Culinary Genius



Fern Britton


Studio Ramsay and Objective Media Group for ITV, 17 April to 12 May 2017 (20 episodes in 1 series)


Remember the Battle Rounds from The Voice UK? Two singers enter, one leaves? They're trying to get the same bearpit vibe in a kitchen.

Gordon Ramsay explains how to cut peppers.

Fern Britton hosts as nine amateur cooks enter the studio, and the knives come out almost immediately; the chef demonstrates a test to chop ingredients a particular way, and the chefs are charged with copying it. In the first episode, this was slicing three different colour peppers into three different cuts. The chef then scats past the preparations, with the contestant's name, age and occupation on screen mere seconds before the three weakest performers are named, shamed and obliterated into a Shafted-esque nothingness. Then there's a break.

Round two is a preparation challenge, ten minutes to prepare the Ingredient of the Day in a particular way as demonstrated by the chef. In the first episode, this was to fillet a salmon into ten portions. Again, the three worst preparations are expunged before Britton announces another break.

Fern distracts one of the last cooks.

Three remain for the final cook-off, using the prepared ingredient and other food to create the best dish - and all in 25 minutes. These 25 minutes are broadcast almost in full, with a break in the middle of it, and oscillating around three contestants – especially when two of them cut themselves and are unavailable for comment (as indeed happened in the first broadcast episode) – simply does not fill 25 minutes. We would suggest that reducing the number of contestants eliminated in the second round to two, so the same percentage reduction as the first round (losing a third) would solve this.

Daily winners are rewarded with £1,000; on par with Chopping Block, but winners of that show have had a week of education from star chefs, so here it feels parsimonious. However, the reveal – all lift their cloches at once, with the winner's money hidden beneath theirs – is genius.


Fern Britton and the chef provide a good cop-bad cop service. This is all well and good, but it jars with the vibe they're after, and while Britton is undoubtedly a master of her craft, she comes across as almost too nice for this, and it doesn't feel quite right. For our money, it's a victim of its slot; ITV tends to air fewer adverts at 3pm so that they can flog more during Tipping Point and The Chase, which means the programmes aired at 3pm are slightly longer. Certainly, the final round dragged on for far too long, with the first two rounds over and done with before halfway. Golden Balls had the right idea; air the eliminations after the break, and give the contestants a proper introduction – you don't need long – certainly longer than three seconds. The show has promise, but there are many minor niggles which stop the show from being watchable on a regular basis. But these are rectifiable in a second series. If it gets it. (It didn't.)

Theme music

Paul Farrer


Each celebrity chef remained with the programme for five episodes, shown across a week. The stars were Gordon Ramsay (his company makes the show), Rosemary Shrager, Jean-Christophe Novelli, and Phil Vickery (Fern's husband).

Filmed in front of a studio audience, and in an octagonal set.

See also

Weaver's Week review


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