Celebrity MasterChef, TV review: Comfort eating telly format is past its sell by date

Inspiration was hardly the dish of the day when three celebrities cooked chicken curries

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The Independent Culture

Perfect comfort food or past its sell by date? A decade since the BBC reheated MasterChef, with antipodean chomper John Torode and ‘pudding monster’ Gregg Wallace, the format is seen as a reliable old favourite. However, I can’t be the only one craving a few different flavours now and then and it could be that this particular dish needs to drop off the menu for a while. Even Loyd Grossman had to call it a day on the cogitating eventually – how long then until Gregg and John are forced into launching their own pasta sauce range?

The main problem that the celebrity version of Masterchef suffers from is the celebrity bit. While this week’s line up of famous (‘famous’) cooks were an affable bunch, it could easily have been renamed ‘Pub Quiz Answer MasterChef’. Those of us of a certain age can certainly recall a distant past when Syd Little (of ‘and Large’ fame) and Mica Paris (fun game – try and remember one of her songs) were relevant, and Danny Crates boasts an actual Paralympic gold medal, but anyone who can watch an episode of Celebrity MasterChef without the help of Wikipedia is an impressive individual indeed.

Cod was on offer for the Invention Test, though Amanda Donohoe (actress, she was in that thing, you know, oh you do know her, honestly, she was in loads of things) thought it was salmon. As if defying the MasterChef gods she then boldly went on to cook salmon for her Signature Dish. If this seemed like a cop out then at least it wasn’t a chicken curry, which three of the other celebs did, along with three apple tarts. Inspiration was not the dish of the day.


The real fun came when our five people-you-might-recognise-if-you-saw-them-on-a-train were tossed, like a salad, into the merry world of professional kitchens. Paris, Crates and Donohoe tussled with scallops and various slabs of meat in the rarefied air of TING, up in that Shard, but the show was stolen by the goings-on at Chicchetti, with its jolly Italian head chef, Aldo Zilli. Zilli didn’t think much of Sam Nixon (Sam Nixon, you know. Came third, Pop Idol, 2003? Yeah, that Sam Nixon, you know him) and his propensity for burning extremely expensive chops but he had a full on love affair with Syd Little.

The two shared hugs and kisses and, while coating off Nixon for serving raw sausages (can’t burn them, can’t serve them raw – what do you want, Zilli?!), Zilli had nothing but praise and encouragement for the jolly old comic. MasterChef needing a revamp? A couple of new presenters maybe? I vote Little and Zilli. ‘This is a kitchen’ said the pink Italian chef. ‘You’re right there, chef’ deadpanned Little. This is the kind of magic they would bring.

Sadly for Amanda Donohoe, her insistence on cooking salmon at every turn (even when it’s not salmon) was seen as playing it safe by our judges. Off she went. Playing it safe? Now, the BBC, where have I heard that before…?