There’s no debating that food television programmes have exploded in the last decade, with the likes of Masterchef, Great British Bake Off, Saturday Kitchen and Chef’s Table occupying the minds and hearts of millions of viewers all over the UK.
However, in the last five years or so, there has been a shift from education to entertainment, with many tuning in to follow the excitement and pressure of a cooking challenge, rather than picking up a trick or two to use in their own kitchens.
While I am all for a sprinkle of entertainment, it is worrying to see the bad practices that most of these TV programmes inadvertently promote. I occasionally dip into the odd food programme late at night and I am always horrified by what I see in terms of a complete lack of adherence to food hygiene policies.
For example, I distinctly remember seeing one chef cutting up a raw chicken, wiping their unwashed hands on a tea towel and then using that same tea towel to clean the edges of a plate before serving. The same goes for tasting spoons – I cannot count the amount of times I’ve seen tasting spoons dipped into mixtures, tasted and then re-used for something else!
That said, this is by far not the most concerning part of these programmes – what really concerns me is the over-use of plastics. Plastics are the very thing that are screwing up our planet. Why on earth do they promote their use when plastics have no place whatsoever in a kitchen in 2019?
It may be useful to go back fifty years and examine how people managed in kitchens without products like cling film, for example. There were no plastics to be had and wonderful chefs existed then and produced incredible dishes that have been passed through the generations to still be cooked today.
At Cookery School, we managed to rid ourselves of plastic many years ago. We cover bowls in the fridge with plates of varying sizes, which prevents smells leaching out and contaminating of flavours in the fridge. We buy glass containers with heavy-duty plastic lids – hopefully these will soon become silicone-based – as these can be used in fridge, freezer and ovens. We have had many of them for over ten years and they are still going strong. We even have large stainless-steel bowls with fitted plastic lids which allow us to store large quantities of stocks without ever having to even make us think of using plastic film.
Plastic has no place in a kitchen. When we receive goods in plastic, we immediately move the ingredients into our large glass storage jars and return the plastic politely to its owner. Plastic soft fruit that comes in plastic containers is recycled in its own bucket. The more that one is able to separate out different types of plastic, the easier recycling is! However, we are very much in the camp of refusing plastic first, working with our suppliers to prevent the material even reaching our kitchens in the first place.
Thanks to developments in technology and a wider societal understanding of the evils of plastics, there are constantly new alternatives coming through that TV programmes should be promoting. Better yet, they should be looking to the past, finding examples in the kitchens of their parents and grandparents to help eradicate plastic. The more exposure this type of thinking is given, the more likely it will reach the homes of millions of British viewers and encourage them to change their habits.