Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MasterChef: Getcha, Getcha Ya-Ya Da-Da

Gregg Wallace and John Torode have revealed what they would cook for Prince William and Kate Middleton's guests if they were in charge of the royal wedding meal. Which they aren't, just in case you were wondering dear blog reader. Five million viewers are fans of MasterChef but we're not sure if that extends to Buckingham Palace. The duo described their plans while speaking to Absolute Radio's Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show ahead of the MasterChef grand final. Wallace said: 'Well, we're in London - we'd have a great big tray of sea food - whelks, cockles, crabsticks - to start. Then they'd be tucking into some proper spring lamb, followed by rhubarb crumble and custard. A true celebration of British cockney food. Then they'd have a right old knees-up.' Wild-eyed Colonial Boy Torode added: 'I would go for something similar to Greg. I reckon oysters to start, then some pie and mash with liquor, then lots of strawberries, lots of rhubarb - even a bit of crushed meringue to finish. We call that Eton mess.' That's a pretty accurate metaphor for modern Britain, actually - loads of rhubarb and an Eton mess. You need to add it a bit tripe and some hot tongue as well. Hopefully, followed by cold shoulder. Of Thursday night's final, Torode said: 'It's been a privilege and an honour to watch three great finalists. I've got to say, though, anybody who made it through to the auditions - the twenty people who actually lined-up for that first day - congratulations to them. Our three finalists are superb, but to make it into the last twenty of MasterChef is a great achievement. Good on you guys.'

It's interesting, is it not that the Daily Scum Mail, one of the organs of the press that spent much of late February heaping bile on MasterChef for daring to change its format after a few dozen malcontents got uppity on Twitter is now, apparently, the show's bestest friend in all the land, that am. Why the MasterChef's the ONLY talent show that is a recipe for success is a perfect illustration about why tabloid newspapers should never be trusted, dear blog reader. Because any way the wind blows, they will follow. Usually with their collective tongue hanging out.

