Je t’aime Paris

High budget cookery show starring movie star gets mixed response

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On the Seine, on the nose, and with his soufflé: Tse and Fan in Paris

Mario Batali, the American chef and restaurateur, made his name with Italian cuisine, although he told the Financial Times that Spain was where he spent his “formative gastronomic years”. Taking a sabbatical, Batali returned there in 2008. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow – who spent a teenage year in Spain – went along too, as did Mark Bittman, the food writer, and the Spanish actress Claudia Bassols. The foodie road trip – Spain…On The Road Again – was filmed as a 13-part TV series for PBS.

Chinese singer and actor Nicholas Tse has also decided to hit the road for a food show. Chef Nic is part travelogue, part cooking show, topped off with a garnish of reality TV. The series, which took eight months to film, follows Tse as he travels the world with celebrity friends like actresses Zhao Wei and Angelababy (see WiC29) in search of the most memorable food. As the show’s on-camera chef, Tse also prepares a local dish in each episode, exploring the stories behind the cuisine.

The show – which is a co-producation between Zhejiang Satellite TV and Hong Kong’s Emperor Group – begins in haute cuisine’s heartland: Paris. Tse travels to the French capital to meet movie starlet Fan Bingbing. Posing as a romantic couple, the two spend the day travelling around the city doing touristy stuff. Then Tse turns to preparing his first dish – a Chinese hotpot. To keep the French theme alive, mind you, Tse also demonstrates how to make a soufflé because Fan, like the French dessert, is “very temperamental and delicate,” he concludes.

So far, netizens don’t seem very impressed by Tse’s efforts. Some say that the show is incoherent and confusing to watch. Others complain that they were looking forward to a cooking show but little food is featured. “Did someone say this is a food show? Where’s the food? Nicholas Tse and Fan Bingbing spend such a long time talking about romance and relationships and only in the last few minutes of the show does Tse show you how to make a dessert,” one netizen complains.

The second episode, which aired last Saturday, didn’t fare much better. This time round Tse travels to Australia to seek out the recipe for a fish dish that his friend – the actor Nick Cheung – wants to recreate for his wife. Unfortunately the search is long and overly drawn out (although Tse rewards his female viewers by climbing into the bath while he ponders the life lessons he’s learnt in the entertainment industry). But Tse is also at pains to tell viewers about his passion for cooking, which he reveals he finds therapeutic. “I am a very impatient person,” he told Sina Entertainment. “But when something is not cooked, it is just not cooked. So I can’t be arrogant or impatient, I have to slowly wait until the flavours develop. That’s how you can make a great dish.” Viewers of Chef Nic may need to take a similar approach, hoping later episodes will begin to simmer and justify the hype.

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