The Apprentice Episode 9 Review – Recipe For Disaster

Three weeks left to go and the competition is starting to get intense, so if you can’t stand the heat…

Deryck O'Byrne


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Three weeks left to go and the competition is starting to get intense, so if you can’t stand the heat stay out of the, er, boardroom. This week the remaining candidates are tasked with creating their own “ready meal”, from selecting the ingredients to creating the packaging, marketing and finally presenting it to industry experts. You know, the usual. After being thwarted at every turn in his attempts to be PM Alex finally has his chance when Lord Sugar categorically singles him out and says “Done deal!” Nobody dares argue with that. On Evolve Luisa shies away from the job, obviously still smarting from the criticism she took last week, and it’s between Neil and Francesca, so Luisa has the deciding vote. Well, we all know how that’s going to go, don’t we? Still, the fact that Francesca admits she “knows nothing about food” does not help her case.

Alex starts brainstorming flavours but it’s clear from the off that the team intend to make him PM in name only. Lord Sugar may have laid down the law but that doesn’t mean they can’t undermine Alex in every way possible. Myles in particular seems to take on a “ghost PM” role, quite similar really to what Luisa did with the unfortunate Jason last week, and like the former king of chivalry and politeness, Alex is not strong enough to stand up for himself. This does show though how unfocussed Alex is; he jumps from idea to idea without any real clue where he’s going. He caves when Myles suggests another direction, and it won’t be the last time either.

But they decide to go with a children’s theme, that being as far as they agree. Myles is adamant that his cool idea for Deadly Dinners will appeal to kids, while Alex wants to go for a more educational, geographical thing using a cartoon character. Mind you, he wants to name him Poppity Ping, which is apparently Welsh for microwave. Who would have known? Myles has no interest at all in Alex’s idea and keeps working on his own, until he has eventually chipped away at his PM to the point where Alex realises he has only an idea, no clear plan for his educational geographical concept, and despite his determination to push ahead with his Poppity Ping thing, and telling Myles he needs to get on board with that, he inexplicably decides to bow to the incessant pressure from Myles, making Deadly Dinners the new project. Making a rod for your own back, Alex?

Jason and Leah have been dispatched to the kitchen to prepare the food, neither with any cooking expertise, while Alex and Myles go to a school to test out their concept. Evolve, meanwhile, have decided to go with a “fusion” of, um, Caribbean and Thai, which they have settled on calling Oh My Pow! (I don’t get it; someone please explain?) and for their team, having only three members, it’s Francesca who’s banished to the kitchen, even though she makes it very clear she doesn’t cook, can’t cook, but will have to. This despite the fact that Luisa runs a cake shop, and so at least has more experience in the kitchen than her compatriot. But she is determined to avoid the kitchen at all costs, and Francesca is abandoned by her two team-mates. She proves she knows absolutely sod-all about cooking when she asks “Can you burn chicken?” Silly girl! Of course not! Chicken is completely flame-retardant! That’s why they put in fire extinguishers, and that’s why when a house burns down there’s always a roast chicken still in the remains of the oven, untouched and unburned! Honestly, how do some of these people make it through a day? This comment is right up there with “Do the French love their children?” in terms of pure, unashamed and inexcusable stupidity.

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The tasting for Deadly Dinners goes down a storm. The kids love it. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? And they’re playing for the cameras. The few parents there take a more pragmatic view, pointing out things like a skull on the packaging and the word “horrible” linked to “healthy” (what sort of an idiot is Myles? I could see from, er, miles away this was going to crash and burn!) but the boys ignore the most important of feedback and swept up by the enthusiasm of the kids they declare the trial a huge success. They’ll sell millions of these! Yeah, if the kids buy them themselves but Myles, come here a minute will you? The world does not work that way! The parents buy the food, not the children, and it’s them you have to impress. Give me strength. Every season it’s the same; people make the most basic of errors or assumptions and end up heading for disaster.

Not that the tasting for Oh My Pow goes any better, mind. The food is pronounced flat, tasteless, bland. But on the upside, everyone loves the packaging! Oh well that’s all right then: buy the food, admire the box and eat something else. Good grief. Of course it’s too late to do anything about it now: the kitchens are no longer available and anyway presentation day is tomorrow. So they just have to make the best of it. Neil and Luisa are annoyed that Francesca didn’t even taste the food, which is a bit silly. How can you expect anyone to eat something you haven’t sampled, to make sure it tastes nice?

