Let's get this straight from the start. I like the idea of Mango Whizz. The Restaurant is a kinder cousin of The Apprentice. Alan Sugar is replaced by Raymond "Le Manoir" Blanc. Various couples (friends, spouses, lovers, etc) want to open a restaurant. Blanc gives them each an establishment to run. Over the weeks, various challenges ahead, they're whittled down to one and the winners actually do get to run a restaurant free from the strictures (and support structures) of reality tv. Car crash television. Laugh at the little man or woman. Laugh along with them sometimes. An hour passes. Time to take the dog out. It's sufficient entertainment, but like food, sufficient doesn't necessarily hit the spot. I don't think anyone is watching in the expectation of picking up helpful cooking tips.
Anyway, Mango Whizz. For the first episode, the nine teams were competing for eight restaurants. Divided into three teams, they then split a starter, main course and dessert between them. Annette and Kashelle, mother and daughter from South Yorkshire and planning on an establishment called Caribbean Delights, got the dessert option and made the said whizz. Ingredients: a tin of mango pulp, lime, sugar. There might have been some cream. I can't remember. Blend it together and stick in freezer. Annette comments: "If it sets, it's a sorbet. If not, it's a mousse." Total cooking time: about three minutes.
Blanc did commend them on their choice of mango pulp (Alfonso). A dash more lime, perhaps. A tuile biscuit, pondered another judge. But the look said it all. The whizz was no go. The rest of the contestants had battled up to the last minute of their hour to make that one dish, or at least the editors had made it look that way, Annette had bunked off after five. Oh no! But why so bad? For me, the whizz displayed two key concepts in catering:
1. Don't waste time.
2. Nothing wrong with tinned food.
Annette did run a kitchen on Sundays and knew all too well that she could rustle up a load of whizz first thing and then get on with the rest of the preparation. She also knew that futzing around shopping for indifferent mangoes at the wrong time of year was a waste of her time. There was a reliable product that her customers liked and ate. Get on with it. I can perfectly appreciate that for Blanc and his judges this smelled a bit too much of reality, rather than the tv dream. If you're charging Manoir prices, you can afford to indulge yourself and the customer in all manner of ways. For all its offence, the whizz should have gone through. Annette and Kashelle were a lesson in culinary realpolitik and should have been commended and, yes, told to make a bit more of an effort next time, please.
Who went through instead? The judges' decision was played out as if it were down to the church-going black folk and the gay air stewards. These were two niche minority groups. Annette and Kashelle seemed very stable. Possibly dull. Certainly proletarian. Richard and Scott were a functional couple, but we were (were we? The voices are telling me so) anxious to burrow into the cracks. Their restaurant was to be called Sorbet and Seasons. They got the starter option and served pea and mint soup poured into a hollowed out loaf as a bowl. It was almost Futurist cooking. You couldn't tear into the bread around the outside for risk of hot soup gushing over your lap. I'd have added an elastic band or two and encouraged the judges to wear it as a hat for the day. It's not just food, Raymond, it's fashion too.
But whatever the failings of the bread-soup, they knew which buzz-words to use: locally sourced, seasonal, zzz... Too many of the contestants came out with these, but entirely failed to act upon them. For Annette and Kashelle, food was rather more of reality. It was the wrong show. Where was their preposterous ambition? Their self-delusion? Their ridiculous concept? The bourgeoisie could all sit at home and laugh "Ho! Ho! Tinned food? Oh dear me! How déclassé! What were they thinking?" and then head off to restaurants where they're served pretty much the same but just ignorant of the fact. Then blog about it in the morning.
I bought a video camera in Japan but I felt rather encumbered by it. It's a bit of weight to carry around and even more intrusive on your state of mind than a still camera. I should film this or that. No, I thought, in fact I shouldn't. Leave some things unseen. Unrecorded. However, as I ponder my own culinary ambitions and plans, I am sure that I will film some things in due course. So far, the only things that I like the idea of filming are exceptionally static objects. I'll be keeping my Mango Whizz moments out of sight of the braying classes.