Our cries of “nooooo!” were heard on Mars when Aunty let go of Great British Bake Off and our queen was dethroned. Without Mary Berry, we knew it wouldn’t be the same. Our MB habit was soothed a bit by Classic Mary Berry, but we still got the shakes for a format of cooking show that would use her in gentle judging mode. Best Home Cook, which airs tonight, puts her back where she belongs, looking for soggy bottoms and charming all and sundry.
The format isn’t as cosy as GBBO though as, oddly, the contestants also live together for the duration in a big ole house. Why? I suspect it is to see if anyone will crack and start headbutting someone for adding salt to their dinner before trying it. There are no spoilers in this feature so I won’t reveal whether that actually happens.
I will say though that if you haven’t watched this by our Gary yet, you’ll need to do so before the show airs tonight. It’s not as easy as he makes it look. The contestants seem fairly innocuous but no doubt we’ll have interesting controversies emerge as they live in close proximity and cook competitively over the weeks. I still remember Baked-Alaska-Gate and this format does appear to lend itself to that sort of ding-dong.
If the evening footage is rather Big Brother, the day’s cooking competition is quite Masterchef. Mary is joined by Duck and Waffle chef Dan Doherty and produce expert Chris Bavin in a triumvirate of culinary professional judges. The show is presented by always-likeable Claudia Winkleman. So far, so GBBO. However, the Masterchef bit comes in the challenges set; contestants first make an ‘ultimate’ something (first episode it is burgers) and then a tough invention test, the ingredients for which are chosen from two options by the winner of the first round. Giving the choice to the winner is another way of adding some un-needed tension as there is a night between when the sacrificial lamb winner makes his or her decision and the contestants all cook again. A whole night of looking at cooking books, thinking about what you could maybe cook (they don’t know what other ingredients they will have available), pulling the winner’s hair… the showmakers are definitely trying their very best to have things kick off for your delectation.
Here at HappilyTania we prefer the gentle and kind approach to life, as exemplified by our Mary. Here she is, as always, herself and always finding something nice to say. She’s like the lovely aunt in whose eyes you can do no wrong, even when you’re serving up an utterly fucked pudding. “It’s got a lovely flavour,” she’ll twinkle at you, even as it disintegrates into a mushy pile on her plate.
Best Home Cook is on BBC One at 8pm.