In these times of conflicting dietary advice, pontificating chefs, and badly researched dos and do-nots of food, the world needs a ‘culinary Moses’, someone to lead us to the promised land.
And Jay Rayner is just the person for the job.
The award-winning journalist, writer and restaurant critic for the Observer is bringing his one-man show, The Ten (Food) Commandments, to Northampton’s Royal and Derngate Theatre on November 16.
The show is based on the book of the same name where The Kitchen Cabinet presenter comes up with his own common sense food rules, all in the name of improving our enjoyment of food and teaching us something new in the process.
Speaking to the Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Jay said the show, which uses audio-visual aids as a ‘second performer’ to guide audience members through his commandments, was also interactive, with the audience encouraged to come up with their own food commandments, and included a Q and A.
He said: “The Q and A is intriguing because you don’t know what is going to happen. Sometimes there are serious questions such as, ‘Are we ever going to eat insects?’ but also, ‘What is the worst thing you have ever put in your mouth?’”
He added this was the third show he had taken on the road, having previously toured with a show based on his book, A Greedy Man in a Hungry World. The book took a closer look at food sustainability and ‘middle class tropes’ such as going to farmers’ markets and eating organic and found they didn’t always hold up.
He said: “When I really looked at the evidence I realised it was a topic for discussion panels, which I hate. I came up with a one-man show so I didn’t have to sit on discussion panels. I came up with a format which worked and it was a lot of fun – people seemed to like it.”
He added: “I think one of the most interesting things is in the digital age we can access almost anything through our phone and our computers, which means we treasure the human experience more.
“There seems to be a boom in live work and writers going out on the road. People have a hunger, they want to meet the real person behind the printed word.”
His carefully researched commandments run the gamut from whether you should eat with your hands (you should) and if food is medicine (it isn’t).
“The commandments needed to have real depth to them,” he said. “The only one I would consider as grandstanding is the one about choosing your dinner companion carefully although I did some research on how we react to food when we are with different dining companions.
“I believe in doing your research. The commandments had to be robust and strong. I think the only other one that could have been in there is, ‘Thou shalt always eat off plates’. It becomes a subject of discussion on the shows. It has always struck me as something I could have included.”
This also marks the first time Jay has performed in Northampton, although it is not his first visit to the town, having once filmed a BBC One Show segment here about curried goat.
He said: “I remember I left the film shoot with my microphone pack still attached. I had to go the ticket office at the station so I could give it to someone to hold onto so a producer could pick it up. It was only if someone recognised me they would take it off my hands. That was the only time I have said: ‘By any chance, do you know who I am?’”
Jay has just released Wasted Calories and Ruined Nights, a collection of 20 of his most negative reviews, which includes details of the aftermath of one of his most devastating take-downs – the two-Michelin-starred Le Cinq in Paris.
He is currently writing My Last Supper, a close look at the meaning behind people’s final meals.
“I am always asked what my last meal would be and I say I believe I would have lost my appetite,” he said. “It’s a question that keeps coming back. The question you are actually being asked is if there were no consequences, if it summed up who and what you are and your passions, what would your last meal be?”
But for now, he is preparing to bring his show to Northampton.
“The key thing to all these shows is they are mine. They live and die by whether I am any good. When I do Kitchen Cabinet, it is a team effort. With this I wrote it, directed it and there is no one else to blame, just me.”
He added: “It is a fun night. You get to send people out of the door feeling they have learnt something, but they get to challenge me too. If you eat food, then you are going to want to come and I think that includes most people.”
Tickets are available from www.royalandderngate.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01604 624811.