Tuesday, 22 September 2009

TV dinners could save the NHS

During the past nine months I’ve probably ingested more drugs than Keith Richards managed to get through in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s combined. For this reason I have a feeling that my mind is blunter than Cherie Blair’s social skills and that could be why I haven’t come up with this blindingly obvious idea before.

Here I am sat moaning my head off about the miserable state of NHS catering when the solution is right under my nose… well, on a bracket attached to the wall actually. I’m talking about the telly. Why on earth didn’t I give Jamie Oliver a bell first before starting this blogging lark? I’m sure he’d have been round here in pukka quick time to give the kitchen staff a good slapping and sorted out the menu so that at least there’d be something edible on offer. He’s the world’s most popular TV chef and absolutely massive in Germany where he’s known as Der TV Kok.

On second thoughts, Jamie’s probably a bit busy at the moment. He’s got all those reformed drug addicts, petty criminals and assorted tealeaves to look after in his chain of restaurants. Then there’s his epic trip around the USA dressed up like the Village People, and I suppose he still wants time to see his family. Maybe Jamie can’t do for the NHS what he did for the nation’s schools. I’m going to have to draft in a few more TV chefs as back-ups.

How about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall? He seems like an awfully nice chap. I mean, anyone who’s been to Eton ought to be able to knock up a decent pudding while bending over backwards to please. I’ll put him on my short list and get my people to talk to his people.

What do we think about Gordon Ramsay? Well, he could do with a bit of good PR after his recent troubles. Mind you, we’d have to lock up all the female kitchen staff first. I think I could also make a bit of money out of Gordon by putting a swear box in the kitchen. Just imagine, two weeks in the hospital re-heating room and I’d have enough dosh for a beach-side bungalow in Barbados and still have change left over for a Lear jet. So there’s another one for the shortlist.

My fourth choice would have to be The Hairy Bikers. Who couldn’t resist those cuddly and polite northerners on their Harleys. They cook quite well too… as long as you like black pudding with everything, including your dessert. Don’t laugh… I once saw my brother eat tinned peaches with spam and HP sauce. Okay, that was for a dare but I bet some chef somewhere reading this is furiously scribbling that down for some future fusion recipe. No, I really like Si and Dave at lot. I don’t know if they can fix the NHS food but we’d have fun trying.

My final choice, and a bit of an outsider, is Antony Worrall Thompson. Imagine having him sorting out the NHS food. You’d only have to put a fishing rod in his hands and it would be like having a garden gnome in the kitchen. He might have a problem producing a decent bit of grub on the 59p per patient that some health authorities spend, but he’s a man who’s made economies lately – I reckon he knows how to cut a few corners.

So, what do you think? Which celebrity chef can create a successful recipe for putting the nation’s hospital kitchens back on track?

PS: I’ve just realised that I’ve left Keith Floyd off the list. Does anyone have his number?

PPS: How on earth did I leave Nigella Lawson off the list? Just goes to show they've been slipping bromide in my tea for far longer than I thought!


  1. I like Galton Blackiston as he's not pompous arty farty type and his dishes are pretty nice.

  2. Microwave dinners from Mr. Safeway would be a step up from the sludge your hospital serves up.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Whaddabout Ainslee Harriott ???

    He can whip up a storm with a view, dunno about a brick wall though, but I'm sure he could do it !!
    He's ummmmm fantastic!

  5. This has already been tried - Loyd Grossman had a go in 2000. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1019874.stm

  6. TM, you've obviously been missing the new bulletins whilst laid up. Dear old Keith shuffled his mortal coil last week, bless him.

    Still, I'm sure there must be a medium on the Living channel who could put you in touch.

    Just think, the menu might include Devilled Eggs and Angel Food Cake.

  7. Heston Blumenthal is surely a contender - if only to see his 'operating room' themed dishes!

    On second thoughts perhaps not...

  8. I know poor old Keith is dead... I just thought he'd be able to make a better job even in his current condition.

  9. Imagine Nigella Lawson in a nurse's uniform.

    Who needs food anyway?

  10. Are you sure this is a wise idea? Loyd Grossman's influence is not currently attracting universal praise, is it?

    I'm quite entertained by Simon Rimmer (Sunday mornings BBC2) though .. .. ..

  11. You could fix up Shergar up with a chef's hat and a spatula and you'd still be ahead of the game.

    Wait, he's dead too.

    No, as you were.

  12. TM - I think from this blog that you've just burned all of your bridges with the most likely chefs/cooks! Can anyone say oops? Or are you just hoping that they all have a good sense of humour? ;-)

    I would suggest Heston - he doesn't always produce fancy stuff (witness his Little Chef experience) plus he knows the ins and outs of what makes food 'tick', ie very applicable to giving people the nutrients required, especially where some people need very dietary requirements.

    It's either that or give everyone Ensure Plus for all their meals. Not very exciting, but it DOES contain everything that's needed in a balanced meal. It tastes okay too.

  13. Do hospitals have cooks, or just people to reheat things? If they had the former a 'national answer' to the problem would not be neccessary.

    Though having mentioned Gordon Ramsay in your list, some of his outlets do engage in off-site preparation/on site cooking.

  14. I hope the tv chefs have a sense of humour. They'll need it if they're working with the NHS bureaucrats. I hope the health of the nation would come before a bruised ego. Anyway, there's still Nigel Slater.

  15. get KFC or Mc Donalds to sponsor the NHS.

    job done.

    (it's got to better than some of the slop you've been expected to eat...)

  16. That suggestion is so crazy it might just work. Make mine a Big Mac and a Family Bucket!

  17. I know you're joking, but the fast food option would be disastrous in terms of nutrition value. All you'd end up with is a great number of overweight patients with cholesterol problems, so needing more hospital care in the near future ..........

