Thursday 22 February 2018

Too many chefs but only one Gary Cooke

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

Celebrity MasterChef (RTE1)

The Open (BBC)

The Ashes (Sky Sports)

At the end of the first episode of Celebrity MasterChef, the best candidate was eliminated. As they made the unbelievable announcement that Gary Cooke would be going home, many of us were appalled. We knew that for us, the series had ended right there.

All we're left with now is a bunch of people who are quite good at cooking, trying to beat each other – and clearly no intelligent person could be bothered with that.

But a man who is very bad at cooking, trying to be good – now that's entertainment. And Cooke is not just very bad, he is also hilarious at being very bad. As he prepared to present his latest burnt offering, his fear of the wrath of Dylan McGrath was deeply funny.

And McGrath seemed to recognise that he was dealing with a man who was as gifted as himself, albeit in a different line of work. He sort of stood back a bit, savouring the comedy of the moment, allowing Cooke to suffer the anxiety, but declining to berate him.

It was a perfectly judged performance on the part of both men, and it promised much for the series ahead. And then it was over. They sent him away, like some booking agent rejecting Tommy Cooper because some of his tricks don't work.

The lust for victory is the main engine of these shows, and here it was the inherent design flaw. If they had thrown out former Mr World, Kamal Ibrahim, we might have had one more week of Cooke-y, who, with his powers of mimicry, could also bring us a flavour of about 20 other celebrity chefs while he was at it.

But they could not find a way, even though Mr World is not much better than the funnyman at serving up a crepe suzette. I think of a line in the book To The Light, a quotation found by the great musician and songwriter Johnny Duhan: "We Irish are suspicious of success, knowing that there is a lot more of the infinite in its opposite."

So they can keep their Mr World.


It is inherently wrong too, that for the last few days we have been trying to look at the Open golf and the Ashes, at the same time.

These are among the last remaining monuments of western civilisation, and while they are being well preserved by the BBC and by Sky Sports respectively, it is a task that would be made easier by avoiding such an unnecessary clash.

Indeed, with a bit of imagination, there is probably no need for any clash in any form of sport, anywhere in the world, a vision long cherished by my friend and colleague Dion Fanning.

Inspired by Emily O'Reilly's recent elevation to the role of European Ombudsman, Fanning is willing to let his name go forward for a new trans-national role of a slightly different kind, with the working title, President of the Office of Global Sporting Co-Ordination.

He would have sweeping powers. He would be able to pick up the phone to a top golf administator such as Peter Dawson, Chief Executive of the Royal & Ancient, and say, "Pete, the Open will be on TV at the same time as the cricket this year. And there's not much happening the following week anywhere.

"It's not working for me, Pete. Just put it back a few days, will you mate?"

Why such an office does not exist already, when there is such a thing as a European Ombudsman, is inexplicable. But Fanning is modest about his own position – he would see his remuneration as being on a par with that of the European Ombudsman, €248,000 per annum "plus benefits", though of course he would be doing a much more important job, with a far-reaching impact on the lives of every Irish person, indeed of everyone everywhere.

I would see a role for myself as, say, Director of Corporate Communications – I would accept €248,000 a year "without the benefits". And in that capacity I would arrange for Sean O'Rourke to interview Mr Fanning on the lunchtime news, as he interviewed Emily O'Reilly on the day of her elevation – there would be a general sense out there that getting one of ours into such a prestigious position, albeit one he invented himself, was a great day for Ireland.

Let's get it done.

Irish Independent

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