When a food critic turns the poison pen on herself

The Best Show On TV August 27, 2009

Filed under: Inane stuff — crummb @ 10:30 am


As it is with many foodies, Discovery’s Travel & Living is the centre of my universe.

It’s pretty much the only channel I watch, and I only hop out of it for cursory glimpses of the outside world during commercial breaks (or when that nauseating Bobby Chinn comes on).

Recently, I kept seeing this trailer for a new show called Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory, which looks like a cheap cooking programme fronted by this sweaty, straggly-haired Brit on how to make different types of chocolate desserts.

But just 10 minutes into watching the first episode last Sunday, I turned to my husband Z (who works at Discovery) and firmly chastised him: “Your trailer people did a very lousy job of selling this show.”

Because, instead of some throwaway food programme about chocolate , Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory turned out to be equal-parts documentary, tension-filled reality TV, and delicious cookshow shot to the same degree of gorgeousness as Jamie At Home.

It tells the story of Willie Harcourt-Cooze, a chocolate-obsessed bohemian who sells his house in England in order to buy a plantation in Venezuela to grow his own cacao beans and make his own brand of chocolate (“the best chocolate in the world”). So he transplants his young family to the grimy plantations of Venezuela, and spends 12 (12!) years cultivating his crop.

Thrown into the main narrative are yummy vignettes of Willie cooking a mind-boggling array of dishes using his very own 100% cacao — roasted pepper gazpacho, mushroom risotto, stewed fish in coconut milk, apricot injected roast pig, and a chocolate cake that promises to buckle any woman at the knees.

But his journey from plantation to the glitzy food halls of Selfridges is fraught with peril. In Venezuela, he has to contend with capricious weather, weird insect infestations, poor crop yields and a troop of workers waiting to be paid. Back home in Devonshire, he has three young children to feed, a worried wife to placate, barely enough money to keep the heaters running, and a constant stream of creditors beating down his door. This show is absolutely riveting.

I came out of it with this big question: Is there anything that I’m so passionate about that I’d sell my house for and live on mere subsistence for 12 years to fulfill a dream?

Sigh, no. Not even the pursuit of the world’s most divine strawberry shortcake. I’m the sort who can only sleep at night when I know there’s a nice pile of savings in my bank account, fat enough to cushion me against sudden unemployment or a Morakot-sized typhoon.

Which explains why I’m no headlining star of a totally awesome TV show. Damn.



15 Responses to “The Best Show On TV”

  1. jocelyn Says:

    at the expense of seeming like a total crazed stalker of your blog, i have to tell you i switched channels to discovery travel and living right after i read your post. and though i didn’t get to catch Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory, Jamie at Home was playing. and i totally get what you meant by “delicious cookshow shot to the same degree of gorgeousness”. GOODNESS. it’s been a long time since i’ve drooled and marvelled over the telly set.

    once again, i believe i’m voicing the sentiments of many when i say, we miss your culinary journeys! 🙂 take care, and bake soon! 🙂

  2. crummb Says:

    i am so happy you agree! isn’t Jamie At Home, like, the best-looking, most yummy cookshow there is out there? i would even watch the repeats! i keep asking my husband what is it that makes it so beautiful. and he says it’s all about the lighting (notice how jamie’s kitchen always has natural light streaming in?). ALSO, very importantly, the show is directed by a woman! haha. only women know how to linger the camera on the gloss and sheen of food. this should be my second career! 🙂

  3. livetoleave Says:

    welcome back, darling!

  4. crummb Says:

    thanks! still not baking yet. but am watching tv – and dissecting foodshows! feel like grilling that bobby chinn next.

  5. oreodunker Says:

    You should totally grill Bobby Chinn next! And btw, I love your blog. Looking forward to your next batch of baked goodies!

  6. crummb Says:

    oreodunker: i really really feel like giving that bobby chinn a proper roasting! but my husband works at Discovery and it may get him into trouble? haha. better ask him first.

  7. Stef Says:

    As always,your posts make me laugh…. =)

    go on with that Bobby…he has this very hum-sup look on his face when he hosts and honestly,I think his cooking is absolute rubbish.
    Only one other person beats him in form of crud recipes and that would be Kylie Kwong but she doesn’t look hum-sup on TV so it’s Kylie 1, Bobby 0.

  8. Sooch Says:

    Yo!! It’s not even Oct and you’re already posting! That’s to keep us fans on our toes right? 🙂
    Sigh, Chris told me about Willy’s choc factory but I keep missing it!!! Arrgghhh. Never mind, I can (try to) catch up on food programs during my maternity leave, heh heh. I’ve got 8 more weeks to go! Woo hoo! You hang in there too girl!

  9. Midori Says:

    You should so totally review this show in the national daily. In fact, I think you should do tv reviews.

    I agree about Bobby Chinn – eeeeeeeeee. And Kylie Kwong! Every time I see her on tv making a big deal out of some street hawker in hong kong or china, I’m thinking like, pls tell me something I don’t know, you sad culturally-deprived woman. haha!

  10. crummb Says:

    sooch: just 8 weeks? woohooo!!! very excited for you! b or g? 🙂

    stef and midori: your wish is my command. just posted a diatribe against bobby chinn. boy i feel gooooood.

  11. Sooch Says:

    Heh heh, it’s so much fun reading your food show reviews! Just the drug I need these days… 🙂
    This second one’s a boy! Yay!! After this even if close shop also never mind, already have both sexes. I think he’ll have loads of fun with his tomboy sister. She’s getting to be a real chef these days, always pretending to ‘make soup’ or something, and identifying her customers’ preferences, eg. she asks mommy if she wants more coffee, and asks daddy “more milo?” instead! Heh, maybe I can train her to be my personal baker next time!

  12. Kumalla Says:

    Hey there. I got a friend to bring back some of Willie’s chocolate from London and I tell you, they’re super delicious! 🙂

  13. crummb Says:

    kumalla: oooh really! super expensive too right? something like 7 pounds for a small block. willie’s a rich guy now.

  14. Kumalla Says:

    I think it’s about 3 quid for the cooking block but yes, it is expensive 🙂

  15. 365days2play Says:

    Hey I chanced upon your blog. Did you know that they are selling Willie’s chocolate in Singapore now? It costs $28. I really wanted to buy it but I couldn’t bring myself to pay $28 for a tiny block of chocolate.

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