Thursday, 3 September 2009

Working-Class Gastronomy (Having A Larf)

Much as I'm a massive fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, it's hard to ignore the fact that he was born in Hampstead, educated at Eton and Oxford and has children named Oscar, Freddy and Chloë. However you perceive HF-W, as he's affectionately known by eco-foodie fans, it's certainly not as a working-class culinary hero. Step forward Dave Myers and Si King. OK, so Dave attended grammar school and both men developed media careers, but nobody watching Hairy Bikers can fail to recognise that Dave and Si both originate from northern working-class backgrounds. Why is that important? Because it took HF-W many years to gain the level of public acceptance he now enjoys, whereas Dave and Si are going down with ordinary folk like a plate of bangers and mash with onion gravy. Which is the reason for this post.

Dave and Si raise their game in a pro kitchenIn their latest series The Hairy Bikers' Food Tour of Britain, the leather-clad foodie duo are doing something quite exceptional that's really rung my bells. They're bridging the gap between comfort food and fine dining - not in the usual patronising middle-class way but with all the honesty and joy of ordinary people discovering the better things that life has to offer. And that, I hope, will encourage a lot more young people from non-privileged backgrounds to raise their aspirations and train in this wonderful business.

The format of this series involves visits to thirty counties across the British Isles, meeting local people, visiting food producers and cooking the county's traditional favourite in front of a local audience. The boys are then pushed beyond their comfort zone in a cook-off against one of the best chefs in the county, the challenge being to create a fine dining dish using local produce that typifies the area.

In order to give you a taste of the fine dining side of the show, I've had to edit out some really enjoyable material in which Dave and Si source local produce and cook in public. You'll have to tune in on BBC2 from 17:15 to 18:00 Monday to Friday between now and October 2nd to catch the whole show, or pick it up on BBC iPlayer. Meanwhile, here are extracts from Episodes 3 and 5, in which the Hairy Bikers visit Fermanagh and Shropshire and cook against Noel McMeel of the Catalina Restaurant at Lough Erne and Will Holland of the Michelin 1* La Bécasse in Ludlow, respectively.

Noel McMeel can't keep a straight face in the cook-off, but still manages a smile when The Bikers win

Will Holland only just out-cooks The Bikers, despite serving up a dish well worthy of his Michelin star

Apparently, so many top chefs explain how they sear their meat "to stop the juices from flowing out" that The Bikers are thinking seriously of inviting Harold McGee to come on tour with them in Series 2. By the way, Dave, Kiev isn't a Russian city. Not if you ever want to be allowed into Ukraine, it isn't!

2 comments:

Orce Serrano Hams said...

Those hairy lads are mad, would love to meet them one day.

peewiglet said...

Hi there :)

This is my first post to your blog, but while I'm here I just want to tell you how much I enjoy it.

That's an interesting point you make about the Hairy Bikers i.e. bridging the gap. I confess that they're not really my cup of tea--or at least they haven't been thus far: I'll give them another look, though, in the light of what you say.

I'm one of HFW's legion of admiring fans. I'm enormously impressed by what he's achieved. It often strikes me, though, that he's had an uphill struggle in trying to get his message across, because so many prejudiced people are turned off by his accent and background.

Let's put accents and backgrounds on one side, ISTM, and focus on what people are saying, rather than how they're pronouncing the words :)


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