Anyway, in a suitably tense climax to what has been a thoroughly entertaining eleven weeks, Tim Anderson became the youngest ever amateur winner of MasterChef. The twenty six-year-old American triumphed over Sara Danesin and Tom Whitaker in Thursday's final and was awarded the coveted title by judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode. Tim grew up in Racine, Wisconsin with his parents and brother, before moving to Los Angeles to attend college aged eighteen. He has been married to his wife Laura for three years and lives in North London, where he is currently working at a bar near Euston Station. The episode began with the usual background pieces on the three finalist. Sara was filmed around her job as a nurse in York, talked about her 'naughty' triplet sisters and was seen at home having a meal with her husband and teenage daughter. Tom talked about working in a cheese warehouse and his time dee-jaying in sweaty clubs, living in Rome and his forthcoming marriage to Lucy all to a Massive Attack soundtrack as he and Lucy were filmed walking by the Thames. Tim discussed his childhood and wish to get out of Wisconsin (making it sound like the arsehole of the universe, frankly), his love of all things Japanese and how he'd wooed his wife with the promise of a beer and cheese party. He also talked about his love of English humour and how much he'd learned from John Torode. 'Why can't we all win?' he asked solemnly at one point. Because, Tim me auld mate, like the movie Highlander, there can be only one. Then we got to the final day - and we discovered just how long ago this was actually filmed (it was snowing for a kick off!) John and Gregg got all serious and told their trio of stars that this was 'the big one' and various other clichés. Three courses. Two hours. One winner. 'They're really going for it,' noted Gregg reaching one cliché too many. 'My heart's thumping and my mouth's watering.' Seriously, mate, I'd get that seem to if I were you. It sounds like you're either very hungry or you're having a really serious myocardial infarction. Sara was calm and smiling. And she was also - quite literally on fire - cooking a starter of chocolate ravioli with a partridge ricotta stuffing and beurre noisette with parmesan. Gregg said it was as good a pasta dish as he'd ever tasted. Her main was saddle of hare served on blackberry jam with crispy thyme-scented polenta, parsnip silk, chestnut purée and a medley of autumn mushrooms. John described is, simply, as 'amazing.' Her dessert was mango parfait and passion fruit glaze with a lime and vodka sorbet. 'I wanna take my jumper off and dive in,' Gregg said and you guessed that he meant it. Tom gave a precise little essay on the natural of sacrifice as he served a starter of pan-fried fillet of gurnard, octopus and ham pease pudding and mollusc ragoût. Then came a main course of stuffed saddle of roast suckling pig, smoky pomme purée, crubeens and a crispy pig's ear salad and pork broth that would have had yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self licking the plate and lining-up for seconds. And, probably thirds. Seashore and hedgerow: carrageen moss pudding, oat biscuit crumble, quince and rosehip coulis, elderflower jelly and crystallised mint leaves was Tom's dessert, a climax to an almost perfect three courses. Gregg was particularly full of praise for the dessert. 'The flavours in this are new to me and they're delightful.' In fact, but for a slight mishap with his pease pudding in the starter it would have been perfect. Sara, you sensed, had one hand on the trophy already. Thence came the Mad Professor. Tim's starter was the stuff of MasterChef legends: A trio of mini-burgers - the Los Angeles Slider of wagyu tartare, smoky lime and jalapeño marmalade, avocado and butter-bean mousse, a Tokyo Slider of monkfish liver, umeboshi ketchup, jellied ponzu, matcha mayonnaise and a London Slider of curried lamb cheeseburger, apple and ale chutney, raita mayonnaise. This was followed by a main of kyushu-style pork ramen with truffled lobster, gyoza and aromatic oils, and then, a trio of outstanding British desserts consisting of sticky toffee crème brulee with blackcurrant stout sauce, rhubarb crumble with custard and a savoury cheddar cheesecake with whiskey jelly. John and Gregg were, simply, blown away and you kind of knew, even before they went into their huddle, that Tim was going to win. 'That went better than expected, actually,' said Tim with fantastic understatement. On the subject of his dessert he merely noted 'if you make a classic British dessert that Gregg Wallace doesn't like, you've made a really big mistake.' Tim didn't make any mistakes, big, small or otherwise. And yet, he seemed genuinely surprised when it was announced that he'd won. And quite humbled too. 'Tom and Sara are outstanding cooks and I never really thought I had a chance to beat either of them,' he said afterwards. 'Looking back on all the amazing cooks that left before me, it is really quite humbling to have come out on top. Humbling but super-awesome at the same time. Really, it is such a good feeling. I'm very proud of the accomplishment and I'm just so glad that John and Gregg liked my food.' Torode said: 'I think all three were amazing but Tim was in a different world altogether. He had influences from Norway, Japan, America, Australia and the UK. That all coming together gave us the best culinary explosion that we've ever seen in MasterChef.' Gregg didn't add any further comment. He was probably over in the corner having a MCG just to make sure the thumping heart wasn't lupus. Challenges in the final week for the final three have included catering for a wedding in thirty five degree heat in Australia, preparing a three-course lunch for Torode's family and mentors, serving up dinner for Michelin-starred chefs and working in three of New York's finest restaurants. Tim admitted that he thought his MasterChef dream was over in the early stages of the competition when he had his first night of professional service at Suka. 'I walked out of that hotel thinking I just might not have what it takes to be a professional cook,' he said. However, from his first dish of cod tempura and candied purple sweet potato chips right back at the auditions, Tim always impressed the judges. 'The big, silly, long-term goal is to have an empire, hopefully including several regional Japanese restaurants and an American-style brewpub,' he said. 'But for the moment I'm really anxious to get into some professional kitchens and work in whatever capacity I can. I still have so much to learn about how a kitchen and a restaurant operates, from nuts and bolts things like butchery and knife skills and sauces up to ordering, accounting and staffing. Then I'll be ready to open a restaurant that focuses on the cuisine of southern Japan while still allowing a few creative, personal dishes.' So now, dear blog reader, we can all have a few weeks to relax until Celebrity MasterChef starts!

