The Chronicle

Do­ing some­thing that shows the grat­i­tude we all feel for key work­ers is huge for us

THE GREAT BRI­TISH CHRIST­MAS MENU CUL­MI­NATES IN A BAN­QUET DED­I­CATED TO THE NA­TION’S KEY WORK­ERS. GE­OR­GIA HUMPHREYS FINDS OUT MORE FROM ANDI OLIVER

- Cooking · Food · Fun (band) · Instagram · Matthew Fort · Kerry Godliman · Neneh Cherry · Miquita Oliver

AF­TER four se­ries as a Great Bri­tish Menu judge, Andi Oliver has a new role. The enig­matic broad­caster and chef, 56, is host­ing the up­com­ing Christ­mas spe­cial of the BBC2 cook­ing com­pe­ti­tion, which will take place over seven episodes.

She will also present the 16th reg­u­lar se­ries, which will air in 2021.

Re­plac­ing Andi on the panel for Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu – along­side Matthew Fort and Oliver Pey­ton – is co­me­dian Kerry Godli­man.

Mean­while, a dif­fer­ent guest, re­lated to the se­ries’ theme of sup­port­ing key work­ers, will join each week to com­plete the judg­ing line-up.

To­gether, the four will de­cide which culi­nary ti­tans get to serve up their cre­ative dishes as part of a six-course fes­tive feast – and it’s over to Andi in the event of a tie.

Here, we chat to Andi (who also used to be in a band with Eight­ies pop icon Neneh Cherry) about the joy of pre­sent­ing, and how cook­ing has helped her through a dif­fi­cult year.

Can you tell us what to ex­pect from the Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu?

THE Christ­mas spe­cial is a hoot!

The brief is to say thank you to our key work­ers, who have lit­er­ally been the back­bone of this coun­try through­out the last year.

Peo­ple have lost their lives, peo­ple are risk­ing their lives on a daily ba­sis, just to keep us safe, and be­ing able to do some­thing that, in some small way, shows the grat­i­tude we all feel for them is huge for us.

And the chefs re­ally rose to the oc­ca­sion.

What was it like to film?

IT’S so joy­ful, the whole thing. We’ve got vet­er­ans back in the kitchen as well; we’ve got Tommy Banks, Tom Aikens, amongst some oth­ers as well – some sur­prise ones who I’ll keep up my sleeves.

We’ve got some Great Bri­tish Menu favourites. Some of the stars from the last cou­ple of years are cook­ing with vet­er­ans who were judg­ing them be­fore, so that’s hi­lar­i­ous fun.

Some of the vet­er­ans are like, ‘Oh my God, I for­got how hard it is in this kitchen!’

How did you feel when you were asked to take the role of host?

AT FIRST, I re­ally wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to do it, be­cause I loved be­ing a judge on Great Bri­tish Menu so much, and I just was a lit­tle ner­vous about leav­ing that be­hind.

I love Oliver and Matthew, and I was like, ‘Oh, I won’t be with Oliver and Matthew any­more!’

I had a lit­tle bit of sep­a­ra­tion anx­i­ety, I think. But it’s been an ab­so­lute joy, I have to say.

Tell us a bit more about what the new role is like...

GET­TING to know the chefs, watch­ing them go through the emo­tional jour­ney through­out the week, has been a com­plete rev­e­la­tion.

I knew it would be in­ter­est­ing, get­ting to work with the chefs more closely and see how the dishes evolve and de­velop. It’s just a joy to watch their imag­i­na­tion spark.

Hon­estly, one of the chefs last week im­pressed me so much.

The changes they made to a dish from the Mon­day, to the time they got to the judg­ing table on Fri­day... I was ab­so­lutely gob­s­macked.

You usher the chefs through the highs and lows of the com­pe­ti­tion. You’re a bit like a ther­a­pist too...

I’M LIKE the kitchen shrink – ab­so­lutely!

We’ve started film­ing the new, main se­ries as well now; some of them have been here be­fore, but most of them are brand new to the com­pe­ti­tion – they don’t even know what to ex­pect.

And even the ones who have been be­fore and are now com­ing again, they know what to ex­pect, but they all say that it’s not any eas­ier.

Ac­tu­ally, some­times, know­ing what to ex­pect can make it even more stress­ful be­cause you know how hard it is and you know the arcs and the peaks and the troughs in the week ahead of you.

It’s like if you go back out with a boyfriend you’ve been out with be­fore or some­thing!

Have you been cook­ing a lot in lock­down?

ALL the time! It’s a re­ally lovely thing for my men­tal health.

It’s a re­ally im­por­tant form of cre­ativ­ity for me, my cook­ing.

(In April) my daugh­ter (TV and ra­dio pre­sen­ter, Miq­uita Oliver) and I started an In­sta­gram se­ries called, ‘What’s for din­ner mummy?’; us cook­ing and danc­ing and play­ing mu­sic. It was like a lit­tle win­dow into our fam­ily life.

And then we de­cided to do a pop-up res­tau­rant, at the top of my road; it was re­ally odd sud­denly hav­ing this time on my hands, and I’m not good at sit­ting on my hands.

I’ve got like five or six big We­ber BBQ things, and my friend’s got a pub at the top of my road, so we wheeled them up and set it all up in his gi­ant pub gar­den, and we did a

Caribbean BBQ take­away, and a lit­tle take­away bar.

We had the time of our lives! And ev­ery­body in our local neigh­bour­hood ab­so­lutely loved it.

It must have been great to have some­thing to keep you busy...

MY BOYFRIEND was very funny, be­cause the mo­ment I de­cided to do a pop-up, I sud­denly got a spring in my step be­cause I’m not used to wait­ing for oth­ers or for peo­ple to give me per­mis­sion to do things, so it just felt like tak­ing back power in my own life.

I think, in lock­down, there are ob­vi­ously so many dif­fi­cult things – not see­ing your loved ones, not see­ing your fam­ily, all of that stuff is re­ally hard – but I think one of the things that’s hard­est about it is feel­ing dis­em­pow­ered as well.

There’s a fragility to ev­ery­one’s men­tal health that’s re­ally ev­i­dent.

So, for me, get­ting on with some­thing and do­ing some­thing that I could share with other peo­ple, and that thing be­ing feed­ing peo­ple, it just felt like be­ing back in the sad­dle.

And it just felt like a re­ally lovely thing to do.

I’m like the kitchen shrink – ab­so­lutely!

Andi Oliver on help­ing the chefs through the highs and lows of the com­pe­ti­tion

The Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu starts on BBC2 on Tues­day, at 8pm.

 ??  ?? Andi with Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu chefs (L-R) Ja­son Ather­ton, Pip Lacey, Tom Barnes, Niall Keat­ing, Tommy Banks, Alex Greene, Richard Bain­bridge, Si­mon Ro­gan, Matt Gil­lan, James Cochran, Lisa Good­win-Allen, Tom Aikens
Andi with Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu chefs (L-R) Ja­son Ather­ton, Pip Lacey, Tom Barnes, Niall Keat­ing, Tommy Banks, Alex Greene, Richard Bain­bridge, Si­mon Ro­gan, Matt Gil­lan, James Cochran, Lisa Good­win-Allen, Tom Aikens
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Big fan: Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu host Andi Oliver
Big fan: Great Bri­tish Christ­mas Menu host Andi Oliver
 ??  ?? Andi’s daugh­ter Miq­uita Oliver
Andi’s daugh­ter Miq­uita Oliver

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