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There was an appetite for food on the telly. It was nothing to do with me!
Lifestyle and features CHAPTER 10
ever seen. I nearly died. I was ill every five minutes. Of the 360 sailors on
board, 120 of them never got out of their bunks for all that time! Then the
editor of This Morning, Richard and Judy’s show, saw it and thought it
would be fun to do something similar. So she got the two of us and
Marguerite Patten to do a celebration meal for their 999th show. We were
good and it was great and they wanted more. I never looked for this. I was
just happy to be doing it.
I had done some teaching but gave it up because I missed
TV wasn’t so far removed from what I’d been doing. First, it was
a subject I knew a lot about and enjoyed but, second, I’d always wanted to
be a teacher and in 1973 I did 15 months teaching mature students at
a technical college. The communication of the skill was really good but
I missed the roar of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint of a real restaurant. So I went back to cooking and for seven or eight years I did This
Morning on Mondays and Fridays, and then other opportunities just opened
up. Probably a quarter of my time is given to TV and 75 per cent to
working within the restaurant businesses and charities.
I enjoy the camera and the atmosphere. It’s about communicating an enthusiasm rather than teaching. The time is too short to teach. It’s my intention
that people go and cook the dish. If anyone goes away saying, ‘That looked
fantastic, I can almost smell it. I’m sure I could do that’, then I’ve achieved.
The greatest accolade anyone can offer is when someone says, ‘You know,
I’ve tried your Yorkshire Pudding recipe and it works every time!’
I talk to Aunty Betty
I had no training whatsoever in presentation. I was taught by people around
me. They said: (a) you need to talk to your Aunty Betty at home. You know
that she’s behind that camera and you’re telling your Aunty Betty whom
you love and adore, ‘… this is how you do it’; and (b) when you’re doing
public demonstrations, look for a friendly face, which is, again, your Aunty
Betty. Eventually you’ll build up confidence to speak to unfriendly faces.
I’ve also learned to do the opening lines near the back end when you’ve
warmed up, got more confidence and you’re being yourself.
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I’m not a presenter; I’m just me being me
Most of the TV I’ve done has been live, ad lib TV. One lady said to me
recently, ‘You know the thing I like about you is, whenever I meet you,
you’re just the same as you are on the telly.’ For me, I don’t see it as
presenting in a different medium. It’s just me being me and doing what I
do. Not every chef can do it. There is no such thing as a TV chef in my
opinion although we are developing them. I don’t like to advocate that.
People say to me, ‘I want my son to be a TV chef.’ That’s nonsense! First
be a chef. Learn your subject matter and if you have the personality and
presentation skills the next step might be that. I am actually a professional
chef who cooks on TV occasionally. There’s a spectrum of those that can
entertain and those that can cook and in the middle there are very few who
can do both well. Glyn Christian, a friend of mine, presented well but
I don’t think he could cook to save his life. Anton Mosiman, who’s a great
cook, has very few presentation skills, he’s so bland.
I don’t use scripts
Directors do give you scripts sometimes. But I can’t learn scripts. I’ve
never been an actor or a thespian. I’m a cook who can talk a bit and the
minute you try to give me lines it sounds false. They say, ‘It doesn’t sound
quite right.’ And I say, ‘Of course it doesn’t. These are your words not
mine! Tell me what you want me to say and I will say it as I would say it.’
My attitude towards the TV crew is, if someone is paid to direct, someone
else to produce and I’m paid to present then that’s what I should stick to.
I’ll offer advice if I’m asked otherwise I’ll keep out of it.
I get very nervous
I get very nervous and like to go to the loo and then I pace up and
down. On Ready, Steady, Cook with Fern [Britton] I used to have a corridor where she and I used to just walk up and down, talking. When we did
it live in Birmingham they had classical music so we used to sing at the
tops of our voices whilst marching backwards and forwards waiting
for someone to say, ‘You’re on now.’ Once you’re on, most of the fears
Lifestyle and features CHAPTER 10
The cooking can go wrong but I can live with it
We do what we call choreography. We ‘dance’ through a recipe. Even the
taped shows are recorded as live. So we have a run through with a home
economics person helping, saying, ‘Next it’s this and then we move to
this …’ I move from left to right, therefore camera right to left, and my
cameraman can feel when I’m going to stop whisking and start speaking.
We don’t do it like Delia, who, I believe, does every dish six times and
records it, so that when they do the cutting and editing there are no blips
anywhere. I can live with blips because if it starts to go wrong you say,
‘Ah, that’s not what I wanted. Now let me show you how I’m going to get
out of this.’ Then you get back on track again.
I don’t diet; I breathe in!
I don’t worry about my appearance for TV although I do check my
weight occasionally and people in the office will say to me, ‘Turner, you
must do something about your tummy!’ Well, I can’t really, so I breathe in!
What you see is what you get. The great thing about being a cook is, of
course, that you should never trust a thin cook. Therefore, I’m my own best
There’s a new breed of TV chef … but I wouldn’t
There are competitions all the time to find TV chefs. So for young people
their ambition is to be discovered. When they’ve finished a working day,
what do they do? They sign autographs! When I’ve finished, I come back
to the restaurant and work there. These kids are keen and know a bit about
cooking but if you asked me whether I’d employ them in my restaurant,
‘No.’ It’s a double-edged sword in many ways, because although TV
cooking has taught young people that the food industry could be a business to be in, unfortunately it’s also taught them they could be stars. I want
to bang the drum of the professional chef who knows his stuff inside out.
If he discovers he’s got communication skills, he can tell people what he
knows. But if you’ve only been in the industry for two or three years you
can’t know that much.
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TV? I prefer restaurants
I’m not famous. People recognize my voice rather than my face. I’m quite
lucky because Jamie’s [Jamie Oliver] a scruffbag, Worrall Thompson’s
short and fat, Rhodes has got spiky hair and Ainsley’s tall, black and bald.
I’m an average-sized fellow. I’ve not got those special things that people
recognize instantly. I enjoy TV and love it to death. It’s probably saved my
life financially. But given the choice, I prefer restaurants.
My advice is be the tops in your trade
Know your subject matter; you need to be able to speak with authority. Be
the tops. Then take a sideways jump and you may go far. Television is
fashion and fashion by definition could be here today and gone tomorrow.
I work in an industry that will always be here. Everyone will eat every day,
please God, and as long as that continues we’ll always have a future.
TV chefs are on the way out … maybe!
Television is a nice little bubble to get involved in but it can burst just as
easily as it starts. I think the TV chef thing has reached a plateau. It’s not
going to grow much more. But then I’m the one who predicted that Ready,
Steady, Cook could only last about twenty shows because there’s only so
much you can do with a breast of chicken and we’re still recording 2000