Giving Gok a cooking show isn’t entirely implausible. Unless you’ve been hiding under a big pile of clothes for the past six years, you’ll know his back story: his parents owned restaurants when he was a kid, and for a time he weighed 21 stone.
With that kind of food CV, it’s not at all unreasonable for us to trust him with our food to the same extent we ladies trust him with our clothes and underwear (a lot).
Cooking great Chinese food is far simpler than you might think. It’s also quick (wok to plate in under 7 minutes, for the most part), and healthier than all that takeaway pap. These are the general themes of the show, repeated regularly for your viewing convenience.
True to his word, there are a decent number of recipes in this opening episode. Indeed, Gok’s thrown together perfect fried rice (and eaten it) before the opening title screen. None of this faffing around on a 20 minute life story before we’ve seen so much as a tin opener. Chinese cooking is fast, remember?
For an imposter entering the world of culinary presenting, Gok doesn’t do a bad job. He says things like ‘add a dash of soy sauce’ while lobbing in half the bottle. He can do the chopping onions really fast with a big sharp knife thing better than Rachel Khoo ever did. And his dad, the brilliant Papa Wan (‘The Chinese will eat anything that flies, apart from aeroplanes or rockets’), is on hand for added integrity- well, in as much as a pokey kitchen in Leicester can ever add integrity to authentic Cantonese food.
The sign of a good cooking show is one where the food makes you hungrier than the presenter does your head in, and GCC definitely succeeds on that score. Gok takes us to his favourite Asian restaurant in London and proceeds to time the head chef cooking beef in black bean to prove how quick Chinese cooking is (really quick).
The dishes on offer are serious food porn, overriding Gok’s ridiculous ‘the preparation is the cross country, the wok is the sprint’ analogy, where he asserts that running 100 metres would take the average person 1 minute and 41 seconds.
Only if you were carrying quite an obscene number of designer carrier bags, dear.
Gok’s cooking the type of stuff a nation of Brits are hooked on ordering from their local takeaway (Spicy stir-fried prawns with cashew nuts, anyone?) but, in his own words, he’s taking out all of the rubbish and keeping it really fresh. In the midst of an obesity epidemic, coming from someone who could have remained one of those statistics, it’s hard to criticise.
OK, there’s nothing particularly worthy about watching Gok mucking around in the kitchen with his dad, but it’s certainly more informed, commendable TV than filming Nigella sneaking down to her walk-in fridge for a midnight chocolate brownie and double cream session.
It seems Gok is one of those presenters who can turn his hand to any subject with annoying ease. Expect to see him commentating on the Olympics this summer, or possibly participating in the 100 metre Harrods- DKNY dash.
Gok Cooks Chinese is on Channel 4, Mondays at 8.30pm. You can catch up on 4od here.