Matt Butler: Don’t bolt your food, Usain – not in Jamie and Jimmy’s naff caff

View from the Sofa: Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, Channel 4

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you didn’t know Usain Bolt was quite a good sport, you will have realised it if you had seen him being “interviewed” by Jamie Oliver on his new vehicle, Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast – possibly the most contrived, toe-curling, faux-familiar food show the lisping chef has ever done. Ever. Even worse than that one where he supposedly stood in his garden.

Harsh? Watch it yourself if you don’t believe us. The premise is that Jamie and Jimmy Docherty – Oliver’s “old mucker from back at school” – have a café at the end of Southend Pier where they make Batman-style sound effects (“Boom!” “Bam!”) as they laddishly throw together food creations, or use angle grinders to build über-man tandoori-cum-barbecue contraptions with which to cook more fancy, yet oh-so masculine food. Their hope, they said, was that we at home could “get busy with food” over the weekend. Just what we want to do on a sub-zero mid-winter’s morning: chop up a bin in the back yard.

Last Friday’s opening episode featured Bolt in the café – which, let’s not kid ourselves, is a studio with the audience acting as customers – and he sauntered in as if he might fancy a cuppa.

As he sat at the counter it was interview time. And the questions made Jonathan Ross seem like Jeremy Paxman: “Were you quite active as a kid?”; “You like cricket, don’t you?” Bolt could have beaten a hasty retreat at the sheer chumminess of it all, but he didn’t.

The fluffiness of the questions was perhaps to be expected: we weren’t tuning in to hear Bolt’s opinion of his Jamaica team-mates who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The aim was to get Bolt talking about food – and one of the first things he revealed was his take on vegetarianism. He’s not a fan. “There are no vegetarian sprinters – I have seen people try; it doesn’t work,” he said.

On the subject of food he does like, there was no mention of the chicken nuggets which supposedly fuelled his record-breaking Beijing Olympic 100m run. Shame, given Oliver’s evangelical stance on processed meat. Instead Bolt revealed his love for his Aunt Lily’s jerk pork (no sniggering), which was a lucky coincidence because Oliver had just happened to be on the phone to the woman in question and got the exact recipe – complete with “raais an’ peas”, as he said in a terrible, borderline racially dubious, Jamaican accent – which they would try and replicate in the “caff”.

Once they got into the actual cooking, it wasn’t so bad. Bolt revealed himself to be a complete amateur in the kitchen – he didn’t even know what kneading was – and benefited from Oliver’s lessons in how to chop an onion. And, ever the showman, he tossed coriander leaves with a flourish and built up the anticipation to the tasting of the pork with the confidence of a TV veteran.

And when the pork was actually on the plate, he did what we suspect any athlete would do: he tucked in, wolfing down great mouthfuls of the stuff. No matter he was supposed to be helping dish the pork up to the customers, all he cared about was stuffing his face. And he did so, with a warm smile on his face – thankfully rendering Jamie to the sidelines.