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Monday, 5 October, 1998, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Cooking up a storm in the TV kitchen
ainsley harriott
Can't Cook Won't Cook's Ainsley Harriott: Clown or master chef?
Two food experts are fighting it out over whether TV cookery shows are bad for Britain's culinary reputation.

Gormet chef Michel Roux feels entertainment-based food shows such as the BBC's Can't Cook Won't Cook and Ready Steady Cook are sacrificing the importance of the food and preparation in favour of audience-pleasing jokes.

He said: "There are now 45 food programmes a week on television. We have become the laughing stock of the world.

"They all hurt me below the belt. The food is poor and cooking has become a joke. The rest are obscene and make me sick.

kevin woodford
Kevin Woodford: Star of Can't Cook Won't Cook
'It's a crime'

"The way these people handle food is a crime. They don't even know the basics. Little attention is paid to detail. Instead, they are intent on having a giggle and a joke. They can do this without involving food."

But food critic Egon Ronay thinks Roux is being over-sensitive, and feels the shows promote good food rather than denigrate it.

He said: "People in England do not grow up with the same consciousness about food as they do in France, for example.

"Anything that promotes the appreciation of food and the quality and taste of good food has got to be a good thing. People could watch these programmes, which are firstly entertainment, and then if interested go and watch something more informative."

He concedes there are varying standards among TV chefs, but adds they should be valued because of "the interest they generate in the subject of food by their constant presence on screen."

Ready Steady Cook presenter Fern Britton has defended her programme, telling the Sunday Telegraph, "The whole point about food is fun. I think the show is entertaining and it also gives people tips."

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