BBC1 is calling time on US series acquisitions. Incoming channel head Danny Cohen said on Wednesday that high prices and new scope for transatlantic co-productions meant that buying big Hollywood series was off his agenda. 'We don't have big plans to invest. We still want big movies for Christmas and Easter, but we don't have big plans to invest in series,' he said. Cohen, who said he would not be going to the LA screenings, said that bidding against pay-TV giant BSkyB's financial muscle often meant that rivals could not compete. 'Costs are very high across acquisitions. Sky's buying power can be very decisive. You can see that with the way the outbid [the BBC] for Mad Men and with how much they paid for Boardwalk Empire, which was very expensive,' he said. His comments come as a reduced commitment to US fare from other UK broadcasters like ITV and Channel Four means that terrestrial primetime is virtually a no-go area for American shows like House and Lost - both of which built their following on network TV before being snapped up by digital channels. Speaking at a lunch hosted by the Broadcasting Press Guild, Cohen said the BBC was exploring new partnerships in the mould of its deal to co-produce the new series of its existing SF drama Torchwood with Starz. The new series of the Doctor Who spin-off drama will be broadcast this summer on both sides of the Atlantic and will be made by BBC Worldwide's US production division headed by Jane Tranter. 'We have done co-pros before, the area you see it most is in costume drama where we've worked with WGBH. But the model with Starz feels very different to me. It's a very interesting experiment and I want to see how it turns out.'

Neil Gaiman has dismissed suggestions that his upcoming Doctor Who episode was limited by budget restrictions. The fantasy author told SFX that he did not find it 'straitjacketing' to work within a television budget for The Doctor's Wife. 'I don't think it's straitjacketing,' he said. 'It's part of what you do. The nature of the beast is that on the page you have infinite time and infinite money. In reality [it's different].' However, he admitted that the reintroduction of old Who monster the Ood was initially motivated by a lack of money for new prosthetics. 'There are things that happen for budget reasons that actually make things better,' he insisted. 'I didn't plan to bring back a classic monster [but] we got to take a Russell monster and bring it back, which made me incredibly happy, in a weird way. It was a nice link between the Tennant era and the current era, and it was nice to bring it back and do something very different with it, turn it upside down.'

Ray Winstone has revealed that he resisted signing up for The Sweeney because of his admiration for John Thaw in the original TV show. The actor, who will star as Jack Reagan opposite Ben Drew's George Carter in the big-screen remake, told the Digital Spy website that he hesitated about accepting the role until he read Nick Love and Alex Garland's script. He said: '"Before I read the script I wasn't sure about doing it because I liked John Thaw a lot and it was iconic, you're on a hiding to nothing there really. And then I read the script, which is a great script, it's got them old vibes about it. These people when they come through your front door don't mess around.' Winstone noted that the storyline, which updates the action for the present day, is 'not all guns, tingling teeth and driving cars through brick walls.' He added: '"We've got car chases and plenty of action but it's a really good script. You take a deep breath and say, "'Go on, I'm going to have some." With Ben Drew, whose quite weighty from my neck of the woods, I think we're going to have a ball and I think we're going to make a good film.'

ITV has commissioned one-off festive drama Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me. Written by Christopher Dunlop the plot follows Jonathan Donald, whose brash, cocky car dealer is found guilty of drink driving charges. Donald is given community service as punishment and ends up working for sixty hours at The Moonbeam Club, a support group for adults with social and behavioural difficulties, run by Laura Cooper. Donald is initially sent away from the Club by Laura, but after being forced to return by a judge, he gets to know eighteen-year-old Freddie Copeland, who is unlikely to live for another year because of kidney disease and a heart condition. After the pair grow close, he takes it upon himself to make the teenager's dream of a perfect Christmas come true, against the advice of Cooper. Dunlop said: 'I've always wanted to write about the magic of Christmas colliding with the way we torment ourselves trying to make that one day perfect. Fast Freddie, The Widow and Me creates an idyllic family Christmas from the most unlikely collection of characters, who in the process rediscover faith in life, love and hope for the future.' Fast Freddie will be directed by David Richards and executive produced by STV's Margaret Enefer. No details of the casting have been announced yet. It begins shooting next month in London.

BBC director general Mark Thompson has admitted that the corporation is finding it 'extremely hard' to fill senior roles because of enforced salary cuts. Speaking to the Lords communications select committee, Thompson said that 'increasingly, remuneration is a factor' in making top BBC jobs less attractive to applicants. I'll do it. I think you'll find I'm very competitively priced in the job market, Mr Thompson, sir. Thompson was speaking ahead of this week's announcement that George Entwistle has been appointed director of BBC Vision, after fulfilling the role on an acting basis since the turn of the year. The corporation ran an 'extensive recruitment search' for the prestigious Vision post, but decided that BBC Knowledge controller Entwistle was the right person for the role. Despite the healthy three hundred thousand wonga annual salary for the candidate to lead Vision, Thompson said that the BBC is struggling to compete for 'top talent' in 'broadcasting markets, which are commercial.' Previous BBC Vision director Jana Bennett received over half a million smackers during her final year in the post, before joining BBC Worldwide. According to sources reported in the Gruniad, the decision to cut the salary on offer was a dissuasive factor for some candidates. One 'insider' allegedly said: 'The fact the salary that was on offer - although that may have had to change - started with a three put off some people.' In 2009, the BBC bowed to public pressure by agreeing to cull more than one hundred senior managers and also trim top executive pay by twenty five per cent by 2013. Thompson and other senior directors also agreed to waive bonus payments and work one month for free to help cut costs.

