There are far too many cooking programs. On every single channel they clog up the schedules like fat in a drain. It won’t be too long until Alan Partridge’s ill thought out Cooking in Prison gets commissioned. In his words “if you don’t do it SKY will!”

I can see the attraction of cooking shows for television companies. They are cheap to make and there about as offensive as a baby duck so they don’t have to worry about Robert Killjoys making OFCOM complaints. The problem is they are just so pretentious.

“George is making Kobe swan served on compote of pheasant with shallots, fennel and a dinosaur egg.”

 

I have seen people watching Masterchef while eating chicken dippers and chips which makes me think that people are not trying to replicate what they are seeing on television. Therefore what is the point in watching other people make food you can’t taste or eat?

Even when these programs try and break convention and do something different the results can be equally pretentious. Heston Blumenthal has created a number of unique dishes. These are normally based around a particular theme for example fairytales. He uses more liquid nitrogen in his cooking than a cosmetic surgeon. Blumenthal cooks all these masterpieces for a dinner party full of Z-list celebrities. Although there is no denying that Blumenthal is talented and exceedingly creative I doubt anyone has the time or money to make their own pot noodle from scratch.

Recently my cynicism regarding food programs has been challenged by something from across the pond. Man vs. Food is shown nightly on Good Food and follows New Yorker Adam Richman. Richman travels across the USA stopping off at various eating spots to participate in obscene eating challenges.

There are a number of reasons why this is appealing. Every man loves a good feed! Richman seems to get this wherever he goes. His job is to eat as much as he possibly can. Due to social conventions most people can not get away with this. Even at the Chinese buffet anything more than four plates breaks social conventions. Amazingly Richman is not obese. He seems to have the metabolism of a fifteen-year-old. Those of us starting to put on weight can’t help but admire that. We would all secretly love to enter the Hot Wings challenge.

America is a melting pot with so many cultures. This means Man vs. Food features a wide range of different cooking styles. Be it Italian, barbecue, Cajun or Mexican. It is interesting to see how these different foods are cooked for example Richman visited a charity barbecue in Arkansas where the food was cooked in industrial ovens in a barn. Many of the dishes have not made it to the United Kingdom. It is an insight into different cultures that you sadly don’t get with Come Dine with Me.

For me the most important plus point that makes Man vs. Food bearable is that there isn’t a single iota of pretention in the entire program.

Many of the restaurants featured are working class, family owned eateries with truckers and the local policeman all being regular customers. A lorry driver eating in Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants in this country would be asked to pay before his meal if served at all. The food actually resembles a meal in that the portion sizes would actually fill you up.

Richman seems to genuinely love food. A welcome change from the horrible ice-queen Monica Galetti from Masterchef who looks like she’s been fed a toenail pie every time she eats something. When people don’t smile around food it reminds of a particularly awkward date.

If television companies insist on commissioning even more cooking shows. At least make them enjoyable. There are plenty of diverse foods and restaurants all around Britain that do not require a second mortgage to eat in and contain proper food. More importantly normal people eat in them and enjoy themselves!

James Proctor