Like most people involved in the food industry — both suppliers and consumers — we like cookery programmes. None more so for me than the MasterChef trilogy (Master/Celebrity/Public) and this year’s new wave of MasterChef the Professionals is now well underway. Once again there is a handful of young chefs already floating, like good cream, to the top of the pile. But it does make me wonder how some of them have got jobs. When some of them cannot even fillet a fish! Judges, Marcus Wareing, Gregg Wallace and Monica Galetti looked on in amazement as the butchering of the fish took place!
The problem with young trendy chefs is that some of them have never learned their trade from the base upwards. They have just been trained in fine dining and very little else.
Many years ago, when I was putting together a restaurant just outside of Fuengirola, (La Mirage) I was looking for a modern chef. I had not at that time met my colleague Paul Tugwell and chefs with fine dining experience on the Costa del Sol in 1987 were as scarce as the proverbial rocking horse….! So I contacted my old colleague Gary Rhodes who was Head Chef of the Castle Hotel, Taunton at the time, taking over from Chris Oakes. He recommended Mark, who I knew from my time there in the mid eighties. When Mark came over we ate at all the top end restaurants that were on offer at the time: None of which was particularly impressive. But on the way to the airport after a couple of days we stopped at an old friend’s restaurant near the bus station in Fuengirola. Juan was a Spaniard who had learned his trade in the UK and was a basically trained cook. Mark and I ate a lunch which Mark claimed was the best meal we had had since he arrived. It was then that Mark admitted he had no idea how to make the Beef Bourguignon or the Steak and Kidney Pudding as he had never been taught. He could produce a Michelin star meal, but not the basics. I have to say that the truly great chefs who I know and have worked with had a good basic training before floating off into culinary heaven!