Crazy Delicious, episode 1 review: like MasterChef for hipsters

Michael Hogan
Jayde Adams presents Channel 4's new Willy Wonka-esque contest - (Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) Channel 4 Picture Publicity, Horsef

 

I hope you didn’t tune into new cookery show Crazy Delicious (Channel 4) looking for ideas about what to make for supper. Well, unless you had some hay, marigolds or dry ice in the fridge that needed using up.

This Willy Wonka-esque contest was strictly for the sort of self-styled “foodie” who favours dishes designed for Instagram approval, rather than eating enjoyably, and who indulge the tedious trend for “illusion" food which looks like something entirely. 

Publicity material insisted that we’re “bored by the same old dishes” (are we?), hence everyone was hellbent on cooking everything “with a twist”, whether it was needed or not. It usually wasn’t. This was MasterChef for hipsters. 

In a migraine-inducing day-glo studio which resembled a trippy cross between Teletubbies and a Tim Burton film, competitors foraged ingredients from an edible “enchanted garden” (complete with chocolate soil and babbling prosecco brook) to tackle tasks set by judges – sorry, “world-renowned food gods” – Heston Blumenthal, Carla Hall and Niklas Ekstedt. 

The production went overboard on the whole deity theme, with the trio dressed in angelic white and descending from above to award the winner with a golden apple. I’m not sure they’d thought this through theologically. Instead we’d gone through the looking glass and disappeared up Blumenthal’s soggy bottom.

Niklas Ekstedt, Heston Blumenthal and Carla Hall Credit: Channel 4

On presenting duties was Bristolian comedian Jayde Adams. As she said: ”A food show hosted by a woman who looks like she eats – thank Christ!” Adams was warm and likeable enough (“In’t this mad, babes? I used to work in Asda”) but her twee, cutesy behaviour – sitting on a tree swing, clicking a retro stopwatch – could rapidly become cloying.

The opening episode was a culinary clash between “junk food genius” Adam, “foraging queen” Hannah and “king of cakes” Hardeep – all aged between 24 and 36, further narrowing this show’s niche appeal.

Their first challenge, “The Magic Ingredient”, was to elevate the strawberry to new heights. Adam made “strawberry cheesecake chicken wings”, which sounded like a hate crime. Hardeep went for an Eton Mess egg but had to forgo the egg when he couldn't get it out of the mould. Hannah won with her “trifle on steroids”. No word on whether it voluntarily provided a urine sample for anti-doping authorities. 

Adam's strawberry cheesecake chicken wings Credit: Channel 4

Round two, “The Reinvention”, found them giving the humble hotdog an unnecessary makeover. Hardeep turned it into lamb koftas in coriander chow buns and Adam into Mexican chilli dog eclairs. Hannah fell from grace with wild boar sausages and dry soda bread. 

She looked devastated to be eliminated but frankly it served her right for using the phrase “off-grid woodland cooking”, which seemed to be pretentious-speak for cooking a tin of beans over a campfire.

Adam and Hardeep progressed to “The Final Feast”, so were soon whipping up a spread fit for a birthday party. It was Savoury vs Sweet, Steak vs Cake, Cocky Bloke vs Nervous Wreck. 

Hannah Credit: Channel 4

Adam “reverse-seared” two vast tomahawk steaks, wowed with his lobster mac 'n' cheesecake, deep-fried everything in sight and won over the judges, if not the cardiology community. Poor, shy Hardeep was left nibbling sadly on his own edible confetti and wondering why he hadn’t applied for Bake Off instead. Perhaps he did and his presence here was the Channel 4 post room's fault. 

Format-wise, this contest borrowed from both Bake Off and MasterChef. As on the BBC’s Best Home Cook, three judges was one too many, meaning they jostled to nibble at the same dish and make overlapping comments. 

Swedish chef Ekstedt, not to be confused with the one off The Muppet Show, was endearingly enthusiastic, while American soul food specialist Hall spoke mainly in catchphrases (“bam-bam”, “hootie-hoo”, “go big or go home”). 

Hardeep  Credit: Channel 4

Blumenthal looked rheumy-eyed and stubbly, as if he’d been up all night, wondering why he’d signed up to this. He was keen to mention that he’d invented triple-cooked chips in 1993, not that he’s living off past glories or anything. 

Flamboyant fun but highly contrived, this series felt more suited to a specialist food channel than terrestrial primetime. The very definition of style over substance, it left me craving nothing more bold, imaginative and experimental than cheese on toast.