The advertising for this programme had me hating its subject before it had even started. It depicted Dylan McGrath, who runs Mint restaurant in Dublin, as an obnoxious Ramsay-knockoff desperate to win a Michelin star. Two minutes into the show I wanted to turn it off. I had no interest in seeing this pompous, arrogant jumped-up little asshole.
Then the rent-a-critics and old men were put to one side and Dylan was allowed to speak. The scales fell from my eyes and I saw a driven, brilliant, witty creator at work. A Ramsay knock-off? You bet - everything that is right about Gordon, I saw in this young guy. Relentless work ethic, constant striving for perfection, inability to suffer fools and a desire to make magical food.
The show focused on his seeming need to win a Michelin star and kept showing clips of other chefs advising him to be patient, build a good business, lose the obsession, stop being so cocky. After a while they got very boring indeed. As Dylan said “this is Ireland after all”. I was thrilled to see the programme-makers really dig into his motivations, demons and formative experiences as a chef. His quips about collecting gooseberries with his Granny spiked the usual nonsense about where a great chef comes from.
His food is highly stylised and for a short while I was reminded of the infamous Conrad Gallagher. I was surprised the naysayers didn’t mention his name in fact. But the thing that struck me about the plates they showed was that they seemed unique and they looked gorgeous. The trip to his salad guy in the UK was a joy. Two obsessives discussing baby salad leaves in the shape of butterflies. Dylan mentioned that the guy had gone bust a few times. You could see why.
And then the highlight of the programme. After little more than a year and a half running Mint, he got his star. A lesser programme would have cut to scenes of the old bluffers looking bashful and apologetic. They didn’t need to, the message came across loud and clear; this guy is going to be huge.
Please please please RTE, make more programmes like this. The desires I expressed in my last review were all fulfilled by this show. Please tell me why it’s only a once off. I guess it is costly to make deep, incisive, educational, moving television. So dump the fluff and make more of these. Now, where’s the telephone number for Mint……