Gordon Ramsay’s new show starts with him jumping out of a penis. It looks like a helicopter, but it’s a penis. This, apparently, is to show the participants in BBC One’s Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars (hashtagged #FFS for social media, in case the smell of desperation hasn’t hit you yet) what he expects of them. They are on a beach, looking bemused, and they have to start the contest that will decide which of the up-and-coming food and drink entrepreneurs gets £150,000 of Ramsay investment by jumping off a Cornish cliff into the deep. Why? Because, barks Ramsay, “an idea is only as good as the person who has it and I want to discover your true DNA”.
They do it. They can all swim, so it’s very boring. He doesn’t even push those who hesitate off. This is medium-well-done Ramsay; palatable, no raw emotion, as unobjectionable as possible. That’s the first 20 minutes gone.
The remaining 40 are a little more interesting. The contestants are split into teams, given a £600 budget each, and told to come up with an idea for a food shack selling tasty yet portable food to the hungry folk of Newquay. Whoever turns the greatest profit in one lunchtime wins. Whoever turns the least profit – get this – loses, and one member of that team will be sent home. It’s The Apprentice with crabs. Which may also be The Apprentice, but let’s not dwell.
The red team plump for a variety of tacos, including – at team member Vincenzo’s insistence – monkfish. “We’re at the seaside,” he says, as if that makes it a cheap, easy and appropriate foodstuff for a taco instead of MONKFISH.
The blue team go for noodles and scallops, with a vegan option provided by Valentina who soon becomes magnificently furious with other members for disrespecting mushrooms.
The green team opt for toasties. “What about something more interesting?” says Amit, who is more of a restaurateur than some. “No,” says Steph, who used to be in the navy. Or maybe that was Leah in the red team. As with The Apprentice, there are only two or three iterations of contestant model and trying to distinguish between individuals at this stage is like looking for a vehicle identification number on a car when you just need to know it’s a Volkswagen.
Ramsay urges them all to work together and avoid conflict, which is funny for many reasons, and they head to their test kitchens before the big day. They make some test tacos, test toasties and test tnoodles.
Opening day arrives and the race is on. The red team falls apart instantly, with Vincenzo abdicating all monkfish responsibility and leaving it to team member Bola to cook (for her first time ever) while he does the front of house. Which comprehends taking customers’ cash and telling them, whenever they order the monkfish taco, that it was his idea. We do not warm to Vincenzo. Or as Asher, filling orders as fast as he can, puts it: “Just think it’s utter bollocks, to be honest.”
Gordon’s “secret shoppers” denounce the noodles as “stodgy” and “with stuff just thrown on top”, but the punters don’t seem to mind – in fact, the blue team’s main problem is soon running out of ingredients – and Valentina seems to be on top of her previously murderous mushroom rage.
The toastie tail is growing – less, it seems, out of popularity than team incompetence. The wait is ridiculous. “Forty minutes for a fucking toastie,” spits Gordon, unable to control himself as he prowls around looking at the insanity he hath semi-wrought.
Afterwards, they gather in a darkened room to hear Gordon’s verdict. Noodles win. Tacos lose. Gordon calls the red team in one by one to a slightly smaller darkened room to play the disappointed headmaster and, ultimately, boot Vincenzo out. Possibly mainly for trying to defend himself with the words “I was a scared boy … now I am a hungry man.”
It all feels tired, derivative (even if it is of Ramsay’s own stuff) and pointless. The producers have read the 2022 room well enough to know that viewers are unlikely to have the appetite for more rage than the world itself is offering right now, but of course the problem is that Gordon on the leash is even less fun than Gordon off the leash. It will fill a hole in the schedules, but, essentially, it’s an underspiced taco, a plain cheddar toastie or stodgy noodles with some stuff chucked on top.