There’s a fine old ding-dong going on over on the forum pages about Irish food blogger Donal Skehan’s ‘Kitchen Hero’.
Irish TV production companies have never been noted for giving us anything that resembles creativity. Lack of imagination, low budgets, whatever… .. something always seems to get in the way.
RTE like to genuflect towards what’s going on over the water – Rachel Allen was configured as ‘The Irish Nigella’, camera thrust between cleavage at every opportunity, particularly in the early series. Come hell or high water, this nice mother -of-two from Foxrock would be turned into a sex symbol by the magic lens was the proposition.
Hence also this guy Donal who is made up as (and fingers at Montrose are xxd the cosmetics will stick) ‘the new Irish Jamie’. Of course there are differences. Jamie was a working chef. He also came with a bit of an Essex twang – our boy was ‘the bit of rough that’s called to take our daughter out’ as t’were. Even with the ‘pukka’ and the ‘mates’ affability, there was something a teensy bit threatening about young Mr. Oliver. In contrast, Donal looks about 14 and very wholesome and non-threatening – granny would adore him.
Such is the goodwill in the ‘meeja’ for things Irish it can’t be long before this pleasant and modestly talented kid winds up on the Beeb alongside The Fragrant Crasher of Garlic. And good luck to him. I hope success doesn’t make him a pain in the arse (and it certainly hasn’t spoiled Rachel).
Chefs are a strange and sometimes curmudgeonly breed. The sighting of an ‘amateur’ on telly, armed with naff knife skills and a ragbag of stolen recipes is wont to send them into paroxisms of anger. It’s as if their own professionalism is threatened by the very existence of these charlatans. And maybe it’s tinged with resentment that the working pros aren’t the ones who get noticed, the ones who are up there getting fame and a fat fee for churning out a mock Caesar salad and Hasselback potatoes. Can’t say I blame them.
My own view? I don’t give a flying fuck. TV cookery programs – from Fanny Craddock to Masterchef – are about as relevant to real life or real cooking as The Eurovision Song Contest is to real music. TV is a distortion. It gave me an irrational loathing of Anthony Worrall Thompson, a feeling wholly dispelled when I spent some time in his company at Tasting Australia. It had me drooling over Nigella until I saw her in the flesh, on the arm of hubby Chas at his art gallery.
I know all the arguments – like, “Donal on telly will turn young lads off junk food and into cooking for themselves.” Bollocks. I’m old enough to remember a cigarette campaign designed to appeal to the ‘Only the Lonely’ generation and turn ‘yoof’ on to a brand called ‘Strand’. After the campaign the agency commissioned research and discovered that the new Strand smoker was a C1/C2 elderly lady who felt sorry for the young loner in the ads and wanted to take him in out of the rain, give him a hot cup of tea with plenty of sugar. I wouldn’t mind betting that today’s ‘yoof’, looking for something raunchier, will give Donal the thumbs down. He will have a market among the mums and, of course, other food bloggers though.
At the end of the day, TV cheffing is ‘entertainment’ (the inverted commas are mine) and the best arbiter of said entertainment’s quality is not a critic or a phone-in vote but your thumb and that big button on the remote.
Mind you, I wouldn’t have minded a few bob for reproducing Alastair Little’s Crispy Squab with Chinese Seaweed or my own Double Onion Soup for a fireside audience. Bit late for that, I suppose.
ps. None of the above detracts from or alters my opinion of Donal Skehan as a food blogger. He’s energetic, he’s innovative, viz his ‘Twinner Party’ and, according to others, he’s endlessly helpful to new bloggers.