Dear Rick Stein

Look out, here comes yet another TV chef ...
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The Independent Online
If there was ever a chef who could carry a six-part television series about the joys of eating fish, it is you. What fish lack in charisma, you certainly make up for with the low-key wit of an Oxbridge type gone AWOL. You have the beguiling, laconic style that befits someone who has spent the past 20 years running a chic getaway on the Cornish coast.

Most impressively, yours are the smart insights of a thinking chef - so smart that several years ago you were even called upon to talk fish at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. This may have been pushing the original brief of the ICA (to show the work of young artists), but hey, if paintings of Campbell's soup cans are art, why not a lecture about fish stew?

As you must know, I am among the critics lucky enough to spend company expenses in your place, the scenic and telegenic Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. Us foodwriters love you. So it came as no surprise that Keith Floyd's producer cottoned on to you, and we are about to be treated to Rick Stein's Taste of the Sea on Tuesday evenings, in which Rick goes to a banquet, Rick cooks a mackerel, Rick is Rick.

So why, ahem, carp? Rick! Your charm and throwaway wisdom, the seaweed in your hair, will, I feel sure, save television cook shows from the burn- out they so richly deserve. But you will renew the conviction of every producer with a mobile phone that what viewers need is yet another TV cook. Your example will convince every tosser in chef's whites that he or she is a telly star in the waiting. You will, I dread, have a similar effect on foodwriters, most of whom only do one thing worse than write about food: that is, talk about it in front of a camera.

For every sprat you fry, we will have to endure a dozen episodes of Sophie Grigson frying sorrel and chorizo in Kent or currying cauliflower in a Scottish lighthouse. We will continue to switch on innocently, only to find Anton Mosimann, that food-twiddler in a bow-tie, pretending to cook "naturally" - that is, baking bread in flower-pots. We will lunge for the volume control as Janet Street-Porter and Loyd Grossman make a weird chorus on Masterchef. Delia Smith will smilingly continue to usurp the seasons - Delia's summer, Delia's Christmas. Posh young men with double- barrelled names will film themselves poaching. Gary Rhodes will have on- camera food-fights with Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs, prance his way through sugar commercials and lend his name to excruciatingly greasy restaurant food sold on the South Bank. And what about us? We will not cook. We will eat Marks & Spencer take-aways in front of the television.

Is there an end to it? I fear yes: BBC Enterprises, that commercial giant built on revenue from Delia books and Floyd-capades, and from lurid cookware conventions, will cease to be a merchandising arm of a public service broadcaster. No, by the year 2000, BBC Enterprises will be the BBC. Murdoch will own it and it will be a cable cookery channel.