Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Spicy Pot Noodle

The good thing about TV chefs is that they've inspired a whole new generation to embrace foreign cultures, put on a stupid hat, and start cooking. Take Alex Scott, for example, a man so Italian he's taken to calling himself Alessandro and avoiding work in the afternoons. Armed with a copy of Delia's 'How to Cook', Alex has bought a couple of microwaves, popped down the cash & carry, and opened Letchworth's very own 'Lanterna', which is Italian for lightbulb (probably). And how many chefs does it take to change a lightbulb? One. As long as it's Gordon Ramsay.

In the new series of 'Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares' which started on Channel 4 last night, Gordon journeyed to Hertfordshire with the aim of turning around the fortunes of the Lanterna, a restaurant staffed by a ready made cast of sitcom characters. There's head chef and business owner Alex, a caffeine addict whose car bears the number plate 'A1 CHEF', presumably because his cooking's about the same standard as a service station on the A1.

Alex is ably assisted in the kitchen by Donna, who admits "I don't really cook", and when asked by Gordon "What inspires you about food?", happily replied "Nothing really".

The meals are served by Emily, Alex's girlfriend, who as an ex air hostess has experience serving badly microwaved food to unimpressed customers who have paid over the odds, so she naturally felt at home strolling the aisles with a fixed smile and patronising the guests.

And finally there's Gavin, restaurant manager and Alex's best buddy, who's unfortunately too shy to say boo to a goose, let alone hello to a customer.

Not surprisingly, the Lanterna has run up debts of £180,000 in the first year, though some of those are obviously legitimate business expenses, like the £46,000 car Alex bought to assist him on his daily journey to work from... um... the flat above the restaurant.

Not that Alessandro can be blamed for the failure of the restaurant - the man has impeccable credentials. As he was only too keen to point out, "I was taught to cook by a very well-respected Italian chef". Marvellous. Naturally Gordon tracked the man down (presumably to start legal proceedings). He turned out to be a taxi driver from Baldock.

But Mario the cabbie had undoubtedly passed something on to his student, and to prove it, Gordon Ramsay blindfolded Alex and set him the task of choosing the most appropriate pasta dressing to go with fresh swordfish. The choices were:

1. Blue cheese.

2. Fresh herbs with olive oil.

3. A spicy Pot Noodle.

Naturally Alex chose the Pot Noodle. I was gobsmacked. How could he choose a spicy Pot Noodle??? The chicken & mushroom ones are much nicer.