There is no shortage of TV for anyone interested in food. Chef after chef fights to get airtime and viewers who can buy the inevitable books. There is a sameness to the style of programme which I dislike – same fake kitchen, same fake friends “popping in” to cook together or to sit round the table to adore the final product.
The BBC is currently showing something a little different and I love it. Take a famous chef and send them abroad to explore the food culture. As I write this I am watching Monica Galetti (better known as Michel Roux’s sous chef) making a trip to the Jura Mountains in France. It isn’t about recipes, more about the experience. She’s been to taste some local cheeses, and experienced the community meals which pop up all over France. She’s cut the strips of spruce which are used to make the boxes the local cheese is packed in. It’s about ordinary food in ordinary communities and I love it.
Previous episodes had Dave Myers in Egypt, Tony Singh in India and John Torode in Argentina. They are all good but they take a very personal slice through the national cuisine. In Egypt there was a big focus on bread and the vast history of bread making there. Dave Myers visited the pyramids and saw the frescos showing the same processes being employed nearby to this day. In India the festivals and the communal cooking were centre stage. In Argentina it was all about beef and the fantastic barbecues which crop up everywhere. John Torode was brave enough to admit he’d been barbecuing wrongly after seeing the locals move the fire to the beef rather than the other way around. He ate cuts of beef which don’t feature around the world but, when cooked slowly with no frills or fancy sauces, looked delicious. All of the chefs are humbled at some stage by the quality of food, the honesty of the producers and the respect they have for the ingredients they use every day.
The rest of the series features Rick Stein in Australia and the wonderful Rachel Khoo in Malaysia.