Silly Celebrity season once more, as witnessed by the intro sequence of gurns, faked poses and Minty from Eastenders juggling satsumas. He was joined by Gareth Choirmaster Malone; Mel Blatt, formerly of All Saints; reality performer Mojo, and Legend Chris Eubank, henceforth to be known as Egobank. He is definitely the most legendary legend there’s ever been in the history of legends and in case we didn’t realise this, he’d adorned his dapper suit with a gold star in case he didn’t get one immediately he’d set foot in the kitchen.
Clearly Gregg Wallace (aka Shrek) knew this and came up to take a selfie, which I’ve never witnessed before.
‘Do a boxing stance,’ commanded Shrek. Nobody tells Egobank what to do, so he did a thumbs up instead. There were many thumbs up in his two episode tenure, along with shoehorning a mention of, ‘Winning the World Championship in 1990’ (trips off the tongue doesn’t it?) into as many conversations as he could manage, as well as a liberal sprinkling of ‘stupendous’, ‘delicioso’ and ‘fantabulosous’.
Egobank has some balls though. In the first challenge, while everyone else is knocking up tarte tatin, chocolate cheesecake and Mojo is gibbering at having to take the shells off her prawns, he is cooking his ingredient, a piece of squash, in stock and herbs. Not for him any accompaniment of protein, carbs or any other vegetables such as mere mortals might use, the single squash is all he needs.
‘Halfway through’ bellows Torode (Toady), as Egobank jiggles his one pan with his one ingredient. Fifty minutes to boil a veg! So much time has he, that he can write some ‘inspirational’ words next to it.
It needed for Shrek to say firmly, after this Emperor’s New Clothes display, that while the piece of squash was very nice indeed, when he cooked next, they’d like to see ‘a little more cookery’ from him.
Everyone did very well in this first round, as best a start as Shrek could remember. Cliff Parisi, aka Minty’s, dry sense of humour was chucklesome, having admitted he cooked once a year at a barbecue. ‘What do you want to do?’ enquired Shrek, ever Paxman-like in his forensic questioning. ‘I want to open my own restaurant, invite you down and you give me a five star review.’ As he turns out his tart, which oozes rather, ‘I think it’s beautiful, but then I am its parent.’
Next round, as they sampled the poutine and guessed the ingredients, Egobank informs us that creating the dish is not as difficult as having a tooth knocked out in the ring. His is not just good, it’s fantabulous, as he cocks his thumbs aloft and the camera pans to his pan, where some hunks of meat are bubbling unattractively in an oil lake.
Later he bursts into ‘Good Morning’ from Singing in the Rain.
‘He’s the one you want to ask about that,’ says Shrek, indicating Gareth.
‘Stick to the cooking,’ mutters Gareth. Egobank’s eyes narrow and Gareth attempts a backpedal, but he doesn’t mean it. He’s busy continually eyeing up Mel’s dishes, who is clearly Number 1 in the class to his Number 2 and trying to guilt-trip her into letting the rest of them catch up.
Next day they were tasked with making pasta pesto. No packet and jar affair obviously.
Egobank was guided step by step through the pasta making process but still managed to produce something barely edible, except in his head, where he gave it an 8. Had he tasted it?
‘I can see the taste with my eyes’. We’d best get onto the Rouxs and the Ramsays and tell them they’ve been doing it wrong all this time. Cliff cheerfully describes his pasta as, ‘old bootlaces. I wouldn’t make my pasta, I can tell you, I’d buy it, it’s only £1.25.’
Next, pro chef Freddy Forster came with four recipes for them to attempt. Of course he wasn’t as much of a pro as Egobank, notwithstanding his achingly slow chopping of tomatoes and reluctance to put coriander in his dish, as he doesn’t like it.
‘I’m having to do half the dish for him,’ says Freddy sagely, a tic starting to form in his eyebrow, although he draws the line at actually cooking the damn thing for him, which is why it’s overcooked. This is in direct contrast to Mel, who has all the skills and none of the over confidence.
Then onto a dish from their heritage that’s important to them. Cliff poshes up his pie ‘n’ mash with parsley, giggling in glee. Egobank makes a decent fist of his ackee and salt fish, but luckily the judges knew there was only so long this charade could run.
‘Thanks, Chris,’ said Shrek, dismissing him.
‘Pleasure,’ said the man, as if bestowing a favour, head almost knocking the edges of the door on his way out.
Onto the cooking for past contestants and Cliff is feeling the strain. ‘I’m like a spent sausage,’ he says wearily, as Mel whizzes past him at a million miles an hour, cooking up a storm. Gareth is also bustling about competitively but luckily Cliff’s Greek lamb knocked it out of the park. As he and Mel cakewalked around the studio, it felt justice had prevailed.