OPINION - Too Many Critics: Help! I’m a restaurant critic but now chefs are judging my cooking
Decisions; I’m no good at them. I should never have agreed to run the marathon one year, for instance, just because I’d had a long and refreshing lunch (grappa gives you confidence). There’s never been a sane reason to head to a karaoke bar, let alone rap at one — but, well, there are videos I can never unwatch. And when the food writer Bill Knott sidled up to me at a party, put a glass of red in my hand and said: “I wonder if you’ll do me a favour?”, I can’t fathom why I didn’t skip a beat before replying of course, it would be my pleasure, and what did he need?
Here’s the fix I’ve got myself into. For two decades, Knott has chivvied his fellow food sorts into putting down their pens and picking up a spatula for a night called Too Many Critics. The premise is origami neat: upending the natural (and frankly correct) order of things, Knott’s band of critics head into the kitchen to cook a four-course meal for a room full of chefs (and, perhaps, you). Critics plays chef, chefs play critic.
This year, it’s being held at Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Club on June 4, with Nieves Barragán of Michelin-starred Sabor and Great British Menu winner Pip Lacey of Hicce among the judges. The whole shebang is raising money for Action Against Hunger’s work feeding malnourished children around the world.
I urge you to buy tickets (actionagainsthunger.org.uk has details). You will be doing an extremely generous thing, a thing that quite literally helps save lives — and besides, the ticket includes plenty of wine, there’s a cracking auction, and wonderful Ravneet Gill is hosting. You might even have a laugh watching me panic.
But the rub is two-fold: first, beyond vague discussions of a naan or two, I don’t know what I’m cooking, so I can’t cram in some much-need practice. And two, Knott — who used to be a chef himself, cheeky sod — has put me on kitchen duty alongside Giles Coren, Tom Parker Bowles, Grace Dent, Rose Prince and Adam Hyman. Which means not only am I likely to embarrass myself in front of some of the chefs I like best, but some of the writers I admire most, too. That’s the career over, then. An honour to be asked; not such a smart move to accept. Decisions; I’m no good at them.
Too Many Critics will be held on Sunday 4 June at The Cinnamon Club, Westminster, between 6-10.30pm. Tickets are available here.