Move over, Marco… Alan Davies cooks up a storm as an egotistical chef in a new sitcom

We’ve seen him on our screens doing stand-up, drama, panel shows and documentaries. Now Alan Davies is starring in his own sitcom, playing an arrogant and idle chef in BBC2’s Whites.

The series is co-written by former chef Matt King, who plays Super Hans in Peep Show, and sees Davies star as Roland White, a once-promising chef who has never quite managed to hit the big time.

TV&Satellite Week magazine stepped into the heat of the kitchen with the QI star to find out more…

What kind of chef is Roland?
“He is a lazy egomaniac. He had a lot of talent in his twenties and he could have been like Gordon Ramsay, but it didn’t happen. Now he works in a good restaurant in a hotel called The White House, but he’s not exactly Heston Blumenthal. He has lost his drive and motivation.”

Roland’s surname sounds familiar. Is he based on anybody?
“He’s not based on someone like Marco Pierre White, but he is a recognisable type. Roland is going through a mid-life crisis and is dishonest and manipulative. He is not someone you would want to be, but he is fun to be around.”

Does he get angry like Gordon Ramsay?
“There is no swearing, which makes Whites the only cooking show on telly without people being abused continually. But Roland does get pretty angry when vegetarians come in. He says that a cow is all the pieces of meat you need in a handy leather bag.”

As a vegetarian yourself, was it hard handling meat in the show?
“Fortunately, I mainly plated up so I didn’t have to do much more than stacking a piece of duck on top of something. Darren Boyd, who plays the sous-chef, is a vegan and when they gave us a chicken, he said ‘Sorry, mate’ to it.”

Did you have any food catastrophes on set?
“The only catastrophe was the costume designer falling down the stairs, but that’s because we’d been out the night before.”

Did you have any kitchen training?
“We were lucky to have chefs helping us on set and making the food. We had knife training, too, at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant 15. I think I could impress a layman now, but a real chef would just laugh out loud.”

What surprised you about your research?
“The heat of the stoves strikes you first. We also saw proper service and you realise it is not as chaotic in a good restaurant as in one of the restaurants in Kitchen Nightmares. It is impressive to see waiters dance around one another so fast and avoid slicing each other’s ears off.”

Do you cook at home?
“I don’t follow recipes, I’m more of a whatever’s-in-the-fridge type. I’ve been more careful about plating up nicely since Whites, though. I made mushrooms on toast the other day for my wife and when I saw there were crumbs all around the plate I thought, ‘I can’t have that.’”

Have you always wanted to do a sitcom?
“Yes, scripts have come my way, but nothing that funny, so I’ve been trying since 1993 to get my own ideas off the ground. I wrote one about a lonely middle-aged man who can’t find any enjoyment in life, but then they remade Reggie Perrin. After 20 years, I’m learning I may not be as good a writer as I thought.”

What were your favourite sitcoms growing up?
“We don’t have a studio audience in Whites, but I do like those old-fashioned sitcoms where the relationship with the audience was essential. I love Porridge and I like Leonard Rossiter in Rising Damp. I wish there was an un-PC channel where they could run It Ain’t Half Hot Mum too, because it is hilarious.”