In the Audience for Market Kitchen II

I’m glad I attended the filming of Market Kitchen for a second time, after my first experience back in March. That session had been an Easter special, and although there was certainly cooking (and tasting) there were a number of segments (judging egg kits for kids, ranking easter eggs made by a range of celebrities and looking at posh jellies inside fruits) which the audience were not involved in at all.

Last time I went on my own but this time I was joined by a fellow poster from the BBC Food Chat board who responded to my invitation to attend with me. We met at the studios in Kentish Town at 8.20 am, grabbed a quick croissant and tea whilst we signed indemnity and permission forms before being lead upstairs to the studio. There were 19 or 20 in the studio audience this time and we represented a range of ages, backgrounds and interests. One couple had come all the way from Cardiff the night before!

Our presenters this time were Matthew Fort and Tom Parker-Bowles. Fort in particular is very warm and friendly and clearly enjoys interacting with the audience. He would often include us in the banter during filming, as there were often many takes and much silliness. And he would also come and chat to us during the breaks between segments. Tom Parker-Bowles was also friendly, though spent much less time chatting to the audience. I like him as a presenter very much; I prefer his relaxed and warm style to that of Matt Tebbit, who can be somewhat more sarcastic and mocking. Fort was dressed in his usual smart suit; P-B was wearing his characteristic scruffy-teen jeans and jumper. Very much the odd couple but a pair that work really well together.

Although we were given information handouts on arrival, which one must sit on during filming, to keep them out of shot, I decided to leave mine in the storage area, with my bag. So when we saw the three guest chefs, the only one I recognised was Richard Corrigan. With him were two ladies. One was heavily pregnant and casually, comfortably dressed. The other, an attractive, long-haired blonde, was dressed in a rather short, midnight-blue, chiffon dress heavily decorated with silver sequins, complemented by a pair of high-heeled silver stilettos! Uncharitable thoughts about nightclub hostesses popped into my head. I was certainly guilty of judging the book by it’s cover!

Immediately on walking into the studio we were asked to taste three pots of hummus and mark our favourite onto a voting slip. All three were far too dry, especially the first one, which could not hardly be described as a paste at all. That one was distinctly peanuty. One of the others was red and tasted of red peppers, chilli and spices. The other was somewhat more standard. None were very good. The first segment filmed saw Fort ask the chefs about their individual hummus recipes before announcing that Sophie Michell’s had won our audience vote. But, in between filming, it became clear that the chefs hadn’t made their respective hummus dishes – rather the crew had done so according to their recipes. And not very well, from their comments, as Corrigan made comments about the texture and adding in more oil. Sophie was disappointed to learn that her hummus had not been presented to us tasters with her specified toppings of pine nuts and chopped spring onions.

As last time, between every segment, not only were the audience mixed up, in terms of where we were all seated, but the tables and chairs were re-positioned too. A male and female took the place of the two male baristas of last time, one of which was that drop-dead gorgeous South African; he was sadly away in Paris, Fort explained. Shame, as he was rather pleasant eye-candy! But the hot chocolates I opted for were still good, so all was not lost! What was odd to me was how often the barista would deliver empty coffee cups to the audience tables during filming; they were obviously keen to give the impression of a proper cafe atmosphere.

One of the segments that was interesting to observe and passionate too was an interview with Professor Tim Lang about food policy in the UK and glocal food and water crises. Lang is Professor of Food Policy at City University’s Centre for Food Policy. The centre specialises in how public and private policy shapes the food supply chain, what people eat, societal health, environmental consequences and so on. Lang combines research on these issues with active policy making working with public sector as well as non-profit organsations.The main two areas covered in the interview were the amount of food wasted in the UK and the world water shortage. Interesting and sobering stuff.