Sky News has announced that Royal Television Society Journalist Of The Year Alex Crawford is moving to the broadcaster's South Africa bureau this summer. Crawford, who is a three-time winner of the prestigious RTS award, has spent the past year in Dubai covering the uprisings across North Africa and the Middle-East. She has given reports from Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the disputed Libyan cities of Zawiya and Misratah. In the summer, Crawford will take up a new posting in Johannesburg, covering stories for Sky News from across Africa and around the world. The move is part of a reshuffle of Sky News' foreign correspondents, including chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay transferring from Delhi to the Dubai bureau. Emma Hurd will leave Johannesburg for Jerusalem to become Middle East correspondent, replacing Dominic Waghorn, who is taking up the role of US correspondent. Waghorn will in turn replace Robert Nisbet, who is moving to Brussels as Europe correspondent. Alex Rossi is due take up the post of India correspondent, based in Delhi. Sky News has also appointed Five News' Jonathan Samuels to become its new Australia correspondent, replacing Ian Woods, who returns to Sky News in the UK after successfully setting up the Australia bureau last year. Sarah Whitehead, head of international news for Sky News, said: 'It's been an incredibly busy start to the year for foreign stories and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down anytime soon. Our reformed teams will bring the best news stories from every region to viewers at home and around the world, and will, no doubt, continue to generate award-winning foreign news coverage.' The reshuffle comes as lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal Hunt is this week expected to approve News Corporation's bid to take full control of Sky, including the proposal to spin-off Sky News as an independent company.

ITV and Sky Sports have been awarded new UK broadcasting rights deals for UEFA Champions League coverage running into 2015. In the three-season deal, ITV has secured exclusive rights to sixteen first-choice Champions League games on Tuesdays, along with a highlights package. The broadcaster will show live coverage of the Champions League final and the UEFA Super Cup at the same time as Sky. It will also stream coverage on mobiles. Sky Sports will be able to show one hundred and twenty nine live Champions League matches each season, including all Wednesday games and Tuesday matches, apart from ITV's first pick. The new deal will enable Sky to broadcast up to fifteen live matches each week, including the qualifying rounds before the group stage begins. In addition to live rights and highlights, Sky will also offer online and mobile coverage via Sky Player and Sky Mobile TV. Barney Francis, managing director of Sky Sports, said that the satellite broadcaster offers the 'most comprehensive coverage' of the Champions League. 'We introduced the exceptional quality of HD, then increased the number of live matches and have now pioneered 3D broadcasts,' said Francis. 'The UEFA Champions League goes from strength to strength and we look forward to extending our relationship with UEFA.' Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director of UEFA Events, said: 'The renewal with ITV and Sky Sports will deliver extensive coverage of the UEFA Champions League across all broadcast platforms guaranteeing that it is widely accessible to all football fans throughout the United Kingdom. UEFA is delighted to maintain and further extend its current successful relationship with ITV and Sky Sports until 2015.' ITV controller of sport Niall Sloane added: 'The UEFA Champions League continues to set the benchmark for sports competitions across the world and has been a hugely successful part of the ITV schedule over many years. We're delighted to be extending this long relationship and to have agreed a new deal in which ITV will continue to broadcast the competition free-to-air, and ITV will also have increased opportunities to bring the Champions League to viewers across our online and on-demand platforms.' Sky this week announced that ESPN's 3D coverage of the 2011 FA Cup Final will broadcast on the Sky 3D channel next month. Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville will join Sky Sports next season as a replacement for Andy Gray, who had his ass sacked by the broadcaster in January after a sexism storm.

The latest Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day is one of the most important - and funky - records ever made, from Patti LaBelle, Nona Hendryx and Sarah Dash. Tasty. And hot.