Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal... the British TV schedule is swamped with celebrity chefs. None of these compare to Roland White--the head chef played by Alan Davies in Whites--though. For one thing they're successful. Roland himself never hit the big time, but the BBC2 sitcom in which he stars looks set to fair far better.
When we first enter the kitchen, in the show's opening episode (Tues at 9pm), everything seems just right: plates are clanking, people are shouting and food is being served. It's only when dedicated sous-chef Bib Spears (Darren Boyd) calls for Roland that we realise someone's missing. The once-promising head chef is too busy with his feet up to notice (or care) that the restaurant's booming.
It becomes apparent very early on that while Davies is billed as the star of the show it's Boyd who turns up the heat. In Green Wing Darren Boyd's comedic acting was purposefully overstated to the point of blandness, but his portrayal of Bib Spears is a perfectly balanced treat. His resentment of "executive" chef Roland is well balanced against a sense of respect, and when he gets a new, cut-throat apprentice (played by Stephen Wight) these qualities are heightened to comedic effect.
That's not to say the other characters don't have their worth, even if they can come across as sitcom-staple stereotypes at times. Isy Suttie (Peep Show) plays cute-but-dim waitress Kiki, who interrupts the series’ tensions with stupid comments about "steam wee"; The IT Crowd's Katherine Parkinson is the only one brave enough to stand up to Davies’ Roland, especially his somewhat-ironic hatred of vegetarians; and Davies himself has great timing when delivering Roland's dry, egotistical lines.
To an untrained eye the kitchen setting seems authentic too. This, the BBC claims, is partly because co-writer Matt King "based the scripts on his personal experiences of working in restaurants". Filming, during the busy cooking scenes, is erratic, precise and fast. It also helps that the actors apparently had training in Jamie Oliver's flagship restaurant before they started to shoot.
The first episode is a satisfying feast that will leave you wanting seconds and though not every joke (eggless omelettes, really?) will hit the spot White's qualities more than make up for it. To find out more about the show, click here.