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The Apprentice - Week 8 - Pumpkin soup

It's week 8, and we see the teams saying nice things about Sir Alan.  Thanks, BBC producers. 

This week's task is to make some food to sell at a farmer's market.  We see Raj frying an egg (for breakfast, one might assume), and then they get a phone call from Frances, telling them to be ready in 10 minutes.  They are whisked off the Viglen assembly plant, by which time it is afternoon, and Sir Alan is brandishing some computer bits and pieces.  "This is a microprocessor with a fan, a hard drive, a power supply."  This is going to be a lesson about making things.  "What we have to do is put them all together and we have one of these."  It's a computer without a side panel.  Yes, this is a lesson on how to buy cheap bits and pieces from Asia and make an expensive computer and get rich, so that you can appear on TV.

The teams have to buy raw produce and add value.  James nominates Ben to be the project manager again because thinks it all went so well last time.  Is this a cunning plan? 

Raj has volunteered to be the PM for First Forte.  James thinks autumn means soup, jams and chutneys.  Saira says that they have to "start thinking analytically.  Let's start thinking ballpoint, let's start putting figures down."  Ballpoint?  She wants to do handmade jams.  Later she has changed her mind and thinks that "we are talking vegetables.  Vegetables in terns of a chutney - peppers, onions, tomatoes, apples, sugar."  Well, that's two vegetables and a couple of fruits.  James wants to know what is the "value add" but Saira thinks they have to be aggressive.  "Chutney.  Let's do it and let's get on with it."  Raj seems to have been battered into submission.

On the other team, Miriam suggests they do something simple and quick to prepare, and Paul thinks soup. Ben seems to like the idea and says they could do bread as well.   

The teams are off to 'rural Berkshire'.  First Forte have found a chef.  Saira talks slowly to her asking for help with the chutney.  She tells them that "most chutneys have to wait for 3 months before they can be eaten."  Saira says they do realize that (which obviously they didn't), and carries on talking slowly.  "Do. You. Think. There. Is. Something. Else. We. Could. Do.  That's quick and easy.  That is not on this list.  That we can buy for 5p and sell for £4?"  She suggests jams, preserves and a fast maturing chutney.  Saira wants to hire her to do the cooking.  She tells that she charges £50 per hour.  Raj looks worried, but agrees.  James has spotted that Saira is over-powering everyone and Raj is not leading.

On the other team, Paul tells Tim that he had a sandwich business and they lost money because they spent far too much on ingredients.  Later he is haggling to get the price down on everything they have to buy.  We hear that Ben plans to make four varieties of soup, including one with venison. This isn't sounding simple or cheap.  They buy a lot of expensive cheese and order venison over the phone. 

Meanwhile, James thinks that their team cannot may a profit if they are paying £50 per hour for a cook.  He talks to Raj, who really isn't interested in discussing it.  Raj says he wants respect, by which he means that he wants to make decisions without being challenged.  He hangs up the phone.  Raj and Saira carry on buying stuff.

Saira tries to persuade Nancy (the cook) to work for nothing, in return for advertising the farm's meat.  She agrees. Raj complains about Saira, and Saira says that James is a "dithering old fool".

Bizarrely, it seems that the farmer's market is not in 'rural Berkshire', but rather Alexandra Palace in North London (which is handy, because that's where they film most of the series).  Everyone seems to like the food - apart from one customer who has found a spider in the spiced apple jelly. 

Ben is being accused of being miserable.  Perhaps it's because no-one wants his venison soup. 

First Forte made £364.75, and Impact only made £149.69.  The prize is to fly business class to Monaco and stay overnight.  Saira says that she is "very, very excited to fly business class", but it appears to be the same as economy except you get a bottle of champagne.  The hotel looks OK, though.

Back in the boardroom, the problem seems clear - they spent £274 on ingredients and their revenue was £546.  The other team only spent £78 on ingredients.

Nick Hewer thinks that the venison soup was too good for the price they were charging.  Sir Alan wants to know whether they had a budget for purchases.  They didn't.  He keeps asking them whether Ben did a good job, and no-one wants to answer.  Ben says that he "delegated and gave people the opportunity to shine and work hard, and everyone worked to the best of their abilities."  Er, I think that's a no.

Margaret asks him whether he accepts that was his job to have a budget. Good question. His answer is "erm...yes".  Whoops.  Sir Alan asks him whose fault it was that they lost.  He seems to be trying to blame Tim for being the "accountancy and finance" person, Miriam for over-spending on produce, and Paul for not "stepping up".  Never blame three people - pick one and argue your case.  Tim stays silent, but Paul fights back, saying that he negotiated the prices down, and wondering why they spent £60 on cheese, but Sugar wonders why he didn't say that at the time.

Ben decides to bring back Paul and Miriam, which seems odd.  If Tim was really the  "accountancy and finance" person then he has had a lucky escape, but by keeping quiet he has avoided any discussion about it.  Ben could have given him a hard time.

Paul says that he worked hard, and negotiated the prices for most of the items.  Ben says that the team operated well.  Miriam doesn't get asked why she shouldn't be fired, but is asked who should be fired, and goes for Paul.  In turn he refuses to blame anyone else, simply insisting it wasn't him who was the least effective.  Ben and Miriam agree that Paul was the least effective.  Paul is still reluctant to attack anyone, but does complain that Miriam spent £70 on cheese, and she has catering experience (she denies this, but she'd be an odd kind of hotel manager if she didn't).

Why is everyone ignoring the budget?  That's the real problem.  Ben didn't set a budget and Miriam spent like crazy.  Ben seems reluctant to admit that he ordered the venison, but never mind because he gets fired anyway.  Probably the right decision.  In the taxi, he says that in his business (recruitment) margins are so high that he doesn't have to worry about costs.  He says that he has learned that "he doesn't like retail and he doesn't like pumpkin soup."  Very good.  

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