I still enjoy MC, despite its pretensions, but its prevailing chauvinism leaves a sour taste, despite the gorgeousness of the food. Yes, a woman has won the regular show for the last two years, a couple have won the Pro version and about half of the 'Sleb' winners have been female. However, the fact is that across all the shows, the women have to be on top of their game ALL THE TIME to prevent elimination. Look what happened to the exceedingly talented Speech Debelle, head and shoulders above everybody else, until an off day near elimination. In this year’s regular version, Larkin did so badly one day that he was in danger of being kicked out immediately, if Marcus-I’ve got a poker up my arse-Wareing, had anything to do with it. However, he survived and the lovely Saira also had a slightly off day near elimination and went out. Well, she was a bit mumsy, a bit too female, not pushy enough.
So flying the flag for the ladies this time was Janet Street-Porter, who noted that it would be a disgrace if there hadn’t been a woman in the final. A lot of people hated her, pouring bile from all sides on Facebook and Twitter: that she was rude, that she moaned all the time and wouldn’t take criticism. This is partly true and her refusal to smarten her plates up did grate after a while. She was rightly beaten by the delightful Ade. But hallelujah for somebody finally puncturing the pomposity that surrounds the whole charade, the ridiculous bigging up of critics, the reverential ecstasy over some spuds in butter. ‘It’s only cooking, it’s not a vaccine for polio,’ she griped once. Another time, when they were shouting at her to hurry: ‘It’s not a UN peacekeeping envoy.’ The hysteria and hand-wringing that amasses if a dish is going to be, gasp, a few minutes late, is frankly ridiculous. It’s as if open-heart surgery is taking place and the diner will literally DIE, if their salmon remoulade is not delivered immediately. ‘I’m doing it, I’M DOING IT!’ she bellowed in a restaurant as a harassed head chef scuttled about.
Gregg didn’t like her one little bit, especially as she is miles taller than him. (And everybody else - she’s like the scarily enormous Snow Queen from Narnia.) ‘First rule, make friends with the judges’, Gregg ill-advisedly offered in the first programme. She fixed him with a steely glare and rightly so. Leaving aside the gross corruption this implies, why should she, who has accomplished a huge amount in her career, simper and kowtow to Toady and Shrek? I don’t know who came up with those brilliant nicknames, but hats off. And what exactly is Wallace’s cooking background anyway? In earlier series, they used to call him ‘Fruit and Veg man Gregg’, but this has been dropped now that he’s a bona fide ‘sleb’ himself, having been in the tabloids enough. He can certainly trough up half a plateful on one spoon quite impressively and lust over the luscious young female contestants, I mean, their delicious food, but can he make anything himself?
Torode may be a sanctimonious prig at times but at least he can cook. Shrek’s saucer eyes and salivating mouth bear testament to that when he’s rustling up one of his creations for the amateurs to mess up. And according to my mate who was on the show, Torode is genuinely interested and supportive. Where Wallace looks most out of place is on the Pro version sensibly avoided by Torode, who knows the edict of too many cooks. Michel and Monica (that’s how tough you have to be to get on as a woman) glide about chopping and sautéing and patronising Gregg gently and he is left marooned like the last coconut at a shy, his ‘deep and meaty’s’ sounding like a soggy leftover on the plate.