tue 25/02/2020

The Chef's Brigade, BBC Two review - you're in the army now | reviews, news & interviews

The Chef's Brigade, BBC Two review - you're in the army now

The Chef's Brigade, BBC Two review - you're in the army now

Jason Atherton wants to build a team to take on the finest cooks in Europe

Jason Atherton (centre) keeps his aspiring chefs up to the mark

While a spot of home cooking can be a relaxing experience with a nice meal at the end of it, signing up to this culinary campaign with Michelin-starred mega-chef Jason Atherton is like being sent off to join the Foreign Legion. The plan is that Atherton and his trusted advisers Dale and Andy pick a squad of young, untried chefs from around Britain, then take them to top restaurants across Europe to see if they can beat the locals at their own recipes.

They began in Puglia, southern Italy, at a restaurant called Osteria Origano, where they were greeted by the cheerful proprietor Alfredo and his kitchen crew Roberto, Alessandro and Giuseppe. Atherton’s invaders found themselves facing the challenge of recreating such house specialities as ballotine of guinea fowl with wild chicory, mashed potato and chicory sauce, and pasticciotto with vincotto ice cream and meringue.

It was a big ask for young chefs whose previous experience was making tapas or working in a fish restaurant in Kent, but their secret weapon was Atherton himself. He has survived working with Gordon Ramsay and has opened a chain of top-rated restaurants around the world, and isn’t about to make a fool of himself on TV. “Chefs are notoriously competitive,” he growled, giving the camera his intimidating narrow-eyed glare.Atherton also spent some time in the Army Catering Corps, and his penchant for militaristic discipline proved very handy here. His plan is to form his young charges into a tight, well-disciplined team (the “brigade” of the title), using a strict hierarchy of roles so everybody knows exactly what they have to do, and who’s in charge. He even conducted an army-style kit inspection, to make sure his trainees had brought the right kind of knives. To his horror, Daisy hadn’t brought any knives at all, so her card was marked straight away.

It all looked superficially convivial as the brigade retreated to their base in a converted farmhouse surrounded by olive trees, but Atherton takes no prisoners. Shivam, a doe-eyed young chef from Mauritius, was chronically homesick and couldn’t get his culinary act together, so Atherton sent him home (“you have to make changes to make it a better team”). Atherton and his henchmen decided James was too cocky so they demoted him to the junior role of kitchen porter, to give him a kick up the backside (it worked).

You could see how Atherton rose to the top of the superchef tree. He’s focused, determined, happy to crush a few toes and fanatically thorough. The way he gathered his team together to analyse the ingredients and cooking techniques of the Italian dishes, and then decide how they could profitably be modified, was awesome. Let him down at your peril.

Atherton conducted an army-style kit inspection, to make sure his trainees had brought the right kind of knives


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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