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Judging the Great British Menu

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Matthew Fort Matthew Fort | 12:55 UK time, Monday, 4 April 2011

We’ve eaten suckling pig, beef Wellington and guinea fowl. We’ve had a whole turbot and half a lobster (dainty, but delicious) and cockles and mussels, not alive, alive-o, thank heaven, but properly cooked. Some dishes have been piled high and some dishes have been artfully strewn along slate or boards or long glass plates like stained glass windows. We have opened miniature picnic baskets and tiffin boxes. We have torn food to bits with our fingers as well as resorted to the more conventional knife and fork. We have sniffed, and chewed and savoured, all in the search for the perfect dishes for the latest Great British Menu.

Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort tasting food for Great British Menu.


This year’s theme is food that brings communities together. The competition will culminate in a feast billed as The People’s Banquet, a great street party, knees up and get-together to celebrate the unsung heroes who work so tirelessly in communities all over the country. After all, eating together is the best, most accessible, most pleasurable form of communication and community action there is.

I think it’s fair to say that the chefs have found GBM particularly challenging this year. It’s taken them away from the familiar, from the tried and tested. They’ve had to go out and meet people in their communities, and then they’ve had to go back and create dishes matched to the idea of The People’s Banquet - dishes that break down barriers and create bonds, dishes to share, dishes that encourage people to get stuck in, that they might have to stretch for, or ask their neighbours to pass a helping.

The recipes have got to get people talking as well as smacking their lips.  It wasn’t just a matter of scaling up the recipes that the chefs cook in their own kitchens. They’ve had to think differently. They’ve had to think big, generously and theatrically, as well as gastronomically. Their dishes have got to look fabulous as well hit the taste buds at full revs.

It isn’t that easy for Prue, Oliver and myself as judges. We have to sit in judgement on eight courses a day, cooked by some of the country’s finest chefs. That’s a lot of grub, no matter how you look at it, and we don’t get many really duff dishes. So the differences between individual dishes may be very subtle. Of course, taste is subjective. There are no absolutes when it comes to food. That’s why we have such ding-dong discussions. And why I am right and Oliver is wrong, usually. And Prue is wrong unless she agrees with me. (They say exactly the same, by the way.)

And now, I’m heading for the running machine if you don’t mind. I’ve got to do something about the 25,000 calories so far. No, no, no. I’m not looking for sympathy, really I’m not. Just a little understanding...

Matthew Fort is a judge on BBC Two’s Great British Menu.


  • Comment number 1.

    when is the Great British Meau showing on the bbc?

  • Comment number 2.

    I don’t think it is fair that a Chef de cuisine enter the competitions has a pastry chef! I trained for 2 years has a pastry chef, and would never pass myself has a chef de why do they think they can cook pastry....!!! We are selling your pastry/dessert and pudding short...But I still love the show...

  • Comment number 3.

    All information about transmission times for this programme is available on this page:

  • Comment number 4.

    I love the show, but we are being sold short, not on long enough. also, it is the Great British Menu, how about showing us where the food is sourced from - they are all using locally sourced food I hope.

  • Comment number 5.

    Does anyone feel the same as me about the voice over for the show? I find the lady's voice very loud in comparison to the rest of the show-it grates on the ear.

  • Comment number 6.

    i agree, i didnt likejenny bond but listenin to this girl i agree

  • Comment number 7.

    Why don't they just 'do liver' like Nigel says?

  • Comment number 8.

    I don't enjoy the format of the show as much as I used to. I agree we used to get more info on where the food was sourced. I don't see why a voice over is needed either-it's very annoying and distracting. I would rather just hear the chefs talking and explaining what they're doing, the judges commenting etc.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    is there something personal between Andrew Pern and Nigel? the scoring has been quite blatantly biased against him so far despite producing some fabulous dishes...I have visited both chefs pubs, and I know whose I wont be going back to.....

  • Comment number 11.

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find it strange that this program is about sharing at a street party, yet there seems to have been no comment about the fact that if chefs are preparing suckling pig there will be a large sections of the community that will be excluded due to religious food beliefs?

  • Comment number 12.

