As regular readers will know I enjoy the Master Chef series. I am amazed at the talent of the amateurs and the celebrities, but the beginning stages of the ‘Professionals’ makes me gasp. Everyone of them wants a Michelin star but most of them can’t do the basics!! Spatchcocking a quail/chicken or whatever is a simple task that all chefs should know. How to make a Bordelaise sauce? Too much for some of them. It reminds me that many years ago when I was involved in putting together the hill top restaurant that was to become La Mirage (should be Le Mirage) overelooking the Benalmadena road, I was looking for a chef from the UK as there were not many good chefs here in the late 80’s! I spoke to my friend Gary Rhodes who at the time was the Head Chef at the Castle Hotel Taunton asking if he knew anyone that might be interested. He reminded me of his second chef who I knew, Mark Pantling saying that he wanted a change of scenery. So he came over and we spent a few days eating at a few of the best restaurants at the time in Marbella such as La Fonda and La Meridiana. He picked holes in all of them, rightly so. On the way back to the airport we stopped at Meson de Juan behind the bus station in Fuengirola a favourite haunt among foreigners at the time. Juan was a good well rounded chef in the classic way. Mark said that it was the best meal we had had and he was honest when he admitted he could not do such simple dishes as Beef Bourguignon, Chicken Kiev, Steak and Kidney Pudding etc. He had only been trained in Michelin restaurants and had never been to college and learned the basics.
That’s where I think half of ‘the professional’ chefs this year let themselves down. The basics!!