Susie Rushton: You can't reheat a soufflé – unless you're running a TV cookery contest

Notebook: Contemporary television cookery tends to have what might be termed a less-than-authentic flavour

Share

I can't count the number of mistakes I've made in the kitchen in the last month. There have been baked eggs with yolks as hard as squash balls, a shepherd's pie that erupted like Etna in the oven, the expensive "medium rare" steaks that cut brown and tough with our knives... and yet all of these technically faulty dishes were eaten and enjoyed. Culinary failure isn't really as bad as other kinds of error: there's always next time, and it's only food.

Of course, I'm cooking away from the glare of TV cameras, so I can afford to be sanguine. No doubt young Tom the Plasterer, the bearded Sean Penn lookalike who is a favourite to win the current series of MasterChef, was horrified when his pineapple-and-chilli soufflé failed to rise (or flopped in the waiting, perhaps?). In the episode on 1 February, we saw him present the judges with an unrisen dessert, dejected. Yet in the next shot – check it on iPlayer – a perfectly risen soufflé appeared in its place and was judged "stunning" by a lip-smacking Gregg Wallace.

In one sense we should not be too surprised if producers step in to artificially enhance the appearance of a pudding. Contemporary television cookery tends to have what might be termed a less-than-authentic flavour. Simple food-styling trickery is obviously rife. More insidious are the entirely fictional scenarios viewers are expected to swallow. Think of Nigella's dinner party guests, Jamie's bonhomie (when his actions as a campaigner suggest otherwise), or Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's community spirit, which doesn't appear to extend to a great familiarity with his own River Cottage canteen restaurant, to go by the amazed expressions of staff when he arrived to film one Christmas episode. Then there's Raymond Blanc's accent (no Frenchmen say "ooh la-la"). There isn't a culinary moment on screen that hasn't been improved with careful editing.

If it weren't made perfect in the post-production, these shows would be brain-boilingly dull: man fries piece of chicken, burns it, tries again. Or would they? I caught an old clip of Keith Floyd recently and was amazed to remember what warts-and-all telly cookery looks like: horrible food that the chef himself ridicules, then tips in the bin with a flourish, his unconcealed fury with a film crew whose demands make timing a dish almost impossible, the sweat and the free-flowing vino. MasterChef's "soufflé scandal" might seem more dire because the format of the show is a competition, and having the chance to substitute a ruined dish feels like foul play. But elsewhere in the world of TV food I think we would also enjoy seeing a few more flopped cakes, broken biscuits and frayed tempers. Fifteen years ago Floyd understood that viewers wanted to be entertained, not shown only the most perfect moments from a chef's table. We are a more discerning audience these days, one able to appreciate the skill of Michel Roux Jr or Heston – but there's still little as entertaining as a bumptious young wannabe cook seeing his soufflé collapse.

Clooney's lullabies

It is hard to sympathise with celebrities who complain about unrelenting schedules. But show me an actor who has problems sleeping at night and I'm on their side. This is George Clooney, who has given an interview to The Hollywood Reporter confessing that he sometimes drinks too much, can't fall asleep without the TV on and usually wakes five times each night. Admitting to being wakeful at night isn't part of our picture of the life of a Hollywood superstar.

Come bedtime, aren't celebrities all worn out from the on-tap attentions of lovely members of the opposite sex? Don't bales of cash make a bed very soft?

Staring into the dark each night at 1am, 3am and 5am, I tell myself that wakefulness is a symptom of an enquiring mind. But I'd be just as willing to try counting the dollars earned from my last movie.

s.rushton@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Freight Forward Senior Operator

£22000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This logistics firm are looking...

Recruitment Genius: Lead Marketing Specialist

£34500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A lead marketing specialist is required ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician - 2nd / 3rd Line

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Technician is req...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The message displayed on the monitor of a Piraeus Bank ATM in Athens. The Bank of Greece has recommended imposing restrictions on bank withdrawals  

Get off your high horses, lefties – Big Government, not 'austerity', has brought Greece to its knees

Kristian Niemietz
A church in South Carolina burns after a fire breaks out on June 30, 2015  

America knows who has been burning black churches, but it refuses to say

Robert Lee Mitchell III
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map