It’s fair to say that Simon Cowell’s TV shows have not had a good year what with criticisms levelled at The X-Factor on both sides of the Atlantic plus the failure that was Red or Black he really needs another hit show. It seems then that Cowell has looked to the success of The Great British Bake-Off for inspiration and realised that it might be an idea to create a cooking show.
That cooking show is Food Glorious Food in which host Carol Vorderman and four judges travel round the country looking for the best local dish with the regional winners then competing for a chance to have their dish put on the shelves at Marks and Spencer. To get that far though they have to be awarded a rosette from one of the four judges which is easier said than done as all of them are particularly harsh critics. The first judge we meet is Anne Harrison a steely-eyed formidable Northerner who is the vice president of the WI and isn’t exactly backward in coming forward. Next is Stacey Stewart a Geordie cake-expert who has fantastic hair and was once a finalist on Masterchef before starting her own business known as the beehive bakery. Tom, son of Camilla, Parker-Bowles sort of acts as the judge who has a knowledge of food history and therefore is looking for the dish that best represents the area that they are in. Finally we have the most recognisable member of the quartet in Lloyd Grossman who is allegedly present because he knows what it takes to make a food product successful however it appears as if he’s been told to act as mean as possible and therefore I found him the most annoying of the four.
This week’s edition comes from Malvern which means that the majority of the cooks are from either the Midlands or Wales which means plenty of quirky characters and interesting dishes. You can tell this is a Cowell-produced show almost straight away after the first couple of dishes fail to impress namely Sausages in Milk presented by an optimistic woman named Maria who makes Anne wear a blindfold so she won’t be judging the dish based on looks alone. However even when tasting the dish Anne is unimpressed and even more so when she removes the blindfold eventually making the decision not to give her a rosette something that I agree with as I couldn’t exactly see Sausages in Milk gracing one of those luxurious Marks and Spencer’s food adverts any time soon. The first rosette is finally given about ten minutes into the programme when keen outdoor cook Trish presents her Pheasant Paprikash to Lloyd which is a dish that includes fermented cabbage crushed by Trish’s own fair feet. While Lloyd praises Trish telling her that the pheasant has been cooked with great skill she isn’t as forthcoming with the compliments telling the camera that she didn’t actually know who Grossman so she’s obviously never sampled one of his many different sauces. Someone who is one of Lloyd’s biggest fans is Jane a woman who lost 3 stone after swimming the River Loon and has prepared the dish that helped her lose weight entitled ‘River Swimmer Salmon Stir Fry’. Essentially this was just a combination of salmon and stir fry veg which looked fairly uninspiring so I wasn’t surprised when Lloyd told Jane that the dish didn’t quite work. However it appeared as if constructive criticism isn’t enough in Food Glorious Food so Lloyd also told Jane to ‘go back to the river’ a comment that is straight from The X-Factor handbook and one that made Jane quite rightly describe Lloyd as being ‘very rude.’
While Stacey is presented as being the cake expert on the panel it is actually history expert Tom who is first to sample a desert in great detail after a pair of Victorian tea-room owners get him to sample Nan Sandwich’s Pud Cake. The cooks in question are mother and son Nadine and Andrew who dress like a pair of pantomime extras and are obsessed with making their food as historically accurate as possible which is good when you’re running a themed tea room but not so good when you’re trying to get a product into Marks and Spencer. This is essentially Tom’s message when he samples the cake and tells the duo that their product should be tastier before adding that they’ve been hobbled by authenticity and eventually decides not to award them a rosette. Faring better was Stoke-on-Trent DJ Terry who was hoping to get more exposure for the Staffordshire Oatcake by getting his dish in Marks and Spencer however he came up against the formidable Anne who hadn’t awarded a rosette all day. Luckily the fact that Anne hadn’t sampled an oatcake before coupled with Terry’s charming attitude saw her award the Stoke-on-Trent native with her first rosette of the day. As a Staffordshire native I wanted Terry to win as I feel not many people outside of the county have actually tasted the oatcake which is a great shame. Anne’s other favourite of the day was Susan’s Dragon Pie which was a leek and cheese pie with a difference as the cheese actually contained a whole lot of chilli. While Anne was initially unimpressed once she got the hit of chilli she appreciated the difference of the dish and awarded Susan a rosette.
