Gordon Ramsay enjoyed a purple patch in UK food TV from 1999-2012. Boiling Point, Kitchen Nightmares, The F Word were some of the best TV shows you’ll ever see about kitchens. But just when I thought he could do no wrong, along came Ramsay’s Cookalong live. A worthless runt of a show. Like Ready Steady Cook on bad acid.
Ramsay is TV gold but even he couldn’t make live TV cooking watchable. To learn from live cooking in the flesh can be glorious. You get close to the action, listening, smelling, prodding and tasting. With live TV you miss all the details. Pre-prepared uber-ingredients appear out of nowhere at the last minute. The camera is on always on the chef instead of the food. They are way too difficult to follow for the amateur cook.
My friend Matt recently messaged to say I should check out Adam Ragusea. “he’s the man behind my ‘famous lasagna’”, Matt promised, “the absolute best for demystifying cooking.” I was intrigued but skeptical.
Five minutes into the show I could see it was different from the usual dross. Firstly, the camera takes a bird’s eye view of the pan, like you’re actually the cook, cooking. The narration is fast and straight to the point. His recipes are simple. Easy to follow. Clearly explained.
He throws in just enough detail not to bamboozle. For his Bolognese he describes the difference in the sound you hear as the mince begins to caramelize rather than sweat – an oft-overlooked nuance that adds depth of flavor. Little gems like this make a big difference.
Ragusea’s style is born out of a frustration that TV-chefs are ‘playing a different game’ to the average home cook. Bottomless pantries and sous-vide machines are always on standby. He critiques TV chefs for being entertaining practitioners but hopeless teachers. Ragusea is a professor and what he really likes to do is debunk TV chefs’ pseudo truths. “Onions aren’t particularly acidic!” he barks watching Marco Pierre White.
Ragusea isn’t going to inspire the next Escoffier. Nor does he want to. But if you prefer your teaching straight up, without Ramsay’s expletives or Nigella’s sensualism, Adam’s your willing professor. Matt’s lasagna is a winner and now I know why.