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What did Ready Steady Cook mean to you?

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Nicky Evans Nicky Evans | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 22 November 2010

They say all good things must come to an end, and Ready Steady Cook is no exception. Ainsley and the team have finally bowed out after 15 years on air, 21 series and more than 2000 shows. We asked some of the chefs, presenters and behind-the-scenes team to dish the dirt on each other, relive their on-screen rivalries – and romances – and share fond memories of the programme.

Antony Worrall Thompson (RSC chef 1994-2007)

"I was in the show for 13 years and it was great fun. I loved beating Brian Turner the best – he was an old, classically trained chef fixed in his northern ways. Not that any of us were counting of course…

"I remember once I whacked Fern across the face with a squid. She hates fish and squid particularly. This one had very long tentacles and I didn’t see her behind me... I don’t think she ever forgave me for that!"

Brian Turner (RSC chef 1994-2010)

"My great rival was Antony Worrall Thompson – I always liked playing against half-sized people. I remember Antony would try every way to get the audience on his side. Once on the roadshow he brought his newborn child on stage just before they counted up the votes – and of course he won hands down.

"At the old studio and at the live shows we would all march up and down backstage singing along as loud as we could to the classical music they played before the show, to get rid of our nerves. It was lovely and I’ll never forget it."

Fern Britton, Phil Vickery and Brian Turner with guests.

Fern Britton (RSC presenter 1994-2000)

"Up until Ready Steady Cook came along I had been a current affairs person and was very surprised to be given the job. There were two other younger and more attractive female presenters auditioned for the job. As I had little interest in cooking I had ruled myself out!

"However fate stepped in and I got a job that I grew to love very quickly. Without it I would not have had a new lease of life both professionally and personally in the shape of my dear husband Phil Vickery. We would never have met if it hadn't been for the show and I am very, very happy that we did."

James Winter (RSC researcher 1994-1997, now series producer of Saturday Kitchen)

"RSC was my first job in TV; I was a contestant researcher. Our job was to audition the people who would like to be on the show, and we also came up with the titles for the dishes – apart from Ainsley’s recipes, which he insisted on naming himself. Some have stuck with me, such as ‘Goosey goosey gammon traffic lights 123’ – I still don’t know where he got that one from or what it means!

"James was the bandana-wearing, sports car-driving man he is now. He always won with the spun sugar strands – unless he was against Ainsley. When he heard the minute count, that’s when he put his sugar in the pan. He knew he could always finish with a flourish of spun sugar on the top and win."

James Martin and Antony Worrall Thompson with Fern Britton and guests.

James Martin (RSC chef 1996-2005)

"Ready Steady Cook was my first regular TV slot, with the old bandana and the old spun sugar. The bandana was never a gimmick – I’m 6’3’’ and I couldn’t wear a chefs’ hat because they made me too tall. I ended up painting my own bandanas and designing my own jackets for the show – I had one with green peppers on one sleeve and red tomatoes on the other that I got people to sign.

"I built up my knowledge of TV from RSC so I owe it a lot. In its heyday – with the roadshows – it was like a rock-and-roll tour. The chefs took it really seriously; you didn’t want to lose. You could tell whether you had a good chance of winning by the age of the audience – if the audience was into bingo then Brian or Antony had a chance!"

Ainsley Harriott (RSC chef 1994-2000; presenter 2000-2010)

"The great thing about RSC was that it came along at a time when we were still a bit naïve about cooking in this country. It changed people’s attitudes towards food. Suddenly we were looking at these professional guys doing something very spontaneous that only cost a certain amount of money. Viewers could see products that they had never seen before and understand what was a 'reduction' or a 'jus' or a 'mirepoix' – all those culinary terms.

"I just loved it – as a chef it was a real discipline for me. Even when I was presenter, every time they tipped the contents out of the bag I was thinking, ‘What would I do with that?’ I was thrilled to become the presenter, but nervous as anything. It’s almost like being a football player and then becoming the manager of the football team!

