Marcus Wareing steps in to judge the Great British Menu
Great British Menu (BBC2, 8pm)
The chefs who take part in this series have a difficult job – in the regional heats, they must compete against each other to come up with innovative, tasty dishes that will impress the visiting series veteran.
The two who pick up the highest scores will then make it through to the judges’ chambers, where the competition gets even tougher. As anyone who watched last year’s series will know, Tom Kerridge, Nisha Katona, and Ed Gamble aren’t afraid to be brutally honest, or dip below five out of 10 when it comes to handing out scores.
But perhaps the toughest task on Great British Menu is dreaming up a new theme every year.
For the uninitiated, the series sees tops chefs from across the UK compete to get at least one of their dishes to a prestigious banquet. In the first ever series, which aired in 2006, the feast was in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday.
Since then, the dishes have celebrated everything from the Olympics coming to London and British pop music, to the 70th anniversaries of D-Day and the NHS.
This year, the progamme-makers are marking the 65th birthday of Paddington Bear with a banquet that pays homage to British animation and illustration, and some viewers could be forgiven for thinking that overlaps a bit with the 2020 series, which celebrated children’s literature, and last year’s series, where the brief was British broadcasting.
Some of us may even be wondering just how many elevated takes on the humble marmalade sandwich will be put in front of the judges this year….but I guess there’s more to it than that!
However, as previous runs have shown, Britain’s chefs are nothing if not very, very inventive, so we should be in for a few surprises along the way.
Tonight, Andi Oliver presents as the remaining chefs from the South West region tackle the mains and the desserts. One of them is drawing inspiration from illustrator Quentin Blake for a venison wellington in the shape of a crocodile with sausage rolls for legs.
Another serves a tomahawk steak in tribute to Aardman’s animated movie Early Man, and there’s a pork loin inspired by TV classic Mr Benn.
Then there’s the pre-desserts or palate cleansers, which are based on The Trap Door, The Gruffalo and Horrid Henry, before we get into the pudding proper.
Get ready for a Peter Rabbit panna cotta, another Aardman tribute in the form of a chocolate bone in a dog bowl, and Banksy’s famous Balloon Girl image rendered in cheesecake, jelly and a chocolate torte.
But which masterpieces will impress veteran Michael O’Hare and make it through to tomorrow’s regional final?
And will the chefs be comforted or worried to learn that for one week only Marcus Wareing is standing in for the harsh-but-fair Tom Kerridge in the judges’ chamber? He’ll be giving his scores alongside regulars Gamble and Katona, as well as this week’s special guest, Oscar-winning animator Susie Templeton.