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A TV dinner unfit for a queen

27 April 2006
A TV dinner unfit for a queen

Is there no end to the ways in which the great civilised tradition of gastronomy will be trivialised by the representation of food and cookery on television? I have become increasingly angered by the trend, and recently, through the wonders of the world wide web, have been relieved to find that I'm not alone in my irritation at the clownish antics of some of these self-styled "top chefs".

In the past few months it has become my habit to log on after service and wind down by spending an hour or two communing with others who, like me, are anxious to pour scorn and disdain not just upon the celebrity chefs themselves, but by implication on the millions of intellectually sterile souls who spend their time watching such rubbish. I find my fellow posters are a bright bunch, literate (the use of words like didactic and vestigial are commonplace), well-informed, witty and, I suspect, mostly privately educated.

Matters are not improving. Each new cookery programme seems to plumb new depths in a desperate search for a new way to serve up the same old baloney. We have had the dog's dinner of laddishness that was The F-Word, the pointless attempts to bring gastronomy to the proletariat with Full On Food, the boorish and frankly unhygienic Hairy Bikers, and now we are presented with the Great British Menu - a series that even manages to drag the name of our monarch into the service of this mockery of our culinary culture.

At one stage I believe there was talk that I was being considered to represent Canvey Island on the show, although no formal approach was ever made. Had it been, I suspect the pressure would have been on me to accept - there are times when one has to fight the good fight from inside the enemy camp, however distasteful that might be.

David Smolt is senior chief executive chef at the Corpulent Cock restaurant in the AA two-star, six-bedroom Auberge du Montbazillac, Chelmsford.

E-mail david.smolt@rbi.co.uk

Is television dumbing down our food culture?

Paul Merrett, chef, food writer and presenter of BBC2's Ever Wondered About Food?

There are a lot of good things that come out of television - Jamie's School Dinners was one, and I think Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares opened a lot of people's eyes. I've always tried to look for things that had some worth - Ever Wondered About Food? has a real teaching and learning angle to it.

Raymond de Fazio, London restaurateur

No. I think television is improving our knowledge. It's giving people better awareness of both the quality and standard of food out there. Just the sheer volume of people the television reaches forces people who might previously have had little to do with food to think more about it.

Simon Shaw, chef-proprietor, El Gato Negro, Ripponden, West Yorkshire

I don't think TV dumbs food culture down because ultimately the more people who get an interest in food, even if it's just a little bit, the better. When a TV programme promotes good produce, that's always a good thing. The key thing is that TV is generally more about entertainment than providing information.

John McClements, chef-proprietor, Ma Cuisine and La Brasserie Ma Cuisine Bourgeoise, Twickenham

Yes, I think it probably is a little bit. Reality TV programmes have given people the wrong impression about what food and restaurants are really like. It just isn't like that in real life.

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