Virgin Cooks Review: Hard To Swallow

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

VIRGIN COOKS REVIEW: Tuesday 18th August, BBC3, 9pm Alert Me

If Jamie Oliver has taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to the kitchen, the UK is a nation of lazy slobs.

We can’t do toast or heat up beans, we don’t even know what a courgette looks like. All the while we ram burgers and chips though school gates and down the throats of our kids so they drop dead at 35 of heart failure.

The Brennans are a family dropping a grand a month on takeaways and ready meals. They say they’re too busy to make the effort to cook, but younger son Ricky has it all when he confesses he isn’t into the process of chewing food. Too much effort, perhaps.

Enter Gordon Jones, head chef of a 5-star hotel restaurant in Bath, who in seven days is going to teach the family how to cook from scratch, making quenelles out of homemade mushy peas and everything. Mum Lyn and big son Jimmie will go head to head in a series of challenges for the chance to cook for 20 in a week’s time.

How nice. The Brennans will come away having learnt how to sauté, slash their weekly food budget, even become healthier in the process. Oh, wait. This is a BBC3 programme.

So Virgin Cooks becomes more of a point-and-laugh affair, a pompous giggle. It’s a freak show masquerading as a bona fide cookery programme.

While Dad Rob and Ricky snigger on the sidelines, Jones puts mother and son through a series of challenges, the first one a blind taste test in which mum mistakes carrot juice for milk.

True, the Brennans don’t really do themselves any favours.

But it feels they’re being set up to fail, just so we can laugh at them from the comfort of our Habitat-furnished homes. Jones spouts the recipes they must replicate for their challenges at breakneck speed, referencing obscure ingredients and reeling off the baffling measurements needed. They don’t really have a chance.

What makes the show even worse is that it shamelessly employs someone other than Dave Lamb to deliver that dry Dave Lamb-style voiceover, which only really works if you’re Dave Lamb.

On this it’s irritatingly condescending, taking relish at Jimmie’s curdling macaroni cheese. Yes, we know they’re culinarily challenged. That’s why you got them on the programme you self-satisfied ponce.

Virgin Cooks is like that plate of frankfurters, potato smiles and canned spaghetti Lyn serves up – over-saturated, nauseating and hard to swallow.

You won’t even learn to sauté.

Leonie Mercedes

For finer foodie fare, check out our review for Dolce Vito: Dream Restaurant, the programme that sees entrepreneur Vito Cataffo on a crusade to bring British cuisine to Italy. Or for a different clash of interests here’s Celebrity Wife Swap.