MEDIA: Taste of success for telly chefs in foodie takeover

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.

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

Rick Stein.

Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.


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