ollie and Fernando brings the programme to its low point; their relationship is in tatters. “I would describe Fernando as an arse,” declares Ollie, angry that Fernando has exposed his hatred of most food. Where do they go from here? This is the turning point, where Ollie and Fernando work through their differences and the restaurant is redesigned and successfully re-launched.
Anyone who has owned a television at any point in the last five years has seen this programme a thousand times before. It doesn’t matter how objectionable and resistant to change the owner of the terrible restaurant/hotel/boutique/shop is at the beginning, by the end of an hour everything has worked out and their business is saved. While the drama can be entertaining, after so many reboots the formula is starting to get tired. I don’t really care if another mediocre restaurant is saved from extinction, I’m tired of seeing chefs shouting at well known hospitality industry professionals, and I’m tired of the predictable happy ending.
Gok Cooks Chinese, C4
Gok Wan has now taught every woman in the UK how to dress up a maxi dress with a decorative waist belt, his work there is done and he needs a new job. Never one to miss an opportunity to star in a TV series with a tie-in book, Gok is now a popular and well known Chinese chef, shamelessly ripping off his father’s recipes and repeating the phrase ‘from wok to plate in minutes’ so many times that I considered building a drinking game round it.
In this week’s episode Gok patronises an old woman as she shows him how to make dumplings, mocks some people who can’t use chopsticks and makes a variety of stir-frys.
Jimmy’s Farm, C4
Jimmy has a lot of dreams. Remember when he had that dream to own a pig farm? He monetised the hell out that dream, producing three tie-in books about his life up to his knees in pig shit. More recently he has turned his attention to the food industry, trying to make cheap free-range meat products to sell in supermarkets.
Lovely farmer Jimmy can’t understand why nasty Tesco haven’t done this before. Why not just use the offal from happy pigs so that poor people can finally afford good quality meat? Oh how the people will cheer for Jimmy, and carry him aloft on their shoulders as their ragamuffin children finally experience the taste of an artisan sausage.
Grasping, profit hungry Tesco clearly have a very good reason for not having done this before – people don’t care, as Jimmy’s dismal product sales figures soon illustrate. If people really genuinely cared about the pig they were consuming having a fulfilling life they would probably be vegetarians.