Opinion

Boiling Point review – five-star TV worth the strain

The kitchen drama might have your blood pressure racing, but it's worth it

Stephen Graham in a dressing gown with a can of beer

Andy (Stephen Graham) is sitting at home nursing his battered cardiovascular system. Image: © BBC Pictures

When I’m in the kitchen, there are frequently dramatic scenes, usually when I burn the dinner because I’m looking at my phone. Most people don’t realise how pressurised cooking oven chips is, especially if you’ve had a long day. Combine that with trying to heat up a cauliflower cheese grill AND boil peas, AND scroll Instagram ads about skincare over 40, and the result is usually a complete and utter meltdown and a personal life in tatters. 

I think this is why I never saw the film of Boiling Point, the visceral story of life in a restaurant kitchen which was shot in one frantic, unflinching take. It felt a little too close to most Tuesdays, and also, when I look in the mirror, I see Stephen Graham anyway – so what’s the difference? 

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I have to admit to some scepticism about the manufactured urgency of kitchens. What’s the big deal? Whether you’re feeding food critics at the Connaught or cranking up the fryer in The Codfather in Hull, none of it really matters in the grand scheme of things. It’s just food. How dramatic can you make the preparation of it before it all starts to look a bit… hammy?

The Bear was cool, sexy and gritty, but no matter how many high-octane shots there were of Jeremy Allen White marinating meat against the clock, a little voice in the back of my head was always saying ‘Calm down, love, it’s a SANDWICH SHOP. This is basically the Chicago branch of Greggs.’ 

Of course, it’s not about the food, I know that. It’s the human drama, the pace, the pressure, the broken relationships, the trauma bonding, the endless drive for professional perfection. If you get it right, these are all the ingredients for a banger of a TV show. So, wearing a pair of singed oven gloves, I gingerly decided to peek around the kitchen doors of Point North, the restaurant in the new TV version of Boiling Point

As it’s a four-parter, I figured I’d have the chance to get my bearings, maybe hang about by the hob pretending to stir a pan, but no chance of that. It’s all hands to the pump, characters everywhere with complicated back stories, investors at table 11 and harassed head chef and owner Carly (Vinette Robinson) giving a pep talk that also sounds like a cry for help.

Within minutes my blood pressure was spiking and I was getting oven chips flashbacks as rookie chef Johnny (Stephen Odubola) arrived late for his first day and was told to “jump into making the hollandaise”. Except he didn’t know how and had to Google it. I mean, who does? If someone told me to jump into the hollandaise, I would jump off a cliff.

Front of house is one spilled Negroni away from chaos, too, presided over by Maitre d’ Dean (Gary Lamont) who gives some much-needed lightness of touch to this brilliant and highly stressful soufflé. Even further behind the behind-the-scenes mayhem, Carly’s mum is having a funny turn (aren’t we all?) and Andy (Stephen Graham) is sitting at home nursing his battered cardiovascular system, watching his former sous chef’s success from afar.

As for the hollandaise – well, you don’t get a Michelin star if you guess what happens to that. Let’s just say the rest of Johnny’s mistakes make my cauliflower cheese grill misadventures pale into insignificance.  

But Boiling Point isn’t just an elaborate, fast-paced series of kitchen nightmares. It’s five-star ensemble acting with characters that don’t just feel well-rounded, they also feel like they could carry on existing off camera – something that really doesn’t happen very often.

Of course, I will have to check with my doctor before watching the next episode, and someone will need to get the blue roll and wipe me off the floor when it’s finished, but I have a feeling it’ll be worth the strain.  

Lucy Sweet is a freelance journalist. Boiling Point is streaming on iPlayer.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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