Great British Menu

File:Great british menu logo.jpg



Jennie Bond (2006-10 (voiceover from 2008-10))

Mark Bazeley (Voiceover: Great British Waste Menu)

Wendy Lloyd (Voiceover: 2011-9)

Susan Calman (2020)

Andi Oliver (2020-)


Matthew Fort (2006-21)
Oliver Peyton (2006-21)
Prue Leith (2006-16)
Andi Oliver (2017-20, stand-in 2023)
Kerry Godliman (2020)
Rachel Khoo (2021)
Tom Kerridge (2022-, but see Trivia)
Nisha Katona (2022-)
Ed Gamble (2022-)
Marcus Wareing (stand-in)
Jay Rayner (Great British Waste Menu)
Mary Berry (Great British Budget Menu)


Optomen for BBC Two, 10 April 2006 to present

as Great British Waste/Budget Menu: Optomen for BBC One, 25 August 2010 and 11 July 2013

as Great British Christmas Menu: Optomen for BBC Two, 11 December 2006 to 24 December 2020 (12 episodes in 2 series)


Top chefs compete for the honour of cooking for an illustrious banquet (notably for the Queen's 80th birthday bash in the first series). Best enjoyed with a dictionary at hand.

There are seven regional heats (eight from series 4 onwards) between two chefs (three in series 4-14, four in series 3 and 15-), 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.

File: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.

A score graphic from the 2011 North West heat, showing Johnnie Mountain, Bruno Birkbeck and Lisa Allen.

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).

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

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.

Future judge Tom Kerridge being assisted by rival Anthony Demetre and home economist Faenia Moore

For 2011, the theme was "food that brings people together" with the chefs having to create sharing platters for a street party. The format is the same as in 2010, except that Jennie Bond is no longer doing the voiceover (it can't have been that great a demand on her time, surely?). 2012 was Olympic-themed, with some vague concept that it was about going further than ever before and the small details that separate winners from losers. It's not entirely clear whether the chefs are still supposed to use ingredients sourced from their own region, but in any case this aspect is no longer given the on-screen emphasis it once was.

Tom Kerridge (right) celebrates winning his regional heat alongside runner-up Anthony Demetre and home economists Sam Head, Emily Shardlow and Phil Wells

2013 saw a Comic Relief theme, with a guest comedian brought in to judge alongside Oliver, Prue and Matthew each week. Each dish receives a mark out of ten from each judge, and (presumably) the chef with the largest total wins. Strangely, the judges are now told which chef has cooked which dish, a change for which there appears to be no good reason at all, though even stranger is the way the opening signature tune no longer actually possesses a tune because they've stuck an old bit of the tension bed over the titles instead. We're sure most viewers don't really care, but it's a bizarre decision. (The actual tune has since been restored, hurrah!)

Peyton, Leith and Fort

For series 14, the first 40 shows were broadcast as 24 programmes; two one hour programmes on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and a half-hour programme on Fridays (and from series 16, three hour long programmes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays). For series 15, out went Wendy Lloyd, and in came for the first time since 2007 a presenter, in the form of Susan Calman; she was replaced in the next series by Andi Oliver.

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.

The 2017-20 line-up, with Andi Oliver replacing Leith...
...and the 2021 line-up, with Rachel Khoo replacing Andi Oliver.

Great British Waste Menu

Given its emphasis on sourcing food as well as cooking it, Great British Menu was an obvious format to be pressed into service for a one-off BBC One programme with a social action theme. In a 90-minute special (quite blatantly divided into 22-minute acts, the better to be repeated as four half-hour programmes on commercial channels), four chefs - Matt Tebbutt, Simon Rimmer, Angela Hartnett and Richard Corrigan - were challenged to source waste food from market stalls, shops, restaurants and homes across London and make dishes to be judged in the usual way. The chefs then had to source enough waste ingredients to produce sixty portions for the final banquet, at which the judges named one of them (Corrigan, if you really want to know) as "Rubbish Chef of the Year" and awarded him a brand new dustbin.

Corrigan and Hartnett, not quite incognito

All of this was meant to demonstrate how much perfectly edible food goes to waste, and attempt to persuade supermarkets, producers, restaurants and the like to donate such food to charity rather than throwing it away. Actor Mark Bazeley replaced Jennie Bond on voiceover (an improvement, we reckon) and the show drew its best-ever audience of over five million.

The judges with added Rayner.

Great British Budget Menu

GBM made another trip over to BBC One for 2013's The Cost of Living season. Richard Corrigan, Angela Hartnett and James Martin visited people on restricted food budgets and each created a healthy meal on whatever that restricted budget was (£1.12 a meal, say). The Great British Menu crossover only really happened in the second half, in which each had to produce a main course for £1 a head, to be judged as usual. The special lacked some of the usual hallmarks of the series, in particular Daniel Pemberton's incidental music and any interaction between the chefs, who were given separate mobile kitchens for the banquet (particularly disappointing given what a good pairing Corrigan and Hartnett made on the previous special), making us wonder why they went for Great British Menu as a vehicle at all, rather than just making a standalone programme. In case you're wondering, the trophy - a wooden spoon, oh how witty - went to Angela Hartnett.

