Great British Menu cooks up a festive feast

Tuesday: Great British Christmas Menu; (BBC2, 8pm)
Judges Oliver Peyton, Kerry Godliman and Matthew Fort get into the feastive spiritJudges Oliver Peyton, Kerry Godliman and Matthew Fort get into the feastive spirit
Judges Oliver Peyton, Kerry Godliman and Matthew Fort get into the feastive spirit

Over the years, Great British Menu has honoured many heroes, from D-Day veterans and servicemen and women returning from Afghanistan to NHS staff.

So, it’s only fitting that the seven-part special Great British Christmas Menu centres around serving up a festive feast to some of the UK’s keyworkers who have played a huge part in keeping the country going over an incredibly difficult year.

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The last time the cooking series was on our screens was earlier this year, when some of Britain’s best chefs were battling it out for the chance to cook a course at a banquet celebrating children’s literature.

Roald Dahl (in particular, Charlie and Chocolate Factory) proved to be a big inspiration, but there were also dishes paying tribute to everything from Paddington’s love of marmalade to the school dinners at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.

Long-time viewers also noticed some tweaks to the Great British Menu recipe, including the introduction of two extra mini courses to join the usual starter, fish course, main and dessert. They were an amuse-bouche to tantalise the tastebuds before the starter arrives and a pre-dessert. There was also the introduction of a new on-screen presenter in the form of comedian Susan Calman.

It turns out there’s been another change ahead of this festive run. The banquet will again have six courses, but this time there’s no Susan. Instead, Andi Oliver, who was previously a judge, is taking on the role of host.

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She certainly seems excited about her new position. Andi says: “I am so completely thrilled and honoured to have been asked to expand my role at Great British Menu! It’s an amazing opportunity to understand the journey that the chefs go through and to watch the evolution of the dishes before they come to judges’ chamber is a mind-blowing revelation.

“It’s such an extraordinary opportunity to work so closely with the top culinary talent in the country – it’s a privilege I am not taking for granted.”

Her place on the judging panel alongside Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton will be taken, for this series at least, by comedian Kerry Godliman. However, Andi may still get a chance to make her opinions heard – she’ll have the deciding vote in the event of a tie. And, as in previous runs, there will also be guest judges weighing in.

And what about the chefs? Well, the line-up for this series will be particularly impressive, with previous winners from the series joined by veteran judges, including Tom Aikens, Tommy Banks and, in this first episode, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, who compete alongside them.

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We begin with eight chefs creating Christmas-themed canapes and starters, and in a twist, they’ll be split into two groups of four. The first group will cook, before the others score their dishes in a blind tasting, and then the roles will be reversed. But only three will get the chance to serve their dishes to the judges in on Wednesday.

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