Series like Bake Off: The Professionals are testing their contestants to the limit, and turning off have-a-go home chefs in the process
As a culotte-wearing, peach-cheeked, dairy-overweight teenager, I once decided to cook my family savoury stuffed pancakes for dinner after watching a particularly thrilling episode of 90s TV staple Ready Steady Cook. Maybe I was mesmerised by the lightning-fast chopping of one of the decade’s many new celebrity chefs, or perhaps it was Fern Britton’s cream blazer that a freshly upholstered armchair, but I was hooked like a halibut. The resulting meal, needless to say, was four parts egg, two parts cream and 10 parts underfried chaos.
While Ready Steady Cook’s pancakes may have outfoxed me, they’re nothing compared with the challenges being set by this decade’s equivalents. Forget your £5-a-pop, pre-tea sprint round a four-ring hob. Anyone worth their salt on modern cookery television is expected to go far further: whip up a flock of tuiles, erect a croquembouche, re-create a meal blind (no recipe, no instructions, just a single taste beforehand), gut pigeons, cook without gadgets or simply blow through a spanische windtorte in a matter of seconds. From Bake-Off: The Professionals to MasterChef, modern cookery shows have become difficult, bordering on the impossible.