Review – Hardeep Singh Kohli, The Nearly Naked Chef, Royal, Derngate, Northampton, 21st July 2011

Hardeep Singh KohliThis was one of those shows that I booked by instinct. I didn’t know much about Hardeep Singh Kohli; we’d seen him once on Question Time and also in that series about celebrities seeing what it’s like to be homeless, which despite extensive use of Prof. Google, doesn’t seem to be researchable anywhere.

So what would the show be? A comedy stand up? A chat with the audience? A cookery demonstration? Would he be nearly naked? Actually it was a mix of all of the above, the nearly naked element being the fact that he wore a kilt and therefore one presumes he would dress traditionally.

I wouldn’t normally be the kind of person who would be interested in a cookery demonstration. Cooking for me is a passive affair. I am happy to hunt down the necessary elements from Waitrose for Mrs C to reassemble into a meal, and can stretch to preparing pasta with a sauce that goes ping after one minute fifteen seconds. Anything more in depth than that and we would probably both head for one of our seemingly endless range of delightful eateries within 500 yards of Sparkle Castle.

But, actually, Mr HSK’s combination of cookery and chattery works effortlessly well. His ability to divert and cook at the same time proves that not only women can multitask. To this end, he’s definitely on a par with Meera Syal. His insights into what goes on in the kitchens of one’s local Indian Restaurant were fascinating and made perfect sense, and he provided a lot of I’m sure useful information about how to create the perfect lamb curry, to which I listened, smiled and forgot.

It’s a most unusual evening’s entertainment; quiet, convivial, infused with a gentle humour, satisfying in a charming sort of way. The only other one-man show I’ve seen that had a similar atmosphere was when, several decades ago, Mrs C and I saw the Rabbi Lionel Blue eloquently rambling away at an evening event in Aylesbury Church. Time moves on, and Mr HSK uses a few more four-letter words than the good Rabbi did, but then he was cooking as well, which the Rabbi wasn’t.

I think I would most liken it to spending the evening in the kitchen at a dinner party, conversing genially with your host as he prepares a toothsome repast, swapping stories about twitter and ingredients, seeing the meal come together; and then the final act of the show, which happens after curtain down, is to be imagined in his comfortable dining room over poppadoms and port.

Lamb CurryThere’s no doubt that Mr HSK is a fine cook, as I was one of the lucky ones chosen to sample his Lamb Curry, recipe thoughtfully provided in the very reasonably priced programme. Actually I think it was the minty dressing that made it. He had a relaxed rapport with the audience, and I think we all went home nourished to some extent.

It’s not a show for everyone; if you’re expecting lively stand up and a bunch of jokes you’d be disappointed. One person appeared to walk out because he wasn’t Delia Smith. Another person, for no reason whatsoever, announced that he didn’t follow him on twitter. On second thoughts, that was me, sorry about that. Definitely an evening with a difference.

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