I’ve had my fill of campaigning cooks

Celebrity chefs should provide more food and less food for thought

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is back on our screens, but don’t lick your lips just yet. Hugh’s Fish Fight: the Battle Continues reports on the River Cottage chef’s crusade to overhaul the fishing industry.

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Having already door-stepped MEPs in Brussels and incited over 700,000 vexed viewers to sign a petition calling for change, tonight he gets the government fisheries minister and Prince of Wales onside. And you thought he spent his days foraging for mushrooms and stewing roadkill.

When the Fish Fight launched on Channel 4 last January, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal also stuck an oar in. Heston dished up sea cucumber tea, trout candyfloss and chocolate starfish. Gordon condemned illegal shark fishing (only for photos of him reeling in a rare bullshark to appear in the papers a few days later. Oops). Jamie took time out from preaching to porky Americans to eulogise pollack, pouting and dab.

Gone are the days when a TV chef’s job was to make us dribble with hunger into our microwave lasagne. Now they’re desperate to prove themselves culinary Bob Geldofs – more righteous than an organic sprout – and their shows are likely to leave you sickened rather than salivating.

I signed Hugh’s petition. I wept with Jamie when Americans the size of small planets spat out his nourishing greens. I looked on with (albeit bemused) admiration when Heston attempted to transform Little Chef into a gastro-diner. I tuned into Jamie’s Dream School for lessons. And yet I can’t help pining for the days when the Naked Chef came with a dash of cheeky banter, rather than a stodgy side of conscience and sprinkling of tears.

More and more chefs are swapping aprons for placards: the Hairy Bikers have pledged to revitalise meals on wheels, while Saturday Kitchen presenter James Martin is to tackle hospital food.

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Whatever next? Will Rick Stein try to introduce Spanish cuisine into our prisons? Will Delia force-feed her fellow football supporters home-made quiche Lorraine at half time – so much more wholesome than the customary meat pie? Personally, I’m looking forward to the day when Nigella is parachuted into Iraq to teach troops and insurgents alike to make triple chocolate brownies, not war.