Great British Christmas Menu

The four winning chefs from the first series returned for Great British Christmas Menu in December 2006, which involved the four winning chefs creating a four-course Christmas dinner that viewers could prepare at home. Increased ratings during the COVID-19 pandemic gifted the series a seven-part Christmas special in December 2020. Andi Oliver took over from Calman, and in her place was Kerry Godliman. Veterans of the series came back with the intention of cooking a dish as a thank you to NHS nurses and keyworkers for their service during the pandemic. This was due to be held at York Hospital but had to be cancelled due to tier-two restrictions introduced just before they were due to film there, so instead mini banquets were held in gazebos locally and some dishes were home-delivered. What it was nice to see, however, was Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton taking orders from chefs instead of judging them. This aired two hours a week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays with an hour-long banquet on Christmas Eve.

Key moments

Matthew Fort's incredible diatribe during the Northern Ireland heats of the 2010 series: "This dish is a failure at every possible level you care to imagine. It's a failure of technique. It's a failure of imagination. It's a failure of concept. It's a failure in totality. It has failure written from side to side and from top to bottom. It is nothing but failure. It defines the notion of failure."

Johnnie Mountain walking out of the 2012 competition after Marcus Wareing awarded him just two out of ten for his fish course "re-creation of the sea".


"BUT!" - Richard Corrigan in particular likes big "BUT!s" and he cannot lie. He's not the only regional judge who likes to start their comments with the good points of a dish, then say this and move on to the negatives, but it's Corrigan who really loves to emphasise it.

Theme music

Composed by Daniel Pemberton. All the incidental music is based on the same theme - there are over 40 different main arrangements used in the show, with multiple variations on many of them bringing the total number of tracks to over 250.


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; there would not be an on-screen presenter until Susan Calman took over in 2020. Calman only did the one series; the Christmas 2020 series put chef Andi Oliver out front as host and comedian Kerry Godliman on the judging panel, which allowed the viewer to think that Godliman had originally been hired as host. Oliver remained as host for the 2021 series, but this time the third space on the panel was more logically filled by cookery writer Rachel Khoo. The whole panel was replaced for the 2022 run.

For the first thirteen series, the show aired five times a week; from 2019, the show went to three times a week, broadcast in the same manner as Masterchef, i.e. clearly produced so it could be shown as half-hour chunks but actually broadcast as two one-hour episodes and a half-hour weekly final. Well we say could. BBC2 Daytime reran the series from July 2023, airing half an hour on Wednesday and an hour and a half on Fridays.

File:Great british menu jennie and chefs.jpgJennie Bond flanked by series 1 champions Nick Nairn, Marcus Wareing, Bryn Williams and Richard Corrigan. Wareing deputised for Tom Kerridge in the 2023 South West heats, as chef Nick Beardshaw worked for Tom in real-life. In the finals, Andi swapped with Tom for judging.

In the 2010 series, two chefs - Lisa Allen and Tom Kerridge - chose to cook shellfish dishes despite being allergic to shellfish themselves. Both went on to win their regional heats despite not being able to taste the dishes, with Kerridge's crayfish-and-quail scotch eggs being especially praised by the judges for their originality. Both chefs returned in the 2011 series, and both chose to use shellfish again. Kerridge acted as a regional judge between 2012 and 2015, but because of his allergy, Jason Atherton, Phil Howard, Jason Atherton, and Tom Aikens were brought in to assist with tasting the fish and main courses.

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

2006: HRH Queen Elizabeth II (80th Birthday)
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
2011: "Community food heroes", hosted by Barbara Windsor
2012: British Olympians, hosted by Sir Steve Redgrave
2013: People associated with the Comic Relief charity
2014: 70th Anniversary of D-Day
2015: Centenary of the Women's Institute
2016: "Great Britons" (marking HRH Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday)
2017: 140th Anniversary of Wimbledon
2018: 70th Anniversary of National Health Service
2019: 50th Anniversary of The Beatles recording at Abbey Road Studios
2020: Children's literature
2020 (Christmas series): Pandemic "key workers"
2021: British invention and discovery
2022: 100 years of the BBC
2023: British animation and illustration
2024: 2024 Summer Olympics

The Queen attended the 2006 banquet in her honour, but not the 2016 event.

After being featured on a May 2019 episode, Donna Taggart's Jealous of the Angels charted at No. 88 on the UK Singles Sales Chart.

Nisha Katona's first episode was afflicted by sound problems (Andi's voiceover sounded a mile away); an amended version went on to iPlayer.

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry


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


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