2017 – the year of avocado toasts, Yorkshire pudding burritos and unicorn, well, everything. It’s also been the year of the comeback – with everything from The Crystal Maze to Curb Your Enthusiasm reappearing on the small screen. And so, if the slew of recent articles is to be believed, is Ready, Steady Cook.
Ready Steady Cook ran for a whopping 16 years, launching the careers of several daytime tv favourites including Gino D’Acampo, Fern Britton and, of course, James Martin – currently touted as the new host.
“I think I’d give it a go. It’s a great format. I’d be a lot slower now than when I was doing it, cause I’m a lot older. People remember that show however old they were. It was the most successful cooking show of its generation,” he said.
So what makes the possible return of RSC so exciting? For starters contestants were average. I don’t mean that disparagingly – unlike today’s cookery competitions, MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, you knew they hadn’t been practicing their soufflés and quenelles for weeks beforehand. They were home cooks, novices or, in some cases, completely clueless and in desperate need of help. There was something gently reassuring knowing that Donna from Norwich couldn’t boil a potato that meant you could smugly elevate your own otherwise ordinary cooking skills to that of “culinary deity”.
Then there was the price tag. Whilst later series introduced a gourmet bag (pushing the budget up to a dizzying £10), chefs had to work with a selection of ingredients costing up to £5, along with anything from the generously stocked store cupboard (where you’d find staples such as milk, eggs and flour). Contestants brought in old favourites, odd “new” ingredients that they had no idea what to do with (couscous wasn’t exactly readily available in 1994) and, occasionally, some joker would spend the budget on a fancy tea towel, forcing poor chef to get exceptionally creative with the pantry items.
Of course, the chefs were no slouches. When you think of Ready Steady Cook, you probably can’t remember past Ainsley Harriott’s grin, but they had some genuinely exciting folk on there, proper chefs – Nick Nairn, the youngest Scottish chef to receive a Michelin Star, Paul Rankin, the first chef to win a Michelin Star in Northern Ireland, Phil Vickery, who whilst at Castle Hotel in Taunton lost then regained a Michelin Star as well as gaining 4 AA Rosettes and being named AA Chef of the Year.
And what really tips it for me is it was recorded live, with minimal editing. This was a real kitchen, in real time, with real people. That meant that if something burned, boiled over for failed to rise, it was all there for the viewers to see. And let’s face it, as much as we like to see Chef in control of their environment, we did enjoy seeing them crumble when Barry from Lincoln brought in a leg of lamb and expected it cooked in a mere 20 minutes.
So I say, bring it on, but don’t make it too sophisticated (I’m looking at you MasterChef), stick to your roots – daytime TV, 20 minutes, new faces amongst established chefs who actually run restaurants, and ordinary contestants of all abilities. Ready?