Were television schedules any reflection of a nation's interests, recent visitors to Britain could be forgiven for thinking they'd arrived in a land of eternal merriment, inhabited by people who do little but sing, dance and eat.
But while The X Factor and Strictly are (mercifully) just spectator sports for those at home, the recent proliferation of foodie shows barely covers the extent of our obsession with all things culinary. And while I am happy to sit back and marvel at Jamie et al's genius with little intention of emulating it (greed marginally edged out by laziness), my lack of gastronomic ambition is making me a social outcast.
Unlike every person I know, I don't want to take part in an inter-friend Come Dine With Me competition. Nor do I want to open an underground restaurant in my living-room. And under no circumstances whatsoever would I ever want to try my luck in a professional kitchen. Evidently I am not as brave as the hordes currently signing up for cookery courses, many of them investing a chunk of their redundancy pay in the hope of swapping their old life in front of a screen for a new one in front of a stove.
A silver lining of the recession is the short, sharp shove it provides to propel a few fortunate individuals out of an unfulfilling comfort zone and into the job of their dreams. But was the City really staffed by frustrated Marcos and Nigellas, who would have rather been poring over Escoffier than equities? Or have a large number of people simply found themselves at a loose end at the precise moment that the trend for cooking and eating, and talking and writing about cooking and eating, is at its zenith.
Opening a restaurant is one of those back-burner plan Bs that an awful lot of us quietly harbour but few of us should do. Part-time passions don't necessarily translate into full-time careers. And if they do, there's a fair chance they'll cease to be quite as passionately held. When you have to do something to pay the bills, the enjoyment is never quite as full as when you choose to do it of your own accord.
And how many of the hopefuls are really cut out for life in the bowels of Tartarus – also known as a professional kitchen – anyway? Most of the contestants (all working chefs) on Masterchef: The Professionals (presented by Gregg Wallace, above with co-host John Torode) barely seemed up to it.
Gordon Ramsay is unlikely to be quaking in his whites. In fact, he's probably rubbing his hands with glee – think of all that potential material for a new series of Kitchen Nightmares.Reuse content