Obviously Cowell himself wasn’t present on screen however he almost managed to get his name sandwiched into the show as two women presented Tom with the welsh dish ‘Cawl’ which when pronounced in a Welsh accent almost sounds like the name of a certain music mogul. In actuality Cawl is a Welsh broth and as you can guess there was more than one competitor who’d decided to cook it with two women going head to head with the dish. There was also a little bit of drama worked into this section as one of the cawl chefs, Sian, did herself an injury and had to be rushed to the nearest ambulance meaning that her son had to go head to head with rival Saron. Tom was impressed with both dishes namely Sian’s as he felt her son did a good job in getting across the importance of the broth but ultimately he thought both had merit so awarded rosettes to both women. Simon Cowell’s shows are also known for a large amount of emotional manipulation through the use of sob stories and Food Glorious Food was no different as Stacey was presented with a Pimm’s Jelly made by the students of Star Bistro. Star Bistro is a special education college in which young people with various disabilities are given the opportunity to cook for customers who then come to sample their creations. We heard from one of the students, Joe, who told how he had a brain tumour when he was younger and the subsequent coma left him disabled however through the Star Bistro he has been able to fulfil his dreams and one day hopes to open his own bistro. Not only does Stacey award the jelly with a rosette but also picks it as her dish of the day going up against Lloyd’s pheasant paprikash, Anne’s dragon pie and Tom’s selection of Sian’s cawl.
The final part of the programme takes place in Judges’ HQ, not to be confused with Judges’ homes from The X-Factor, a sort of spooky mansion in which each judge attempts to extol the virtues of the dish they’ve picked from Malvern. The dishes are also created by the Marks and Spencer’s team with Head Office representative April Preston casting doubts in our minds about the dishes by telling of the problems their chefs would have in mass producing the four final selections. As this is a programme produced by Simon Cowell the judges’ final decision is revealed in a dramatic manner with all four writing down their decisions on a slip of paper before placing them into an urn. The finalists are then gathered into the main hall of Judges’ HQ where Carol stands by a large dish and pulls away the top half of it revealing the winner which in this first episode was the Pimm’s Jelly which I don’t think was a surprise to anyone.
There are many things wrong with Food Glorious Food the first of which is that it seems to have been produced with plenty of cynicism and to me it seems like The Great British Bake-Off with all of the charm and warmth removed. You can tell immediately that Simon Cowell has had a hand in this programme as the sampling of the dishes are accompanied by plenty of dramatic music and reaction shots while the comments from the quartet are also reminiscent of some we’ve heard on Cowell’s many talent shows over the years. I wasn’t much for the four judges either with Anne essentially being portrayed as a battleaxe approximation of Mary Berry while Lloyd Grossman was on hand essentially to be the nasty judge a role that didn’t really suit him. Stacey was obviously picked as the ‘quirky one’ however to me she came across as quite a mean person who kept going on about ‘me nan’ the entire time she was on. In fact the only likeable member of the panel was Tom Parker-Bowles who presented as rather amiable posh bloke who didn’t really have it in him to be as mean as the rest of the judges. Meanwhile Carol Vorderman was also wasted in her role as host and didn’t really have that much to do until the Judges’ HQ portion of the programme. Though I felt there was a lot wrong with the programme I felt there were still some likeable elements as Food Glorious Food came across more like a quirky daytime show which was a mixture of Great British Menu and Dickinson’s Real Deal. However any praise for the show stopped when the Star Bistro kids appeared as from then on I knew exactly who was winning as it appeared as if the judges’ couldn’t vote against a group of courageous disabled children even though some of the other dishes were slightly more exciting.
Essentially Food Glorious Food is an average daytime programme which has been promoted to a primetime position mainly due to the fact that Simon Cowell is producing the show. Though there are some likeable elements they are cancelled out by the cynicism, emotional manipulation and over-dramatic nature of the programme. Ultimately I feel as if this show will struggle to find an audience as to me it seems to have been pieced together with successful elements from other programmes and therefore has none of the charm that made The Great British Bake-Off one of the most popular shows of 2012.
What did you think to Food Glorious Food? Did you find it as cynical as I did? Leave Your Comments Below.