|Gareth Blackstock, aka Lenny Henry
Photo from Siegler.net
Some people find gardening shows relaxing. Others love watching playful otters frolic with each other in nature documentaries. Give me the red meat and raw savagery of the kitchen anytime.
First, I tore through Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, which I found hugely enjoyable and not a little bit scary. I’m assured by his longtime spokeswoman, Rosemarie Morse, that these days it’s safe to order fish in restaurants on Monday.
In recent weeks, I began watching the BBC series from the 1990s called “Chef!,” starring the British comedian Lenny Henry as the character Gareth Blackstock, a chef in a two-Michelin starred restaurant in the fictional Le Chateau Anglais in the English countryside.
Gareth Blackstock, like Anthony Bourdain and — perhaps more on point — Britain’s bad boy of cuisine, Gordon Ramsay, seems to delight in finding new ways to verbally eviscerate his staff. Yet he, in turn, is kept in line by his wife and business partner, Janice Blackstock, a character played regally by the actress Caroline Lee Johnson.
Written by Peter Tilbury, who also plays the role of the restaurant manager, “Chef!” hilariously explores such business and marketing issues as brand extension (a line of Gareth Blackstock dishes, such as boiled-in-the-bag beef bourguignon) and the management challenge of coping with an alcoholic sous chef.
Perhaps my favorite episode so far, though, is the one in which Gareth Blackstock is invited to compete in Lyons against a constellation of French culinary stars for a prestigious award. In an echo of the “Judgment of Paris,” the famous 1976 wine tasting in which French experts ranked American wines the best over vintages from famous French chateaux, Gareth – a “Rosbif” – beats out a bevy of “Frog” rivals using a wine produced in the Chilterns, the gentle hills outside of London where the Prime Minister’s country residence, Chequers, is located.
Is there really wine being made in the Chilterns? When my family and I lived in London in the 1990s, I was aware of wine being made in the Cornwall area, which is warmer than most other parts of the U.K. Yes, indeed: There is a Chiltern Valley Winery & Brewery, as well as apparently a Thames & Chilterns Vineyards Association.
Should we thank global warming for this surprising development?