Sophie Michell proved to be far more professional than I (unfairly) expected (and less prone to fluffing her segments than the presenters or Corrigan). Where she did have to do retakes, it was usually because the floor manager and production crew wanted a different angle or a few seconds longer to film a particular step. She made Russian black tea braised ribs with soy, honey glaze using anise, cassia, ginger and five spice amongst the flavourings. With the exception of the tea, not a hugely unusual or innovative recipe, but one I was looking forward to trying – I adore ribs, I love asian spicing and I love tea too so it sounded very promising. The tea was a mix of lapsang souchong and assam, with the lapsang souchong providing a smokey note to the overall flavour. Sitting at a table of 3 I was rather surprised when the tasting plate came with just two small ribs between us and we were given just a fork each with which to attack them. Having been given the forks, we assumed picking the ribs up with fingers (as any sane person would do to eat such a dish) was not to be done, besides which, we weren’t given a rib each. So we awkwardly pulled meat off the bone with our forks, all under the watchful eyes of the cameras. One of our two ribs had very little meat on it and had subsequently become charred and overcooked. Luckily, the other one had much more meat and a good ratio of fat too, which had kept it moist. The outside was crusted and the inside moist and tender. The flavour was wonderful with a great balance between smokeyness, sweetness and warm spices. This will likely prove to be the first Market Kitchen recipe I actually make the effort to try myself! The ribs were served with a very simple cucumber salad. A good contrast but nothing special.

Corrigan was making a breakfast dish of poached smoked Haddock with mustard, dill and dry cured bacon served on light potato pancakes. The haddock was light and moist, though quite a gentle flavour, not as strong as I would have liked. The mustard sauce was nice but the dill didn’t come through at all, likewise in the pancake, which also had dill added. The pancakes were like wee drop scones and were much lighter and airier than I would ever have imagined potato scones could be. This would be down to the whipped egg whites being folded in to the batter separately from the yolks, I guess. The bacon was from The Ginger Pig and was delicious! Corrigan was genuinely delighted with the positive feedback from the filmed audience tasting feedback. I ended up giving feedback on the haddock – I didn’t love it though it was nice enough but they needed an extra person to comment and those who hadn’t already done so were shying away. I’d rather have given feedback on the ribs, which I liked far more. I doubt mine will be used anyway as I called the pancakes scones and focused on them rather than the haddock itself.

The next main segment was rather odd, but to be fair, I’m definitely not the target audience. A bloke called King Adz came on and talked briefly about the origins of hip hop and American culture before recommending Berlin as the hippest (and cheapest) city in Europe; a buzzing place to visit. I couldn’t follow the connection between American food culture (discussed for maybe as much as 10 seconds) and Berlin city breaks! The segment finished with King Adz blitzing together Dime bars, vanilla ice-cream and milk to create a Dime bar milk shake. It tasted exactly as you’d expect, if you know Dime bars but I was confused by how it related to the topics until I finally noticed in my handout that it was something he’d come across in Berlin. A quick google when I got home told me that King Adz is a writer/ photographer/ editor/ producer/ director whose main expertise is “producing food, travel and culture content for the urban youth demographic”. Having learned, last time I was on MK, that it’s very big with university students (it was Countdown in my day) perhaps this segment was a nod to them but probably left the rest of the audience quite bemused. All a bit odd and slightly surreal.

Last to be filmed was Jo Pratt’s segment. Her main dish was paella cakes made from left-over paella though most of the segment was about cooking the paella itself. I didn’t rate the paella cakes at all, the flavour wasn’t great and I didn’t like the texture much either. Again, they gave us just 2 paella cakes between our table of 4 (and this time, no cutlery at all with which to divide and eat them). Alongside the cakes was a small shot glass of red gazpacho. Very nice but again, not practical to share a single shot glass between 4 strangers with no straws or spoons provided. The (single glass) of sherry spritzer also provided was nothing special either. All in all a disappointing segment.

Throughout the morning various short introduction and voice-over segments were also recorded plus a brief section on the growing trend to grow one’s own vegetables. I’d been looking forward to this, as we’ve been growing our own vegetables for several years now, but it was filmed on the large kitchen table in the corner, making it hard for the audience to see and it was a short segment and therefore very superficial.

We finished before 1pm and headed off. LindaCaterina went home to get on with some work. I headed down to China Town to meet a friend (and her lovely baby boy) for dim sum in China Town.

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