The Teletubbies may be big, very very big, with the under 18s and
merchandising managers of all ages everywhere, but perhaps the most
influential people on TV at the moment - at least in the commercial
sense - are the Telly Chefs.
Cookery programmes on all channels will soon be rivalling comedy and
wildlife repeats in the schedule as cost-effective TV, because apart
from the vegetables, they cost hardly anything to make. It is even said
that some people are becoming so addicted to watching TV chefs that they
are being driven into sad binges - watching the Carlton Food Network
The cooks come in all shapes, sizes and colours and degrees of
eccentricity, but collectively they probably have more power to change
central components of social behaviour - what people eat and drink -
than Agricultural Secretaries.
This is even more true now, since T-Bone Cunningham decided to try to
match the political acumen of Mad Cow Hogg.
Foreign holidays and women’s magazines have played their part in the
national transformation of eating habits but it is the Telly Chefs who
can claim credit for making the food we eat ever more colourful and the
contrast between flavours ever more marked.
Marketing managers have not been slow to see the commercial potential of
the genre in shifting unusual foods off the supermarket shelves. Delia
Smith, apart from trying to rival Dickens as the Christmas author, just
has to mention on TV, in passing, dried cranberries or creamed coconut
for them to disappear from every shop in the known world.
The Telly Chefs have, however, risked demystifying themselves by
creating an illusion - that we could all do just as well as them in 25
minutes without getting the dishes dirty.
Until they eventually get rumbled I hold them partially responsible,
together with the present free-market, capitalist government we have
somehow got ourselves saddled with, for making it virtually impossible
to get into any decent restaurant these days - even on a Monday.
Thanks to Telly Chefs stirring up all this interest in eating it will
soon be like the bad old days of Eastern Europe where it took influence,
if not actually a bribe, to get a table.
Trying to get a restaurant table in a busy part of central London at
short notice is now more difficult than getting a complete set of
Teletubbies, unless you are prepared to eat at noon and promise to leave
by 1pm. Thank God for a nice quiet branch of Wheelers, where time has
stood still, where there are plenty of tables and the menu doesn’t seem
to have changed for at least ten years - and there is not a trace of a
Telly Chef or a Tellytubby in sight.
Surely it can only be a matter of time before they are taken over by
Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.