The recipe for TV success

I hope I’m not alone in saying that I like business based reality TV programs. I shouldn’t be: The Apprentice is one of the nation’s least guilty pleasures. People even seem to prefer it to hating on John and Edward (who, incidentally, need to win the X Factor), copying Victoria Beckham’s hairstyle (just FYI, it’s a little bit wavy at the moment), voting in elections or other trivial activities. Everyone cares about who that awful man with the pointy finger is going to propel to the dizzy heights of helping run a section of his recession-hit company that makes computers for people who are still living in the 1980s. Correct me if I’m wrong, but every single winner of The Apprentice always looks slightly disappointed. If Sir Alan is the Willy Wonka of the business world, he’s giving his winners some rotten chocolate.

Of course, the contestants are all idiots. They are all infused with the passion of the Gods to achieve their lifelong dream of working with a cranky old man. This kind of brings me to The Restaurant, a programme that could not be more obviously meant to fill the Apprentice-sized hole left in the BBC’s schedule if it tried. The similarities are striking: another unlikely dream, another fairly cranky boss and another threat that all the contestants’ desires to feed the rich and take their money could be quashed with a snap of the ever-so-French Raymond Blanc’s fingers.

Kitchen based TV always used to be entertaining. I used to love Hell’s Kitchen! I used to love Kitchen Nightmares! I used to be vaguely interested in Ready, Steady Cook! However, I can’t help but feel that kitchen dramas are dying a slow and painful death. I really have no interest whatsoever in Jamie Oliver trying to make chavvy ingrates eat vegetables. The whole idea that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall loves chickens so much that he’s going to look after them and then eat them anyway is, from a vegetarian point of view, a little bit annoying and patronising. Anthony Worrell Thompson, in fairness, has always looked a little like a fattened, plucked turkey, but that doesn’t mean that I want to see him every Sunday morning telling us how to frisson our porridge.

However, this is not to say that The Restaurant itself is awful. If anything, I believe that it is Kitchen TV’s last hurrah. A crossbreed of Kitchen Nightmares, Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook, The Apprentice and, improbably, Property Ladder, The Restaurant is much more than just the program that fills the gap where the Apprentice wasn’t. On the very first episode, we see couples try to open tins with knives, a prospect that is already more thrilling than watching Heston criticise pies. On the second, there is macho posturing and a heartbreaking romance and, most importantly, not one contestant has thus far mentioned how owning a restaurant would be THEIR LIFE. Sure, they all seem fairly excited about working with Le Blanc, but none of them have the same death-stare intensity as any Apprentice contestant. It’s oddly refreshing. This is Kitchen-Business-Reality TV, a concept so inbred it wouldn’t look out of place adorably grazing in an overgrown field in deepest darkest Somerset. What’s not to love?


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