James May: Oh Cook!

There’s probably a kind of innocent Amazon viewer, just searching around for a nice cookery show, who’s completely missed that Oh Cook! is a play on James May’s common expressions of, “Oh cock!” and even more simply, “Cock!” on shows like Top Gear and The Grand Tour. So that’s a fun thing.

While his offsider Jeremy Clarkson is farming in Chipping Norton, May takes a more basic approach in the follow-up to his previous series for the streamer, Our Man in Japan, by simply setting himself up in a kitchen and, with the help of a veteran food economist who he keeps in the cupboard (something I’m genuinely surprised there hasn’t been some sort of silly, confected outrage about), cooks some meals.

That’s pretty much the show in a nutshell. Episodes are themed (Pub Classics, Pasta, Curry, and the like), with May cooking a variety of things, and usually including a vegetarian option of some kind.

Although he claims to not be able to cook at the start of each episode, almost everything May makes turns out pretty well, and many of the stories he tells while cooking suggest he has some amount of cooking experience. Indeed, many of the utensils he points out as being his, such as professional knives, a vintage cheese grater, and more, also suggest that the man doth protest too much when it comes to the humble, “I can’t cook…” line, but it never tips into being annoying as he’s quite likeable.

Not much more to say. Seven episodes of about half an hour each zip by quite quickly, with May bantering with himself, with his food economist, and with a small crew behind the camera. Indeed, breaking that wall between the production team and what’s happening on camera is a very deliberate thing and, like the over-used joke on many podcasts of, “We’ll cut that bit out…” when the intention is completely to leave it in, May will often say something similar but, of course, makes it into the show.

If you like food, and don’t mind a cooking show being quirky, this is a winner. If you like James May and couldn’t give a hoot about cooking, this is still pretty entertaining stuff. And if you like cooking shows AND James May, you’re going to have a good time. My wife and I really enjoyed this Amazon series.

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