Friday, 18 November 2016

Guest Post - TV Chefs by Kristen Bailey

When I was growing up, there was one chef on the television and her name was Delia.  She rocked a red twinset, a pearl necklace and she liked to cook out of her conservatory in calm, reassuring tones.  Her show was the highlight of my mum’s week.  These were the days when there was no internet or Sky Plus so we’d record her show and Mum would sit there with a notepad and pen scribbling down her recipe for a Victoria Sandwich, getting us to sit there with our fingers on the rewind button in case she couldn’t scribble quick enough.  The only competitive cooking show I watched at the time was Ready Steady Cook where professional chefs went against each other to cook ingredients out of a mystery bag.  I remember it was the show that was the perfect distraction from GCSE revision, and the reason I don’t really get physics but can tell you how to make a three course meal out of twelve eggs, a red pepper, a chicken breast and a block of mild cheddar.

I’m not entirely sure when the face of TV cooking changed.  We’d always had the likes of Delia and Keith Floyd around and Ready Steady Cook had introduced chefs like James Martin and Ainsley Harriott to our screens, but the landscape changed when one Mr Jamie Oliver appeared. Suddenly, cooking was what young and trendy twentysomethings did in their loft apartments, the camera jumping around the room periodically to the soundtrack of nineties Britpop.  Soon, lots of other TV chefs appeared by his side: Nigella and her glamour cooking, Heston and his test tubes, and Gordon and his sweary shouting.  Cooking shows were no longer relaxing and satisfying to watch.  They’d be people telling us what to do, what to eat and demanding that we stock our larders with pomegranates, kale and chipotle.  Suddenly the only way one was allowed to cook was with restaurant-level skill too.  ‘This recipe will take you fifteen minutes!’ the chef will say gleefully.  It takes me that long to chop an onion sometimes.  And mate seriously, that’s a lot of pans to clean – you need to be adding another half an hour onto that, at least.

Competitive cooking shows also became tense, shouty affairs too.  Before Masterchef used to be very elegant with its colour coded kitchens and synth/sax theme tune.  Now Masterchef seems to be on steroids; and there’s a version for every day of the week – one for us normal folk, the celebrities, the professionals.  It’s gone over to Australia (my favourite version I must admit, one of the judges even wears a cravat) and the US where there is far too much high-fiving for my liking.

However, the turning point for me came when chefs started getting preachy with us. They didn’t stay their side of the television any more, they came into our living rooms, had a look at our plates and told us what we were cooking/eating wasn’t good enough.  These shows were now not just an assault on our senses but an assault on our intelligence and freedom to eat what we darn well liked.  

Fed up of all the sudden cultural preoccupation with all things foodie, I therefore, had lots of inspiration to write Souper Mum and its sequel, Second Helpings.  Both novels are the story of Jools Campbell, a stay at home mum who stands up to a pompous TV chef but inadvertently becomes a celebrity herself.  Both feature TV cooking shows of my own creation but also my own arrogant, media monster of a TV chef, Tommy McCoy. He’s married to the odious, fame-seeking Kitty who also has four kids all with foodie names, Basil, Mace, Clementine and Ginger.  He is, of course, an amalgamation of many of the TV chefs gracing our screens– the perfect foil to Jools’ sensible, down-to-earth attitude but also a character we can all love to hate. 

So if, like me, you watch cooking shows with a family bag of Minstrels, scowling at TV chefs in their pastel kitchens as they preach about making their own fish fingers (really?!) then let me introduce you to Souper Mum, Jools Campbell as she takes on the Tommy McCoys of this world in what is essentially Mum vs Food... Where will Jools’adventures lead her in Second Helpings? Will the knives come out? Who will be able to stand the heat?  And who will be left eating their own words?

Thank you so much Kristen for this brilliant look at the history of TV Chefs. I honestly had never thought about the way there have been trends in what the food programmes do throughout the decades, and your books sound incredibly like my sort of thing!

About the Author
Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook.  Kristen lives in Fleet, Hampshire in a house overrun by Lego and odd socks.  Her debut novel, Souper Mum was released by Accent Press in June and its sequel, Second Helpings is released on 17th November.  

Author links –
She writes a blog about being a modern mother.  That and more can be found at:
You can also find her on Twitter/Instagram: @baileyforce6
and Facebook:

Souper Mum is the story of Jools Campbell, a stay-at-home mother of four, who becomes an unlikely foodie hero when she stands up to a pompous celebrity chef, Tommy McCoy on a reality show.  Armed with fish fingers and a severely limited cooking repertoire, we watch as she becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns some important life lessons about love, family and the joyless merits of quinoa.

Exactly eighteen months after squaring up to a pompous TV chef, Jools Campbell finds herself back in the fame game as she becomes a judge on a family cooking show.  How will she cope being back in the limelight, juggling being a working mum?  What happens when she finds out her old nemesis, Tommy McCoy is her fellow judge?  The knives are sure to fly as 'Souper Mum' makes her triumphant return.

Buy Links – 

Souper Mum
Second Helpings

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