  18. But if you gave the fast food to the kitchens to be reheated no one would eat it.

  19. TM, have you thought about inviting a few food critics around for a meal?

  20. It continues to astound me that the NHS wastes money this way.

    If they gave patients decent food then they would get better quicker. If they get better quicker then they cost the NHS less.

    It's a no-brainer!

    How about asking Delia Smith?

    I think the project could well cost-justify very quickly. I really think that feeding patients properly could SAVE the NHS money.

  21. Delia??? Surely you mean Nigella.

  22. Shame that the Two Fat Ladies have been reduced to one.

    And I could not imagine Rick Stein taking on the challenge either.. I think he spends half the year in my country now... hmm maybe I can get him to look at our Hospital food instead.

    take care :)

  23. Ratatouille! I'm sure you can strike a deal with Disney?
    Linda Tenerife x

  24. The Sainted Delia, when not cheerleading for the Canaries, produces no nonsense and could probably do precision bombing hospital corners on the bed sheets and be a jolly good matron, too!

  25. Ask Craig Brown round for a food critic time. And ring bloomin' Jamie. I already told you. Honestly. x

  26. Kosmos said...
    Shame that the Two Fat Ladies have been reduced to one.

    And I could not imagine Rick Stein taking on the challenge either.. I think he spends half the year in my country now... hmm maybe I can get him to look at our Hospital food instead.

    Never mind Rick Stein, I think Chalky would an excellent choice!! I mean he could only improve things right?

  27. Der TV Kok... you have a definite talent for lethally delivered one liners...but then you is a writer in pain innit :-)

    Best wishes mate...another Vodafone voucher on way...


  28. You don`t need a famous chef, just a good cook with a flair for cost cutting decent wholesome meals, a good supplier of meat and veg that is not going to rip you off because he knows it is for the NHS.

    I worked for the NHS as a domestic, I was often in the kitchens helping out. The food suppliers charged a phemominal price for the goods, way above the average prices in the supermarkets.

    I asked the head chef why the NHS were charged such ridiculous prices, he said " every company rips off the NHS, the government pays innit".

    I pointed out that it is we that pay it ,through tax and National Insurance contributions, nobody wants to see it that way. The NHS has been ripped off for years by greedy companies over charging, and the end result is what you are fed now, 15 years on from when I questioned it.


  29. What about Martha Stewart? I hear she's not so busy these days, and she has also had some experience with "the authorities".

  30. Keith Richards is dead ??
    I can't believe it; he took such good care of himself...

  31. Traction Man - be careful what you wish for, and you can't say you haven't been warned


    Heston - He of 'Fat Duck' fame, well I suppose you could all claim to have aquired salmonella from snail porridge rather than chicken supreme. And posh/expensive salmonella trumps bog standard C-Diff hands down.

    Me, I think I've found the perfect cook for you. She is not famous but my god she can whip up a culinary delight that would leave your taste buds dancing. And she does it economically too.

    I give you

    Be warned though her site contains graphic photo's that vunerable patients existing on NHS slop may find disturbing.

    Again, you have been warned

    Mummy x

  32. Good news. Jamie Oliver's flunky has communicated to me that his Royal Essexness has no time to save the NHS despite saying a few weeks ago that he would like to do just that. Lloyd Grosman had a go a few years back but that ended in tears and the drawling bowled New Englander decided to concentrate on paaasta sauces instead. Looks like Ramsay's next in the frame but my money's on those hairy bikers.

  33. Jamie Oliver's a right twat anyway.

  34. You really need someone who can "do frugal" and be bloody-mindedly organised. Hairy Bikers don't strike me as either of those :o)

  35. Stuff the chefs. You need to grab a handful of grandparents and parents. Test their skills and keep the ones able to make tasty and nutritional meals for bugger all money. (Hell, I'll even put my name on the list seeing as I can make coins stretch!)

    If that fails, call Ramsey. At least it would make for a great TV show. Crying kitchen staff, patients laughing hysterically,swearing galore and a swear box that should mean never needing to contact The Dept of Work and Pensions again. Or maybe not work ever again either.

    You could be livin large mate!

    Yvonne - New South Wales, Australia

  36. Oh... if you get Ramsey.... promise me you will order Spotted Dick. I just had a mental picture of Ramsey doing his banana at some poor sod in the kitchen

    "You call this a f!@#$%g spotted dick? Would you eat this?"

    Blah blah and so forth. Made me giggle :)

    Yvonne - NSW, Australia

  37. Well as you mentioned German cooking shows...

    In one of these shows a camera team visits people at home and they have to create "A perfect dinner" (that's the name of the show).

    So they are wasting their time (and money?) so the moderator (and often a VIP) can get a free meal.
    Why don't you do that? I think there are a lot of people who want to be in television and would do it. So you could enjoy 3 delicious courses for free!

    And if you like you anonymity -> pixellation would do it, wouldn't it?

    Hope you get well


  38. While I like Grahamk's idea of Heston Blumenthal, I lean toward Gordon Ramssay simply because he already has so much experience doing exactly this sort of thing. How many dog awful dishes does he have to taste when filming the first quarter of every episode? He is forced to eat things I wouldn't feed my dog, and then turns around and helps cooks produce some of the simplest most beautiful dishes...

  39. How about drafting in the army catering corps? They're used to working under difficult conditions but also know how to rustle up a tempting multi-course spread for visiting dignitaries. Most TV chefs are over-exposed anyway.

  40. Deffo Heston, he is brilliant and one of the few who would have the patience to deal with the bureaucrats. Failing all else, why not get Anthony Bourdain in? He could do an episode of No Reservations from the hospital AND he would put the fear of God into the Admin bods...

  41. Given what Delia did for the supporters of The Canaries, perhaps she would be the one?