Pukka no more! How food TV turned nasty

In the beginning, there was the green pepper and the red tomato. Contestants had a mere £5 to fill a carrier bag with ingredients, then 30 minutes to turn them into sumptuous dishes under the watchful gaze of Fern Britton or Ainsley Harriott. The resulting concoctions included the likes of ready salted crisp cookies, banana syllabub, and rice, with everything. This was Ready Steady Cook, the cooking show staple which ran from 1994 to 2010 and which is set for a comeback later this year. But the world it returns to is lightyears away from the one that it left. In the intervening decade, food TV has gone from the quaintly homespun to reaching an apex of ridiculousness.

Where once there was a fresh-faced, pukka-era Jamie Oliver extolling the virtues of mixing salad with your hands and making this thing called “ravioli”, or a wine-soaked Keith Floyd slow-cooking beef in red wine, chicken in white wine (or just drinking wine), now cooking shows have been edged out of the home kitchen and into the Michelin-starred world of molecular gastronomy. Recipes have stopped being practical and delicious and, instead, food is either an opportunity to shame – like Oliver’s classist comments on “eating well” being only a preserve of the middle classes – or an unattainable food porn fantasy streamed in Ultra HD on shows such as Chef’s Table.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 12/02/20]