What’s Cooking?

An invitation to appear on television with Philip Harben can have some surprising results

TV Mirror cover
From the TV Mirror for 7 August 1954
WHAT does it feel like to cook with Philip Harben on TV — in the TV Kitchen in studio G complete with a cooker which no one seems to understand?

To find an answer I went to see Italian-born Nino Domenico at his Venetian style restaurant in South Kensington—a corner of London much in favour as a residence among television personalities.

Recently Nino — as he is known to all his customers — demonstrated with Philip Harben in his programme Man In The Kitchen the French dish Supréme de Volaille sous Cloche.

“I would never have expected the things which have happened to me since I appeared on TV,” he told me with amazed gestures. “It makes you think about ‘the power of television.'”

The story began when Doreen Stephens, the head of Lime Grove’s women’s programmes, and a regular patron of Mr. Domenico’s restaurant, said to him: “You must demonstrate your wonderful Supréme de Volaille sous Cloche on television.”

Miss Stephens suggested the idea to Philip Harben and producer S. E. Reynolds. As it happened Harben was looking for someone able to demonstrate this rare dish.

Tele-snap of Harben and Domenico
Philip Harben and Nino Domenico

Studio feast

“Mr. Harben told me to bring everything I should need to prepare the dish — except the kitchen stove,” said Nino.

“I took a very thick cooking pan with me,” he went on. “I heated it fiercely just before the programme. Of course it retained the heat. When I came to show the dish I was able to do some of my cooking without fire. I hope viewers were amazed!”

“At the end of the programme,” I asked, “what happened to the food you had cooked?”

“Ah!” said Nino, “I wondered about that, too! Now I know. The visitors present in the studio, the technicians, they eat it all up!”

The dish Sous Cloche (for short), as viewers will remember, is a method of cooking breast of chicken with cream and brandy inside a large glass bell which retains the aroma of the food until served.

Connoisseurs sometimes asked for the dish in Mr. Domenico’s restaurant — but the demand was small. Few restaurants ever served it. After the TV show it went on Mr. Domenico’s menu with a footnote: “As demonstrated on television by Mr. Nino.”

“Although the name of my business was never mentioned during the programme,” Nino said excitedly, “people began to pour in asking for Sous Cloche. So many came I needed to buy more glass bells used in cooking the dish. But then… ! No cloches. All the firms had sold out!

Rivals wanted to know!

“Then all day the telephone started ringing. Other restaurateurs were on the line — in fine old tempers,” chuckled Nino. “They were being asked by their customers to serve Sous Cloche but didn’t know how to do it. They wanted me to tell them!”

Rivals clamouring for his help! It proves that if you are in the catering business you just can’t afford to miss a Philip Harben programme.

Lime Grove folk are no strangers to Nino. Norman Wisdom, Howard Marion Crawford, Jon Pertwee, Semprini, Ronnie Hanbury, BBC scriptwriter of Ray’s A Laugh and other shows, and of course television’s leading gourmet, Gilbert Harding, are patrons of the restaurant.

Gilbert Harding has a special table, tucked round a corner where he is out of view — but not too much so. He likes to see a red ashtray on the table, and he drinks a special type of mineral water, San Pelligrino. It has a punch like Don Cockell.

Before departing I suggested: “If people are still pouring into the restaurant to sample Sous Cloche (which you sell at 8s. [40p in decimal, £11.50 now allowing for inflation – Ed] a portion) your TV spot must have proved very profitable.”

“No, no, no,” Nino groaned, “I never want to see another Sous Cloche. I only wish people would stop coming in and asking for it. Why? It is too costly to make. I lose on each one. It is only for goodwill that I serve them. For each dish I must have the breast of a chicken. The rest of the chicken is left over. I have so many legs of chicken I don’t know what to do with them!”

About the author

GH Garrett was a writer for TV Mirror

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