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The Apprentice – Episode 9 – Cooking up a storm


This week in The Apprentice, Lord Sugar took some good cooking advice and gave the teams a good stir.

He separated the two remaining gents, Harrison and James, and put Harrison in charge of Vitality as his business proposal is food based. Sarah took on the PM role for Graphene as she runs a confectionery business.

The task

The task – to create a recipe kit, brand it and then pitch it to a room of food experts. The team with the most votes from by the experts would be the winner.

The teams split into recipe creation vs branding sub teams. Harrison sensibly put himself up for the branding side of things as he had a very clear idea of what he wanted to convey. But Michaela talked him out of it and persuaded him that he should be on the cooking team. Given his cooking prowess wasn’t brilliant and that branding was key, this seemed an odd choice.  I think Michaela is a very strong candidate, but she does make some shocking decisions which she pushes through with the force of her personality.  Harrison should have manned up and stuck to his guns especially given the end result of the non-branded product that Jade and Joanna ‘developed’. It’s rather misleading to call the creation of a brown cardboard box a development as it would imply some effort and creativity had gone into it.

Harrison wanted to create a healthy recipe, but guess what? Michaela decided that what was needed was a chicken curry. Because nothing says health conscious more than a creamy chicken tikka masala!  The logic, tenuous as it was, was that we Brits love our curry, so why not develop a healthy curry. Interesting and not completely daft after all – if done properly.
Without absolutely any idea what they were doing, they threw ingredients together managing to avoid even the sniff of a vegetable to health it up (fried onions don’t count).

Over on Graphene Sarah sensibly did take on branding leaving Elizabeth and James to go create their team’s gourmet meal. Unfortunately Sarah got it into her head that they should call their brand the Gourmet Crusaders. Which Bushra said had war-like connotations and they should rethink the term Crusader. Denied. Gourmet Crusaders it was. Seriously, what is wrong with these people? They let their delicate, but over developed egos overrule any sense of logic.

It will come as no surprise that Elizabeth’s mother was a chef and catering lecturer. I bet if it was a task creating a moon station, her dad would have been an astro-scientist! The idea was that James would cook and Elizabeth would take the notes of the recipe and how-to steps. But Elizabeth, being Elizabeth, unless she’s front and centre, she badgers and badgers until she gets what she wants. After umpteen reprises on variations of ‘Do you want me to do the chopping?’, James finally lost the will to live and handed the knife over to her. Their recipe sounded lovely – salmon on a creamy risotto.

Over in branding – Vitality’s team of Jade and Joanna was very far from the perfect mix. Jade bullied and hectored Joanna who, whilst does a great line in playing the victim, actually made some good points. Like putting the recipe on the outside of the box… It got so bad that Joanna had to leave at one stage with Jade steamrolling on oblivious to her poor behavior.

Michaela and Harrison phoned the instructions through. These were vague and rattled out at great speed so the chances of getting them down correctly were pretty slim.

They had also only taken one picture when, as anyone knows when you do these recipe kits, there should be photos for each stage, so the person cooking knows what the meal should look like as they progress.

Graphene nailed this bit – with James phoning through clear instructions on measurements, what to do and photos of the whole process. With Elizabeth chirping loudly and annoyingly in the background. James has the patience of saint – I think I would have clonked her one with a fish slice quite some time before.

At this point Graphene were acing the task. They had a great recipe, really nice branding (other than the Crusader bit), a lovely addition of ‘Taste of Italy’ which could be evolved into a ‘Taste of Spain/China/whatever country cuisine’ for future recipe kits.

All was going so well, until they got to the pitch…And then, it all curdled. Talk about grasping defeat from the jaws of victory!

I’m not quite sure what the whole dressing up thing was – but each team had a couple of people dressed up – a pea over on Vitality (when there was no hint of veg) and salt and pepper pots for Graphene.  Could they just not have refused to make complete t*ts of themselves?

Anyhow, this nonsense clearly scrambled their brains and going from a sensible demonstration from Elizabeth (who else?) and a solid pitch from Sarah with support from James and Bushra, it turned into a toe curling embarrassment. Elizabeth was long winded and Bushra kept butting in to help offering to add ‘pepper’ to things. She was dressed as a pepper grinder – geddit?
And then, horror of horrors, she decided to go all comedic on us, which we know after her failed attempts at entertaining people in the VIP box in an earlier episode, was never going to end well.
In fact, it couldn’t have gone worse. Here is her joke.  Prepare to cringe.

“We would have loved to have Captain Gourmet himself here today, but Donald Trump called him over”.
None of us knew who Captain Gourmet was and as for the Donald Trump reference, well who knows quite frankly. You could have heard the tiniest of pins drop so profound was the uncomfortable silence that followed that corker.

That alone was pretty much guaranteed to sink their pitch. Elizabeth compounded it by adding saffron to the salmon way too early and burning the meal.

It was an unmitigated disaster. And no-one liked Crusader. Because of its war-like connotations – see Sarah, Bushra was making sense for a change. No surprises that the experts gave it a thumbs down.

Rather surprisingly Vitality did very well. OK, their branding was rubbish – basically a plain brown cardboard box with rubbish instructions and only one photo. But their pitch was good and Michaela managed to create a really tasty curry dish.
And they managed to convince the experts for the rationale behind cooking a ‘healthy’ curry. The only comment back from the experts was to add some vegetables.

The boardroom

It goes without saying that Vitality pulled it out of the (grocery) bag and got 12 votes to Graphene’s 10 – which they only got because the box looked great and they loved the ‘Taste of [Insert country]’ idea.

Sarah brought Elizabeth and Bushra back in with her. Not before James was told to ‘man up sunshine’ by HRH. His pep talks are always so positive and uplifting.

Sarah got roasted for messing up the name and not controlling the pitch better. Given her background, she should have done far better.

Bushra did her usual buck passing, and tried to claim the ‘Taste of..’ range but got shot down by Karren who reminded her that James and Elizabeth actually coined the phrase.

She then  tried to claim that Sarah saw her as a threat. I’m not sure in which universe Sarah would ever see her as a threat, but there goes another overweening and misplaced ego again.

As she hadn’t done anything to distinguish herself over nine weeks and despite not being ‘the worst candidate’ she was scraped into the recycling bin and fired.

Elizabeth managed to hang on by her fingernails again. What saves her is her obvious passion and that she throws herself wholeheartedly into every task. But at the expense of others and she needs to learn to delegate or Lord Sugar will not want to go into business with her.

I think this episode has demonstrated more clearly than any other that you need to get the right balance of what you do and one stupid hiccup can completely derail what could otherwise be a success. Also that substance over style will win eventually – the fact that Vitality’s meal was delicious and hit the brief is what won them the task. Oh, and leave off the Donald Trump jokes!

Next week: They act as fashion agents at a catwalk show. Expect posing and pouting. And from the models too!

If you’d like to read more – here’s last week’s blog – http://thechameleonguide.com/the-apprentice-episode-8-canine-capers-and-a-shock-in-the-boardroom/

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About the Author:

About Karen Espley, blogging for The Chameleon GuideKaren Espley of The Chameleon Guide works with ambitious small business owners on her Profit Accelerator Programme. She brings pragmatic and real world advice in a group setting to help her clients make a significant difference to their business through increasing profits and running a highly effective business.

Offering workshops and group profit programmes for companies wanting to reach their full potential.

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