Ainsley Harriott

"I remember the faces of the chefs when they got liver or anything remotely offal. ‘Awful offal’ they used to call it. I think me and James Martin were the few who were able to win with liver or kidneys. Similarly when squid was in the bag and the chef was cleaning it in front of everybody, I’m watching the audience’s faces and I’m thinking to myself, ‘You’ve got no chance!’"

Nick Nairn (RSC chef 1995-2010)

"For me RSC was a life-changing experience: it was where I met my wife, Holly [who worked on the show].

"In the early days they went through a phase of giving us bags with one thing in them. Antony got a bar of chocolate; I had a tin of ham. There was always enough in the larder, so the secret was to know the larder. From flour and eggs you could make pasta or pastry, and there was always something you could use to make a soup.

"I’ll always remember the social aspect of it. There was a huge amount of mutual respect between us and a real sense of camaraderie. I think at one point they stopped me and Paul Rankin from cooking together because we were never quite as competitive on the second day of filming! Antony was über competitive – we all were. If you had a bad run, it really affected you. I lost seven in a row once and I was about to chuck it all in! But I absolutely loved it and was proud to be part of it."

Paul Rankin, Nick Nairn and Fern Britton with guests.

Did Ready Steady Cook spark your interest in cooking? Has it left you with any favourite memories or fail-safe dishes? Who was your favourite RSC personality? 

Read another blog post reminiscing about some of RSC’s most "out-there" recipes.

Nicky Evans works on the BBC Food website.


  • Comment number 1.

    I didn’t watch is so much in later years but it was a favourite while going through university. I love cooking but this show was so lively and fun it couldn’t help but get you enthusiastic about cooking while teaching you plain, simple ingredients doesn’t have to be boring. Thanks to the presenters, chefs and crew who brought us this culinary delight.

  • Comment number 2.

    RSC was top quality popular entertainment. A great concept, lots of fun and you learned a bit about cooking as well. None of your fancy, expensive Gordon Ramsey ingredients or lovey, dovey Delia taking care over the exact quantities - just real cooking as you and I would do it. (Only the chefs could do it properly!) Thanks to everyone involved.

  • Comment number 3.

    About time as well!

  • Comment number 4.

    I think RSC's legacy to me is that it opened my eyes to the fact that food doesn't have to be 'proper food' as my parents would've made - you could make anything out of anything! (Beefburger curry anyone?) It made meal times great fun when you sampled your latest experiment! I learned far more about food than I ever would have had I never watched it! It was really liberating too! I can only hope it's legacy lives on and food never returns to the boring stodge it once was!

  • Comment number 5.

    RSC did not deserve to be terminated. It is tremendously entertaining even if a bit "in your face" at times. I can think of other cookery programmes that are better candidates for the chop.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks for your comments. It's clear that there was a lot of love for this show and that it has left its mark on people's cooking habits. I think Judas72 is right that it taught people to be much less worried about following a recipe to the letter - people saw that you could substitute some ingredients in a recipe for others that you had to hand and still get a decent meal out of it.

    It's true Larbo that RSC was something that people grew up with - or connected with at certain periods of their life. I remember watching it after school with my family - and drooling over AWT's fried concoctions!

    More memories here.

  • Comment number 7.

    It had to happen. When the format changed to only featuring celebrities its days were numbered.

    Even though Ains is a great presenter I did miss his cooking. He always brough some melodrama to the proceedings.

  • Comment number 8.

    I used to love it until the format changed to feature only 'celebrities' it just wasn't the same after that

  • Comment number 9.

    There was a certain perfection to the original format and a viewer recognition with Fern because of her professed inability to cook. Losing that lost the whole point of the programme and although Ainsley was okay as a presenter, we knew that when he asked questions of the chefs, he already knew the answers. It all seemed so patronising after that . . .

    For me, the Ready Steady Cook I loved was axed when Fern moved on.

  • Comment number 10.

    I thought something was going on a few months ago when Ainsley didn't seem to be his normal happy self, then the quicky bag challenge seemed to stop suddenly, its sad news that i read today with the end of Ready Steady Cook, I love watching the show and have picked up so many tips. Spice the show up with a different format and i'm sure it will would continue, i have some great ideas. If you want to know them then contact me.


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