velvet three trees campaign

TV chefs are 10 a penny nowadays. Schedules practically creak under the weight of gourmet competitions, campaigning cooks and foodie extravaganzas. Which explains why restaurateur Kiran Jethwa felt the need to risk life and limb to land his own show in The Fearless Chef (Channel 4, 17 April, 7pm) following in the paths of the world’s most extreme hunters and gatherers.

And where better to start the series than with a touch of controversy, tracking the supply chain of the coca leaf - the base ingredient of cocaine? Far from lining the pockets of drug dealers there’s a booming (legal) trade in Bolivia supplying coca leaves to chew and brew as tea, with Jethwa trekking to the remote Yungas Valley to find the source.

There he earned his stripes harvesting leaves in steep jungle valleys where terrain is so dangerous that local farmers fill only four sacks a day, forced to inch gingerly along the shifting earth. Loaded sacks (and people) are then transported across a homemade zip wire 100 ft above the ground before the final stretch along the ‘Road of Death,’ a 65km mountain road that in its heyday claimed up to 300 drivers a year. All that for a paltry $40 per sack paid at the wholesalers.

Jethwa put his haul to good use though, cooking up a feast of bull’s penis broth with coca gnocchi and llama marinated in the bitter leaves mixed with brown sugar. A recipe that looked strangely delicious, if a little alarming - exactly what Jethwa’s bold USP as the latest in a long line of TV chefs looks to be comprised of.