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Big Zuu’s 12 Dishes in 12 Hours review – the freshest, most irresistible food TV in years
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Big Zuu’s 12 Dishes in 12 Hours review – the freshest, most irresistible food TV in years


If there is a more excessively used format on television than the food travelogue, it is the travelogue featuring a comedian and their guest on holiday. However, we now have Big Zuu’s 12 Dishes in 12 Hours, which combines both formats. But you can consider me surprised if it isn’t the most innovative addition to either genre in recent years.

Zuhair Hassan, also known as Big Zuu, is primarily a rapper and DJ, not a comedian. However, on his previous show, Big Zuu’s Big Eats, which aired on Dave, he often had stand-up comedians as guests. Despite not being a comedian himself, Zuu was able to effortlessly match their humor while cooking for them without overshadowing them.

Zuu leads a different celebrity to explore a new food destination on ITV1 every week. The premise of the show is that they must consume twelve local specialties within a span of twelve hours. Zuu believes that by eating the food, one can truly experience the essence of a city. The first episode takes place in the enchanting city of Bologna, Italy, with the delightful actor Will Poulter as the guest. The combination results in an exciting and authentic travelogue experience, a rarity in this genre.

The city of Bologna is famous for spaghetti bolognese, and Zuu and Poulter decide to try it at a small restaurant with a distinctly Italian atmosphere. Admiring the wine bottles displayed on the walls and hearing the owner proudly claim that the sauce is made from his grandmother’s secret recipe, it is hard to imagine anything but the most delicious ragu in the world. When Zuu and Poulter express their satisfaction with the pasta through an exaggerated “ngggh!” sound, there is no doubt that it is truly delicious.

The restaurant owner is also quite remarkable, showcasing an impressive talent for playful banter in his second language as he sneaks a taste of Zuu’s ragu and quips, “I’m not eating, I’m just checking for quality.” It becomes evident that finding this individual was not a coincidence: Zuu’s producers have also discovered two flirtatious women in their sixties who make irresistible tortelloni; an Eritrean immigrant who endearingly insists on hand-feeding Zuu, Poulter, and their team; and a serene expert in parmigiano reggiano, who reflects that his only ingredients are “milk, salt, and time.” Bologna appears to not only have the finest cuisine in Italy, but also an abundant supply of captivating eccentrics who can showcase it on British light-factual television.

Although there have been changes, Zuu and Poulter remain the stars. Whether they are playfully posing for a camera in a beautiful square, rapping about ice cream in a Fiat, or belting out the Champions League anthem, their chemistry is reminiscent of a classic buddy movie. It’s almost as if they have been friends for years, which is improbable, or had ample time to rehearse, which is not the case.

When stand-up comedians spend time with Richard Ayoade or go cycling with David O’Doherty, there is a noticeable tension as they are aware that their appearance is a part of their job, helping them climb the ladder of success. On the other hand, non-comedians who are naturally funny bring a relaxed charm to this type of spontaneous silliness, and skilled actors find it effortless to portray an exaggerated version of their already likable personalities. Poulter possesses an abundance of these qualities and has nothing to lose, simply enjoying the moment.

If the dish being tasted contains pork, such as the “fancy Lunchable” of parmesan wrapped in mortadella, Zuu must relinquish control to his guest, as he is not allowed to eat it. However, he is always a gracious host and enjoys starting comical banter and letting Poulter take the lead. Occasionally, the actor needs no assistance, as seen when he remarks that certosino, Bologna’s version of Christmas cake, sounds like “a midfielder who covers both ends of the field”. Zuu prompts him to say it in a commentator’s voice: “CERTOSONI!!!” exclaims Poulter, imitating Brian Moore and adding to the humor with his mispronunciation of the name.

As the credits come to an end, viewers eagerly make reservations for culinary getaways in Bologna, enticed by the unique ways balsamic vinegar is used. However, it may be a challenge for them to consume as much food as Zuu and Poulter do. Big Zuu will have to put in effort to maintain the same level of enjoyment with other guests who are not Poulter. But with his abilities, he has the potential to succeed. If he can replicate the success of 12 Dishes in 12 Hours every week, this typically disliked genre of celebrity/food travel shows may have found its savior.

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Source: theguardian.com