The Apprentice 2012, Episode 3: Who’s Feeling the Chutney?

Rejoice people, for we have a new euphemism. Last Wednesday, Duane asked that most passionate, key, committed question: “Who’s feeling the chutney?” Perhaps in next week’s task, the remaining candidates must not only define it, but decide which colour it should be and who should do the voice-over. Or, in other words, here we go again … This week, it was all abaht … I’m sorry, all about condiments. You know … stuff. In bottles. For sploshing on stuff. Your local supermarket already offers a choice of thousands of varieties, so the market’s obviously ripe for something exciting and innovative, fresh from the back of a van.

As the population decline on the girls’ team was getting a little worrying, Duane and Nick got to bat for the other team this week, while the girls bid a tearful temporary farewell (well, ok …) to Katie. After the usual reversing into the spotlight, Duane was heralded as PM for Sterling, while Katie takes on the ‘honour’ for Pheonix, despite Adam voicing his concerns that breasts and ovaries might be some kind of impediment in a manner that made HP sauce look as modern as Tea-smoked Piquillo And Pimenton Relish. (Don’t all rush, I made that one up. Really, I should be a food critic.)

The threadbare novelty of the actual project dispensed with, it was time for the usual branding and product development brainstorm. Here, things were really speeding up. If I didn’t mishear completely, the teams got an hour to ‘design’ and produce a sample of their product. I just did a quick search of the BBC’s Good Food website, and many of the chutneys simply cannot be made in that kind of time frame, even when you start off with a recipe and all the ingredients. Still, if you’re giving it 120%, presumably the ingredients spontaneously cook themselves before your very eyes. Perhaps it was the additional steam coming from Jane’s ears as she passive-aggresived her way through the episode, determinedly claiming her position as The One You’d Like To Shove Under A Bus for this series.

Duane wanted something really passionate, and chose pineapple. Not a traditional aphrodisiac in either flavour or shape as far as I’m aware, but each to their own. For Phoenix, Stephen (who’s reminding me of the comedian Ian Lee, but for the facial features rather than the .. you know, laughter) decided their table sauce (mass market appeal, table market; even someone as we-didn’t-actually-call-him-that uncouth as Lordallun might buy it) should be called Belissimo. “With either a ‘b’ or a ‘v’ …”. It’s with a ‘b’ actually, Stephen. And, as you will be embarrassed to be told at least twice before the programme is up, not one ‘l’ but two. He thinks the name is “quite Italian.” I reckon it’s 90%; with a full complement of consonants, it would even be 100%. Hell, we could always throw in another letter and make it 110%.

Given the desire to go from a pile of stuff on a table in a factory to a finished product in less time than Mary Berry can knock out a Victoria Sponge, accidents will happen. Food is Jane’s industry, apparently, although the edit leaves it a little unclear as to how significant an input she had in a first batch that practically hospitalised Duane when he tasted a tiny quantity of it. (Interesting way to try to take over the PM role there, Jane.) The sub-team wound up pitching a product that hadn’t left the factory yet, with predictable results. (Not helped by pitching pineapple as ‘rustic’. As some wag on the forum pointed out:

Oh yes the pineapple fields of Hereford are a sight to see.”

Meanwhile, the lads (I choose my words carefully, despite what you might think) produce one batch that Adam – the resolutely un-metrosexual one – describes as “boiling like an omelette”. You fear their culinary prowess may be suspect, along with the maths of whoever did the ingredient list. Belissimo (sic) turns out to be a thick sludge they struggle to bottle, even when they water it down in desperation. Katie has the nous to grasp that the wastage means a price hike, and a need to focus on retail rather than trade sales to get enough margin. As if in recognition of the relative unimportance of trade sales, she puts Michael, Tom and Azhar in charge of them: with that kind of way with self-fulfilling prophesy, she should be called Cassandra. But she’s still left selling mass market splodge at premium prices to cover the lack of stock.

Once Sterling get their act together, InFusion (capital letters in the midDle ofwords? In 2012? RealLy?) shifts more bottles than their rival has produced in total to the first trade dealer, while Michael turns down Belissimo’s only real sniff of trade interest over a gap of 4p a bottle. And everyone dashes around madly for the last ten minutes, trying to sell condiments to skateboarders, traffic wardens, pigeons … In reality, or what is at least passing for it here, this episode was decided before the selling even started: 305 bottles and a profit of £586 plays 607 jars and a profit of £1,028. Katie looks like she might be feeling the pineapple, but is trying to be strong.

The mystery unfolds in the boardroom. Despite the losing team being doomed by their production failure, despite no-one ‘knowing’ where one entire batch went (and this on a programme not only with professional observers, but a fully fledged tv production team, with cameras) when ‘down the sink’ was fairly obvious, the man who went was the man charged with heading up the trade sales the PM knew weren’t going to save her. Even Lordallun described the failure as down entirely to production before firing the salesman. Sugar by name, slightly too much chilli by nature …

Michael had, in fairness, been pretty hopeless during the task. In equal fairness, he’d also had gastric flu, and one suspects the enticing aroma of Belissimo might not have been what the poor fella needed. He’d also (hopefully coincidentally) not been utterly full of crap, a medical condition that seems to strike many a contestant. Accordingly judged ‘too nice’ and ‘out of his depth’, this year’s little bloke from the East End who’d set up his own business straight out of school and done alright wound up as The One In The Cab.

Last week I decided it was “too early to really hate any of them yet”. I’m still just giving Jane the benefit of the doubt, as I can’t tell if she’s completely sour or just being edited that way. Adam and Ricky also have the potential to be fairly slappable: indeed, on this week’s showing, both men could go far. (Fingers crossed on that one.)

I’m not sure we’re seeing enough of the (cough) real version of anyone to spot any actual contenders (as opposed to those merely talking a good game), but Duane seemed to quite rightly impress not only the panel but the other candidates this week. (Except Jane, although he did get a tactfully done noting of her lack of enthusiasm for him to camera during the winning team’s ‘treat’ day out.) And Katie did a reasonable ‘best of a bad job’. The others remain indifferent for now.

Last week I also noted that I wasn’t learning much. No change there, I’m afraid.

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Filed under: leading performance, recruitment, teamwork


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