What to make of Marco Pierre White? Blisteringly talented in his 1990s heyday, his array of dazzling dishes and entertaining refusal to conform made White a legend of the past. But the first British chef to receive three Michelin stars (at the relatively tender age of 33) abandoned the kitchen in 1999 and now advertises stock cubes and appears on reality TV. And the anecdotes aren’t always quite so charming.
Still, White burned so brilliantly that perhaps judging contestants on a cookery-based gameshow like Humble Pie (Watch, 8pm, 16 October) is a better fate for this master chef than remaining miserable and disillusioned at being judged by Michelin for his own efforts.
As for the show itself, White continues with the schtick he introduced to TV viewers when he resurfaced on Hell’s Kitchen in 2007. Part kindly uncle, part serial killer, it’s undeniably odd but it does create some compelling moments. And the contestants were keen to listen to the great man, regardless of his softly spoken lapses into pantomime. As they should be, having been handed a mentor with the latent talent of White.
No doubt the presence of the greatest British chef of all time, whose premature retirement deprived those with deep pockets of some of the greatest plates ever devised by one man, elevated this first episode. But even so it was a refreshing take on the MasterChef template, where techniques were explained and shown in detail and contestants were encouraged to play mind games with each other as they battled for victory and a cash prize. A good show.