“Shooting the Cook” is a memoir written by TV producer, director and, alongside Keith Floyd, legendary maker of television food programmes. I suppose the most well-known quote from the book is this,
“Cooks on television,” Keith pronounced “could be as famous as rock musicians and racing car drivers”
Here’s another quote which I particularly like,
“they” (television producers) “come in to my restaurant pissed out of their heads, promising me the earth with my very own series. I break open my very best brandy, then they piss off and I never see them again”.
Fortunately for us they did see each other again. Amongst other things this book wonderfully describes the behind the scenes story of the 1985 TV series ‘Floyd on Fish’ often regarded as the one which kicked down the door on the subsequent cult of the celebrity TV chef in the years that followed. The best part of this story is that its success was all an accident! For people like me who are addicted to TV food programmes and occasionally dabble in the kitchen or maybe even have the pretentions to maintain a food blog this is a must read. It is a must read because this is where it all started.
Until Floyd and Pritchard the stereotype TV cooking show was a very stayed, studio based, educational, domestic science, type of affair. The stereotype isn’t true of course. Even Pritchard admits the Floyd programmes were heavily influenced by the Galloping Gourmet (Graham Kerr, “the James Bond of cooking”). Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Fanny Craddock the only TV cook to have played the Albert Hall? Complete with evening dress and husband Johnny in tuxedo? Still, however you look at it what they did was extraordinary for its time. They took cooking out of the TV studio and into the real world. They smashed the mystique of the restaurant kitchen. They went out on the trawlers. They went to the farms. They showed us were the ingredients come from. They showed us organic and free range. Food and cooking became a fun and exciting adventure. In short, “Floyd made it OK for blokes in pubs to have conversations about chillies and coriander”. Here is one last quote from the book which, for me, sums up the whole phenomenon.
“Forget about exact ingredients, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax. Peel a couple of cloves of garlic and make the whole cooking experience far more enjoyable than going out to a restaurant.”