    One thing I don't really understand about this programme (and I've heard the judges say it in previous series of GBM) is that when they're deciding on a winning chef in the early stages of the competition, they must consider his/her menu as a whole and not the individual dishes. What is the point of this if only individual dishes go through at the end? It seems a shame that someone might prepare the best individual course out of all the chefs but it won't go through because their menu as whole doesn't quite go together, no matter how great the individual dishes. If they're going to judge like this then why even bother to mix and match dishes between chefs and just have one chef designing the whole menu instead?

  • Comment number 13.

    Im courius when is the Great British Meau showing on the bbc?

  • Comment number 14.

    I really dont like this format. It is all 'overacted theatre'. The expert chef is 'pretending' its not good enough and then the chef has to do the same. Chefs are chefs not actors and it doesnt build up the suspense it's just annoying!! In face it completely spoils the show and I think it's going down the Masterchef route.

  • Comment number 15.

    I totally agree! I am switching off this show big time-it's not about cooking at all really. I would much prefer the show to concentrate on the ingredients and cooking methods. At least Masterchef doesn't have the same annoying voice over, but I agree about the similarities. What's wrong with seeing the actual cooking processes? Why does everything have to be so fast, noisy and emotional?

  • Comment number 16.

    I always wondered how the chefs can present Indian, or Italian dishes or other countries meals, with out losing marksor points or whatever.
    Surely this is the Great British Menu, so should be Great British meals, not foriegn dishes.

  • Comment number 17.

    Central chefs Richard Bainbridge, Aktar Islam and Sue Ellis; all have the worse menus I've seen on Great British Menu. Do they not practise before the show? It's hard to watch this weeks show...

  • Comment number 18.

    A comment which will hopefully reach the programmes producers!..... If Akhtar Islam's dessert does reach the People's banquet - the name of one of the components MUST be corrected - the correct name is SHRIkhand (or srikhand) (and not shirkhand) - Having logged this correction, I am not sure that this dessert will go through however!

  • Comment number 19.

    I think that it was unfair that one of the chefs was late twice and was still allowed to enter into the final competition.

  • Comment number 20.

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but this is the Great British Menu to celebrate British food at its best using locally sourced ingredients. Although we have a richness of various foods from around the world, which I enjoy, why are they being allowed to usurp the competition? If I was a guest at such a celebration I would be offended to find that I was to be served Asian or any other foods from other countries. Come on guys, it's called The Great British Menu, so if the chefs want to enter they must cook British food, locally sourced otherwise it makes a mockery of the competition.

  • Comment number 21.

    I assume there will be no Jewish or Muslim guests at the banquet as pork seems to be on most chefs menus.

  • Comment number 22.

    #18: Thanks for pointing this error out to us. The recipe has now been corrected on the website.

  • Comment number 23.

    Over the past couple of weeks i have found myself in the ( very ) unlikely position of actually shouting at the Tv , Because either the chefs have NOT listened to the main brief that the dishes should be SHARING !, Either that or they are just not understanding it , Because most of ones they are dishing up are simply not this , Even more annoying they are not ( in most cases ) not being marked down for this , Why ? . .( sorry rant over ) x . .

  • Comment number 24.

    The Scottish judge his not very fair, Tony (Asian Gentleman) has always come up with what his expected on the brief, but keeps getting put down because tecnique but those that are late get really good scoring....maybe the judge should reread the brief...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    We love the program Great British Menu.We are visiting the UK in June July West Country From Cheltham down and would like to eat in some of the resturants of your chefs.Can you please send me a list of them as we would love to try them out on our trip.

  • Comment number 26.

    Can't believe that Aled beat Gareth today. All I can say is FIX!

  • Comment number 27.

