Great British Menu

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Jennie Bond (2006-7, voiceover 2008-)


Judges: Matthew Fort, Prue Leith and Oliver Peyton


Optomen for BBC Two, 2006 to present


Fourteen top chefs compete for the honour of cooking for an illustrious banquet (notably for the Queen's 80th birthday bash in the first series). There are seven regional heats between two chefs, each of which unfolds over five weekday programmes. From Monday to Thursday, the chefs prepare and refine one course each day (starters, fish, mains and desserts) and on Friday, both chefs present their full menu to the judges who choose which will progress to the final public vote. The two chefs in each heat work on opposite sides of the same kitchen, giving them the opportunity to engage in crosstalk as they cook, and there are also filmed inserts going into how the chefs come up with their dishes and source their ingredients (some of which must be regional). Much is made in the first round about how the judges are choosing between the two menus as a whole and as such will want to choose dishes that work well together, but when we get to the public vote in the final week, the menus are broken up anyway which seems to defeat the object.

Image:Great british menu judges.jpgJudges Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort deliberate, cogitate and digest.

We can't honestly say it floats our boat, particularly since originally the only payoff on Monday to Thursday was the chefs tasting each other's dishes, which was a bit limp. This made these programmes essentially redundant since all the judging was done on Friday. In the fifth series (why'd it take so long?) this was finally addressed by having three chefs competing in each region, with each day's dishes marked out of ten by a previous regional winner. Only the two highest-scoring chefs across the week now get to cook for the judges on Friday.

Chefs Henry Herbert, Nathan Outlaw (way off in the distance) and John Hooker hard at work in the GBM kitchen

The four winning chefs from the first series returned for Great British Christmas Menu in December 2006. For the second series proper, the seven regional winners from series one returned to face new challengers, with the winners cooking a banquet in France to impress their top chefs. Series three added a perfunctory qualifying phase to proceedings, and culminated with a feast in London's Gherkin for top chefs from around the world, presided over by culinary mad scientist Heston Blumenthal (whose name Jennie Bond had to say in every episode, but never did learn to pronounce correctly). The climax of the fourth series - a banquet for troops returning from Afghanistan - was hosted by Ross Kemp, and menus were expected to adhere to the theme "a taste of home". A theme of sorts was also imposed for the fifth series, in which the chefs were each assigned a National Trust property in their region and asked to source as many of the ingredients as possible within what was imprecisely deemed an "ultra-local" distance of that property. Sometimes ingredients could be sourced from the estates themselves, though the main significance was really to get the National Trust mentioned, as they were organising the final banquet.

Now that's what I call a shiny floor show.

All in all, it's not the flashiest or most inspiring of food shows, but it's hard to knock a programme that's managed to come back year after year and evidently still finds an audience.


For some reason, in series 1 poor Jennie Bond was only given one outfit to wear for the whole of the week. Bless. The third series eliminated the wardrobe issue altogether by banishing her to the voiceover booth.

Image:Great british menu jennie and chefs.jpgJennie Bond flanked by series 1 champions Nick Nairn, Marcus Wareing, Bryn Williams and Richard Corrigan

The guest(s) of honour at the end of series banquets were -

2006: HRH Queen Elizabeth II
2007: The British Ambassador to France
2008: Chefs from around the world, hosted by Heston Blumenthal
2009: British troops returning from Afghanistan
2010: HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall

Theme music

Daniel Pemberton

Web links

BBC Food website


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