You may remember that back at the beginning of the noughties, one Lloyd Grossman, he of the ridiculously strangulated vowels, was asked by Tony Blair to overhaul hospital food and turn it all Cool Britannia. The Better Hospital Food Programme was set up and given £40 million of taxpayers’ cash to enable Lloyd to get stuck in to developing tasty treats like Navarin of lamb with couscous and grilled vegetables.
Unfortunately, it seems the vast majority of NHS patients don’t possess any teeth of their own and find anything spicier than mild onion gravy to be witchcraft or work of the devil. Nurses described Grossman's dishes as slop, and someone else pointed out that it wasn’t really possible to serve restaurant food three times a day on a budget of just £2 per patient. Far better to truck in vats of cook/chill sludge from South Wales at 60p a throw.
Things didn’t improve. Chefs found the poncy recipes difficult to scale up for mass catering and they were too expensive. Quietly the recipes were dropped. Then, in 2005, the British Medical Association's junior doctors committee called on the government to appoint Jamie Oliver to transform hospital food, hoping some of his school dinner magic might rub off on the NHS. The government promptly responded by shutting down the Better Hospital Food Programme.
So here we find ourselves, three years down the line with the same old problem of inedible food, monstrous waste and some patients leaving hospital with malnutrition. We thought we’d see if Jamie was still the nation’s favourite choice to deal with NHS slop or whether his star was waning. Our poll was asked readers of this blog which TV chef they would like to see sort out the great NHS Slop Scandal. And here are the results:
- The Hairy Bikers 279 (21%)
- Jamie Oliver 266 (20%)
- Delia Smith 262 (20%)
- Gordon Ramsay 164 (12%)
- Nigella Lawson 121 (9%)
- Keith Floyd 80 (6%) [Yes, we know he's dead but it seemed bad manners to leave him out.]
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 67 (5%)
- Nigel Slater 41 (3%)
- Antony Worrall Thompson 11 (0%) [snigger!]
The Hairy Bikers scooped the title by a whisker… well actually quite a few whiskers or else they wouldn’t be called The Hairy Bikers, would they? But can Si King and Dave Myers sort out the slop? Will they even want to? Or should the job be given to a safe pair of hands in the form of number three on the running order, the matronly St Delia of Norwich, Britain’s Carmelite nun of culinary science?
And as for Jamie, there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of him doing it… he’s got far too much on his plate at the moment. And does he really want to be a tzar in the dying days of Brown’s government? Let’s have your thoughts on the results. Could those cheeky northerners succeed where others have failed? Or are NHS patients destined to carry on slopping out for ever?