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Sarah Millican: MasterChef judges are dinner bullies

"I’d feel much more comfortable with The Great British Bake Off's Mary and Paul ogling my rum babas than Gregg and John sighing around my aubergine tartlets" logo
Published: Tuesday, 20th August 2013 at 4:06 pm

Catching up with Celebrity MasterChef last night, it occurred to me how different it is to The Great British Bake Off. Sure, it’s a cooking competition just the same, but I’d feel much more comfortable with Mary and Paul ogling my rum babas than Gregg and John sighing around my aubergine tartlets. The latter are dinner bullies. There’s a quiet malice about their compliments. They SEEM to like my coq au Sprite but as soon as my (sweaty) back is turned, they’re sniggering into their Agas.


But they hadn’t banked on Janet Street-Porter. I love the woman and am particularly enjoying how she shouts back at the chef in a kitchen, or explains to Gregg that as long as it’s edible, it doesn’t need to be pretty. I’ve lived my life (and my cooking) by that rule.

I am very new to cooking. At school, our home economics lessons were very poor. We were told to pick a recipe and then cook it. So no actual teaching involved then. It’s the cooking equivalent of being thrown in a swimming pool and expecting “not wanting to die” to help you figure out how to swim.

The lessons were themed. For the one where we had to make breakfast, I prepared Frosties. For dessert week, I made a fruit salad, as I knew I could cut things up small. I borrowed my sister’s wicker cookery basket, which had an uneven bottom. My parents’ casserole dishes and mismatched lids never quite fitted, so by the time I’d walked home from school, the fruit salad was bone dry and I’d left a trail of juice like a health- conscious Hansel and Gretel.

So I feel for the celebs. Bad enough to not really know what you’re doing but to then be criticised by people who do it for a job! Only last week my cooking was judged. My boyfriend actually complimented me on a little chorizo chicken thing that I’d knocked up (from a recipe). He said, “This is bloody lovely.” All good so far. Cue lots of twirling in a pinny from me. Then he said, “Much better than what you made last week.” NEVER COMPARE ME TO ME. Compare my cooking to a microwave dinner. Heck, if you’re expecting any further culinary treats, compare me to a restaurant, but never compare me to me.

Not sure I could ever hack MasterChef. I had to quietly google “endive” last week in a restaurant to make sure it wasn’t a type of fish or cheese. And I couldn’t think of the verb “to marinate” so said I popped my chicken thighs in the fridge overnight “to fester”. But I do, like proper cooks, have an oven burn on my arm. I ran it under the tap for a couple of minutes but then the biscuits I’d made were cool enough to eat and I had to make a choice. Tiny scar and full belly it is then.

Lost in Albert Square

Watched EastEnders the other day. I have absolutely no idea who anyone is. Which feels curiously good.


Sarah’s stand-up DVD, Thoroughly Modern Millican Live, is available at


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