    It is about time this programme brought in new judges. Opinionated, inconsistent, hypocritical - we need new ones now. One minute we hear chefs should remember that this is a banquet, or is it a street party or......then when lobster arrives in individual portions....oh this is the perfect dish! And what is this big thing of using the same piece of film more than 3 times on 2 minutes to suggest a chef is looking after a negative comment from another chef? This programme is becoming boring....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Comment number 28.

    we have been huge fans of the great british menu since it started and have enjoyed the good hearted banter as much as the cooking. We don't, however, like the way extremely accomplished chefs are being talked to, on occasion. For example Richard Corrigans comment to Chris Fearon that he should have put his fish course in the bin - outrageous comment, who on earth does Richard think he is? We used to think he was a 'good chap' funny, kind and good to watch, unfortunately he seems to have become a charicature of himself, from the john torrode school of presenting. These highly talented people are laying themselve bare, and I feel they deserve a little more respect! Please put the kindness back into the show and stop the harshness. thank you

  • Comment number 29.

    i agree with posts 11, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21 and part of 27 thank you

  • Comment number 30.

    Does anyone else feel the "events" dreamt up for the chefs to compete in seem to be complete myths? Search the internet as I might, I can find no reference to this "people's banquet" other than on sites devoted to GBM. Does it actually exist?

    Quite agree about the inconsistency of the judging and approach to the brief - is it meant to be sharing food or Michelin Star food? I can't see that both are compatible. The chefs are being confused by the mixed messages.

    I also hate the artificially induced rivalry and so-called "banter". I can hear the director in my mind saying "now say something to really wind Richard up, Matthew", and then "cut! No, let's try that again and be really mean this time".

    As for the voice-over, not as homely and comforting as Jenny Bond, but thankfully nowhere near as bad as the Masterchef one!

  • Comment number 31.

    Not that anybody will care , But having just seen the final i really did struggle to see how the final menu was " balanced " , the first two courses were of Indian origin , How is that a balance ? , Apart from the fact that if you dont like that type of cuisine then you are going to feel rather left out i fail to see how just how they go with the other two dishes ,
    I do realise that food is a very personal thing but i think here that the judges really fell down . .
    Or is it just me ? . .

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    The chefs and panel sit waiting, presumably trying not to laugh, while the seconds tick away before each result is announced. It's just frustrating - such an old trick - and the length and number of times in each programme is just plain daft! A couple of seconds to build tension is fine, but every competition seems to use it to a farcical degree nowadays.

  • Comment number 34.

    How on earth can this be called the "Peoples Banquet" with all the pig meat on the menu which excludes both Moslems and Jews?

  • Comment number 35.

    I have watched the Great British Menu 2011 with great interest and have no comment to make as to the fact that Italian and Indian Food was offered as potential final dishes. We are now a very diverse mixture of cultures in Great Britain which is what makes us Great.

    My main complaint is about the Judges and the fact that they showed no consistency in the way they voted for dishes and also their complete lack of balance in the final meal chosen. It appeared they put style over substance. Why would you want a menu consisting of spicy chicken with coronation coleslaw only to follow this with curried seabass? They also in one breath critisized one chef for his lemoniscious dessert for being too lemony and then on the same programme praised the rhubarb afternoon tea for being really all rhubarb. I am sure that the Judges concerned all earned a hansome fee for takeing part in this programme but what on earth where we the Great British Public paying them for?

  • Comment number 36.

    I thought this session of Great British Menu was really great television! I loved the interaction between the chefs, and the judges!.
    'I can hear Oliver's brain whirring into a frenzy of denunciation', by Matthew Fort, has entered our family parlance. Larger than life Tom Kerridge was also a picture of good humour and amusing banter. As I said, great TV!

  • Comment number 37.

    I like Tom Kerridge, but his weight really scares me. It can't be healthy for him being on his feet all day in a hot and busy kitchen.

    I agree with the comments about Wendy Lloyd she is so doom laden, especially on the day of the banquet with all her if this doesn't work and if this should happen, there was nothing positive about her.

    I was wondering about so much pork being served as well, especially as there must have been Muslims and Jewish people there. I also wonder about people who have special dietary needs and then there are vegetarians/vegans, do they just skip the course?

  • Comment number 38.

    Absolutely loved this series, made all the more special by seeing two great chefs (Andrew Pern and Stepnahie Moon) from our region competing. We often work at both The Star Inn and Rudding Park and I have to say they all work so hard it's great that they have a chance to really show off their tallents. Good work BBC - more of this type of program please! I've just popped some images of Andrews amazing food on the website hope you like them :)


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