by Gino De Blasio | 4 Minute Read
“The beauty of this test is, it’s simple if you know it, very difficult if you don’t.” When a two michelin starred chef points out this blindingly obvious logistical quagmire, it shouldn’t really shock, but this is different. This is a contest “where there is no prize at the end and your entire identity is likely to be shattered by your heroes.” Eloquently put by Edward Tew.
When presented with two highly regarded chefs, one over excited presenter and a technical challenge that summons the power of Greyskull (1) to minimise the amount of potential professional damage, you can only hope you don’t make a proper balls up and if you do, that no one was watching.
Of course, one of the latest challenges caught some social media attention; especially from this author. It wasn’t the over simplified, by personal estimation anyway, dish that the chef’s were being asked to make, it was the absolute fuck up that the professional chef decided to call, “authentic.” Monica Galetti, for all of her bravado and unquestionable cooking skill, cannot make a simple spaghetti carbonara.
The inclusion of onion, the lack of guanciale, the use of fresh tagliatelle and not even a hint of a mention for pecorino cheese makes this as authentic as an original Manchester United (2) shirt from Taiwan that you bought on eBay (3) back in 2003.
Out of three chefs subjected to the seemingly arduous task of making the tagliatelle fresh, one managed to do it ala Galetti, the other two would crumble under pressure. Onions, cream, butter, the inclusion of parsley and no sign of pepper made this an Italian’s second worst nightmare. The first naturally being Roberto Baggio’s 1994 penalty.
The real criminal here isn’t that the contestants got it horribly wrong, or that the format leaves no prisoners, it’s that the professional chef in a sense of moral superiority set a challenge that was technical and wrong on completely different levels.
Wrong that they were asking contestants, professional chefs who make a living from cooking looking like utter fools; technically unrewarding because fresh pasta has no place in a carbonara. Sure, I could understand if you asked them to make tortellini with a poached running yolk stuffing, that makes sense, but butchering an Italian dish, the carbonara, in a conquest of vanity for the TV cameras to then deride them is equally unflattering.
Maybe because it was fresh pasta that fooled them, then again, that’s like knowing that electric bikes really aren’t push bikes. For what is a staple of Italian cooking, it goes to show that if you limit your repertoire to ten dishes, you will get lost when asked to make something pretty rudimentary.
Carbonara isn’t confusing; it’s eggs, cheese, guanciale & pancetta, pepper and spaghetti. Yes, it’s that simple and no, it isn’t hard to get wrong; as long as you know how. Marcus Wareing got that bit, spot on.
Trying to make a dish something that it isn’t doesn’t mean you’re a great chef, and making a poor job of it doesn’t also mean you’re a bad chef. This is one of the few times that a contestant can say, “I blame the tools and the teacher.”
1) Greyskull is the land where He-Man comes from. By calling upon Castle Greyskull’s immense power, He-Man transforms from a prince into a muscular, monster battling man without ever putting a hair out of place. It’s all very surreal, and as an adult, must be watched after taking hallucinatory drugs.
2) Manchester United are a football team in the North of England from a place called, Manchester. It always rains in Manchester, always. It does however have many fine ale houses, people use the word, “sound” a lot and in the 90s was the powerhouse of Britpop thanks to a duck walking band called, Oasis.
3) eBay is an online auction site, designed to frustrate you when you place a bid only to be “sniped” at the last possible moment from someone who bid an extra $0.50c. It also sells everything, people have even sold their virginity. Go figure.