Lord Sugar has as always set up clients for them to impress, though it’s unlikely this mess is going to make anyone sit up, except perhaps in dismay. Nobody likes Deadly Dinners, pointing to — wait for it — the skull, the word horrible, the negative connotations: all the points the parents made in their focus group. Myles and Leah do pretty dull and stilted pitches, though to be fair to Leah she is constantly interrupted by Myles, who doesn’t seem to be able to keep his mouth shut. Maybe it’s because he sees this as his creation. Well, I wouldn’t be pointing that out to Lord Sugar when it comes to the Boardoom, if I were you! The only one to do a good, even great pitch, is Jordan, of all people. And this his first time to step into the limelight.

The lack of taste in Oh My Pow turns off the buyers too, despite Neil’s claim that they can spice up the flavours. I mean, come on: you go into a pitch and essentially admit your product isn’t up to scratch, but that if the buyer puts in a big order you’ll make it better? And they expect this to fly? Neil’s pitch is the most stultifyingly boring since I watched an MP read out housing figures in an episode of Rik Mayall’s The New Statesman. He goes on and on about percentages, his voice is flat and boring, and to be honest it’s hard to inject any passion into a pitch for a product that does not speak for itself. They have failed utterly at the most important aspect of the task, which is to cook the food. Sure, the buyers are generally excited by the packaging, but like a flashy car that then refuses to drive, they are seriously disappointed with the taste of the food, and it doesn’t matter how well something looks if it doesn’t come up to code.

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Back in the Boardoom and Lord Sugar berates Alex for not having stuck to his guns. He is not happy with the idea of Deadly Dinners, pointing out, as has Nick previously, that you generally put a skull on things children are not supposed to consume, like poison, bleach etc. He says the whole concept was flawed and asks why Alex didn’t see that? The first-time PM has no answer. Turning to Evolve he has some choice words for them too, reading out comments from the tasting. As expected, the words “bland”, “tasteless”, “boring” all feature heavily. He is amazed that Francesca did not taste the food before it was packaged, but she never wanted to be there in the first place and it’s clear she decided that if crappy food lost them the task then it would serve the other two right. Real teamwork.

However, when the orders are totalled up it turns out that Neil’s team have managed to blag their way to a win, and Alex is left to face Lord Sugar. When asked who he intends to bring back he only wants to take Myles, but Lord S ain’t having that, so he opts to bring Leah also. Myles is taken to task over his completely flawed concept, and Alex for having allowed him to drive the product. Alex constantly blames Myles, saying he allowed him take the lead as he is a parent, but Lord Sugar thinks anyone should have known this was never going to work. Again he points out, parents buy the food, not the kids. They should have known that.

Here again I return to the problem of market research though. Last week Lord Sugar as much as said “if your market research says one thing you don’t have to go with that if you don’t agree” and now he’s backtracking, saying “what’s the point of market research if you ignore what they have to say?” Holy jumping candidates, Lord S! Make up your mind! I’m confused now! Mind you, even I could see from an early stage the parents didn’t like anything about Deadly Dinners and, what was that I had to say again? Something important… Oh yeah. The parents buy the food!

Leah doesn’t escape without a spanking herself though, as Lord Sugar deplores her overall contribution to the process, saying he has hardly heard from her. She rises to the sting though, and becomes very inflamed and passionate, to the point where he has to warn her not to say any more, advice she ignores, and we all know how that can end. But in the final analysis it wasn’t her that lost them the task; Alex had said he was happy with her work and so it’s between Myles and Alex. Either could go to be fair, but it’s the PM who does, and you can’t really blame Lord Sugar. He’s been let down: he put his judgement on the line by forcing the team to accept Alex as their leader and now it’s been proven he doesn’t have what it takes. Still, the idea was totally driven by Myles, who even now stands by his concept, and I think he should have been fired as well. He’s very very lucky to have survived.

But it’s really Alex’s lack of focus I think that has shown Lord Sugar that he would not be an investable prospect. He wants to go into law, but has no experience in, or qualifications for same. When it comes down to it the Big Man wants to go into business with someone he can trust, and who will make him money. That, he seems to see now, is not Alex, and perhaps in a way the PM has talked himself into the firing line.

And so we’re down to six, with three weeks to go. So with my favourite gone, who remains? Luisa? Maybe: Karren seemed much more impressed with her this week, and she did seem to work well with Neil. What about him? He’s always been a front-runner, but Francesca I doubt; just don’t see her standing out in any way, and her performance this week was miles below dismal, even her pitch. Jordan could be the surprise, the dark horse, and then there’s always Myles, though surely his reputation will have suffered a blow now? Leah? Lord Sugar doesn’t seem very taken by her, so unless she really steps up and does something to get his attention in the next week or so, I’d say no. Actually, considering her “AK47 mouth”, as Lord S put it this week, she would want to be very careful not to talk herself out the door next week.

She should remember, in the Boardroom your mouth is a weapon that can easily be used against you. Alex found that out this week, though I still think Myles has the luck of the devil himself to still be there after basically losing the task for his team. Will he still be there after next week? Be here to find out.