Michael Winner’s Dining Stars

by Lisa McGarry

In the first part of Michael Winner’s Dining Stars the critic visits Longridge in Lancashire and the home of Justine Forest.

Justine lives with her husband and three children and is well known in their hometown for her legendary cooking, especially her baking.

She tells the programme: “The food I like to cook is very traditional, Sunday roasts, shepherd’s pie, good hearty food. Michael Winner in my house eating my food? Oh my gosh, I really don’t want to think about it, the pressure is on.”

As he prepares for his journey to the north, Michael is seen getting ready in his luxury mansion with the help of his assistants, Dinah and Joan who help pick out his clothes and wash his hair in beer.

He says: “The north is not a place I frequently go to, it is an alien country, it is another land, but it is beautiful. The people are nice, the people are very nice, but they provide food that is absolutely pathetic and they are incapable of cooking, so, I must say, where I am going does not totally thrill me.”

Before each of the dinner parties, Michael is seen familiarising himself with the hometown of the cook. As he wanders around Longridge he decides to have lunch in a local pub, but the results are disastrous. After his meal he tells the waitress: “This hamburger is uneatable, I’m stopping eating. I’m afraid you do not have three happy customers.”

He adds: “If this is a measure of what cooking is like in Longridge I do not hold out much hope for this evening’s dinner.”

As Justine prepares for her dinner party, Michael reduces her to tears when he telephones and criticises her decision to cook him beef Wellington, saying he doesn’t like the idea of beef wrapped in pastry.

When he arrives Justine’s friends and family make him welcome while she puts the finishing touches to the food. During the meal the critic seems touched by stories about two of Justine’s children, her son, who suffers from a severe heart condition, and her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, but he gives nothing away about the food.

He makes notes as he is eating and, between courses, retires to another room to make recordings of his findings. As the evening draws to a close, Justine surprises Michael by quickly making some of her special chocolate brownies. Michael tells Justine the brownies are ‘exceptional’ and ‘superb’ – but will he feel the same about the meal itself and award Justine a Dining Star?

Next up in the programme is Dean Lewis from Wilmslow in Cheshire who has decided to follow a family tradition and serve Michael a West Indian speciality of ginger and coconut prawns followed by curried goat.

Dean says: “I like to think I can get three stars, but, you know, if I get none I’ll be highly disappointed, but I can’t see that happening, that’s not happening.”

Again, Michael phones Dean before he arrives and tells him he thinks it’s a very ambitious menu and that he’s an expert on curried goat. Dean is not ruffled by the call, but Michael thinks he should be, saying: “The first course sounds to me, a disaster. Why not have a simple first course? When I said you’re taking a high risk his attitude was, ‘Well, I can handle it.’ Well, I have been with chefs who thought they could handle it and they couldn’t.”

When Michael arrives Dean’s family are star-struck and lost for words, but their guest keeps the conversation flowing with stories about himself before recording his thoughts about the meal in another room.

At the end of the programme there are tears, smiles and laughter as both Dean and Justine are invited to London to find out what Michael thought of their meals and whether or not they would be awarded a Dining Star.

Friday, 26 February 2010, 9:00PM – 10:00PM ITV