The kitchen hots up in the Great British Menu

Wednesday:Great British Menu; (BBC2, 8pm)
Roberta, Amy, Stuart and Scott work their magic in the kitchenRoberta, Amy, Stuart and Scott work their magic in the kitchen
Roberta, Amy, Stuart and Scott work their magic in the kitchen

It’s not been a vintage year for the UK restaurant industry, but at least Great British Menu has been here to remind viewers just how much culinary talent there is to go around.

The previous run of the ‘main’ competition, which began airing in March 2020 as the first lockdown took hold, proved to be a hit with viewers – not bad for a show that was on its 15th series.

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Or as Patrick Holland, Controller of BBC Two, says: “Great British Menu is an essential part of the BBC Two schedule and it saw strong growth in 2020.”

So, Great British Menu returned for a special festive series at the end of last year and is now back with a new series, which began last week.

If you’ve missed out on this BBC Two essential so far, it sees some of Britain’s most talented chefs competing for the chance to get one (or potentially more) of their dishes to a prestigious banquet. Each year, the banquet is celebrating something different. Last year’s theme was children’s literature, while previous runs have paid tribute to everything from the NHS and D-Day veterans to the music industry and Wimbledon.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Sir Timothy Berners-Lee donating the world wide web to the globe, as well as Helen Sharman becoming the first British astronaut to go into space, so the chefs are being asked to create dishes that will celebrate innovation. So, you would expect the show to be open to making some changes itself – and it certainly has over the past couple of years.

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The Christmas specials saw Andi Oliver who originally joined as a judge in 2017 to replace Prue Leith (who was subsequently snapped up by The Great British Bake Off), taking on a new role as the show’s host. She’s on presenting duties again this time, so her place on the panel has now been taken by Rachel Khoo, who is raring to go.

Rachel says: “I am delighted to be taking on the role of judge at the Great British Menu! We have some extraordinary chefs in the UK and the programme does a great job of showcasing that homegrown talent. I’m so proud to be part of the series and I can’t wait for viewers to see what’s in store.”

However, Rachel and her fellow judges, GBM mainstays Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton will have to wait until Friday before they can offer their opinions.

In tonight’s Scottish heat, last year’s regional winner, Roberta Hall, returns to compete against Stuart Ralson, Scott Smith and Amy Elles. The chefs have definitely taken the theme to heart with a crispy shredded beef and Lanark blue cheese starter presented in a giant petri dish to celebrate Alexander Fleming’s invention of antibiotics, and two other dishes inspired by what is being euphemistically described as ‘family planning’. The fish courses includes a lobster concoction that pays homage to Scottish scientific pioneer Mary Sommerville, and her work in the field of astronomy, but despite their dedication to the theme, the episode will end in one chef being sent home.

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