REVIEW: Jay Rayner – The Ten (Food) Commandments (****)
Eden Court, Inverness
Saturday, October 21
RESTAURANT critic Jay Rayner has developed a reputation over his 18 years in the business as a bit of a sourpuss.
Nicknamed Acid Rayner, over the years an image has been built up of somebody who strikes fear into the hearts of business owners and chefs up and down the country – whether that be with his weekly reviews in the Observer, or his recurring role as a guest judge in Masterchef.
Yet the Jay Rayner we spend a warm evening at Eden Court tonight with couldn’t be further from this image. On a night where he delves into his dining loves and hates, he’s by turns charming, self-deprecating, funny, and very informative.
The first half of the show focuses on the titular 10 food commandments – Jay’s list of the ultimate dos and don’ts of food and dining. On these topics Jay manages to entertain and educate in equal measures – there’s never a sense that what you’re watching is a lesson.
Throughout these 55 minutes, Jay holds court like a good university lecturer – there’s a relaxed warmth to him, even as his headset microphone occasionally crackles due to low battery.
And his food commandments have been carefully selected. From eating with your hands to celebrating fat, from celebrating meat-free cooking (without meat substitutes, a foodstuff that suffers the full tempest of Rayner’s scorn) to not treating your food as medicine, the restaurant critic digs into each subject with relish.
Providing in-depth analysis on each topic, Jay’s journalism instincts kick in as he names sources, discusses studies and makes his arguments clearly and concisely.
Don’t let my incredibly dry and lacklustre description turn you away though – he’s also bloody funny throughout. His use of slides and video in particular lead to some hilarious moments – his repeated return to spare ribs, the sight of Jay Rayner first smelling, and then trying the Swedish “delicacy” Surströmming (rotten herring, yum) and, in a moment that had the audience applauding, flushing the late Margaret Thatcher down the toilet.
The second half’s QnA section – including suggestions from the audience as to their food commandments – offers Jay the chance to be more off the cuff. Switching modes from university lecturer to welcome dinner party guest, he discusses his restaurant reviews over the years, Masterchef and Brexit’s impact on food and agriculture with various audience members.
He approaches each person with humour and, in some cases – particularly a man who had tweeted six questions at him during the interval and a woman who asks him what she could do with a kilogramme of crab claws – gentle mockery.
It’s a great capper to a pleasant evening spent with the good company of Jay Rayner and a show that left anything but a sour taste in my mouth.
Jay Rayner returns to tour Scotland in May 2018. For more information, go to www.jayrayner.co.uk