When I woke at Hotel Saint Tropez today I was shocked to see how big my bed was. Indeed, one could fit Snow White and the all 7 of the dwarfs into it. It was huge. When we arrived late last night I just fell asleep. Today I looked out and realised that I really am living in some sort of reality show. This hotel has chalets – dozens of them on little streets that look like something from Florida. Lovely palm trees all around and you are driven from the chalet to the main hotel by golf buggy. Please remember I am in China. It’s a 5 star complex with emphasis on the term “International Hotel”, yet the bar closes at 9pm! I looked over the hill and I could see a German Schloss in the distance. Nothing surprises me anymore.
Breakfast was coffee cake and deep fried smiley potato faces. ‘Eat, Swallow and smile for the camera’ was easy. I was sent off to the Sheraton hotel with a Spanish chef called Xavier to share cooking skills with the chef in the Sheraton. We don’t share, we are told about Chinese food. We are shown around the kitchens of this massive hotel and they are impressive.
After this I was told I was going to be on TV with Xavier. I looked the at Chinese kitchen and realised very quickly that the equipment would not cook Western, never mind get the ingredients. So I cooked Irish Colcannon Potatoes and a lamb chop followed by floating islands. 2 very easy recipes, hardly gastronomy. This is filmed, but they dress me up in chefs clothes that are far too big for me and give me one of those daft chefs hats that no one in the West ever wears any more. Xavier and I perform to camera. Then the local newspapers and magazines want interviews. Each one asks the same question – “Do you like Chinese food?”, naturally I say “yes” and rabbit (or labbit as the Chinese pronounce it as they cant say the letter ‘r’) on about how fresh and healthy the food is when I really want a dirty Ginsters pasty. Even a Fray Bentos Pie is becoming very attractive. I can’t say I want British food. I have learned a lot from the Chinese.
Dinner was at the largest restaurant in the world. It held 5,000 people. Never mind the snails in chilli or the boiled chicken feet for dinner, the food quality is poor. I reach for the soup – I stir to the bottom (a trick I have learned here) to find the gills of the fish float to the top. I ask for the Muslim option – it’s always safer here. Chinese soup is always thick – Delia, can we make it with less corn starch? The local Government are again hosting this dinner and I’m introduced as “Jamie Oliver” – well, that’s my branding out the window! I brand myself as simply “James” here. www.james.cn.com People can not spell McIntosh correctly in the UK, so for China I thought “James”. Clean, simple and no letter “r”. Then the dancing girls, and singing girls and Chinese magician take to the stage. A pleasant show. Followed by 11 veiled ladies dancing. I thought it was the dance of 7 virgins, China would have to have 11.
We are all hungry at this point and want to leave. I am called to the stage to thank all 5,000 attendees on behalf of our group. I do my usual spiel and talk about London 2012 etc. I pull a red napkin from my pocket and make it into a chicken – you have probably all seen me do this. The Chinese find this hilarious and start chanting “Jamie”. Again, branding out the window. We are dragged to a TV studio and told (we want bed now, the humidity and mosquitoes have worn me down) we are to be on TV tomorrow. I am sober. In China you only get one mouthful in your glass of red wine, then they fill it up. Have they never heard of how to count units of alcohol by the glass from www.drinkaware.co.uk ? We arrive at the studio to find that myself and Xavier are to be on a show called “Day Day Up” which is watched by 1 billion people. It’s the “Good Morning with Anne and Nick” of China.
So more work to do. Xavier and I decide to plan it when having a Chinese Massage. These are perfectly family friendly things. One sits on a seat and drinks tea fully clothed while a Chinese lady puts you through so much pain by rubbing your feet. We asked the concierge where to go and he ordered us a taxi. Taxi arrived. 2 girls got out and at that point we realised he had ordered not dancing girls but ladies of the night. One was not amused.
Off to bed, one day to go, 1 billion people to entertain tomorrow. What will happen tomorrow I can only guess. But then again, it’s probably better I don’t