tue 22/10/2019

What did Jane Avril eat? Ask Celebrity Masterchef | reviews, news & interviews

What did Jane Avril eat? Ask Celebrity Masterchef

What did Jane Avril eat? Ask Celebrity Masterchef

Lobster à la Parisienne, braised duck with tea jus, three puddings

Toulouse-Lautrec's Jane Avril: did she too lunch on lobster à la Parisienne and duck with tea jus?Stavros Niarchos Collection, Paris

What's the preferred scoff of Moulin Rouge can-can dancers? We found out, rather accidentally, last night, if you watched the final of Celebrity Masterchef. And if the world's dancers don't beat down the doors of Paris to get in, I'll eat my chat.

The three celebrity finalists (celebrities, pay attention) - actress Lisa Faulkner (Holby City, Spooks, Burn It), TV presenter Dick Strawbridge (Scrapheap Challenge) and political-scandal wife Christine Hamilton - have a final week cooking ridiculous challenges in increasingly surreal circumstances. Last night’s final-part-1 consisted of cooking lunch at the Moulin Rouge for a crew of 10 dancers while they were thrashing out a rehearsal in plumes, high heels, fishnets and apparently no pants.

If it’s true that these dancers routinely get this kind of tucker on a rehearsal day, it’s a dance job to die for. Lobster salad, braised duck and pannacotta with strawberries in various guises were the courses.

Lisa flapped her way (as usual) through the starter - she’d never even seen a lobster and the twitchy black critters terrified her with their menacing claws as they contemplated the pot. Christine did her usual sterling Westminster-wife job on duck with tea and grapefruit jus with coriander courgettes (I copied it down twice), and Dick-the-walrus-moustache made not one but three complementary puddings for the willowy dancers, pannacotta, strawberry compôte and lemon sorbet.

Who knows what the calorie outcome was of this four-hour kitchen stress? And are these daily rations for the dancers? Or is it fromage frais and a lettuce leaf on other days? We were not told.

A few years ago I interviewed a ballerina each from the Mariinsky (Kirov) and Royal Ballets about what they ate. Russian girl’s menu: protein breakfast, local version of cottage cheese, with tea and sugar; main meal, protein lunch, mum’s meat and vegetable casserole; little carby tea, a before-show chocolate bar and fruit, then nothing at all after the show. Front-end loaded. English girl’s menu: carby breakfast, buttered toast and a banana; tiny carby lunch, very sweet tea with sandwich or muesli bar; main meal, after-show carby supper of pasta, meat sauce, perhaps wine. Back-end loaded.

The extraordinary thing is the variety of diets that dancers in three great dance centres - Paris, London, St Petersburg - all go by, yet produce the same result in physical requirements. It's as if the nutritionist profession had never existed.

Is it fromage frais and a lettuce leaf on other days? We were not told

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.