Each week the home cooks compete in two challenges: firstly a chance to shine in the Your Ultimate… round, secondly they’ll be put to task in the Cooks Challenge, before those who failed to wow the judges are left to face the Elimination Round, which decides who leaves the competition.
Round One: Your Ultimate...
Each episode begins with the home cooks being able to show what they are made of, and the food they really love to cook. From burgers to chocolate puddings, the cooks have the chance to showcase their individual flair and inventiveness. Tasting each of the cook dishes is also an opportunity for our judges to pick up new ideas themselves.
Each of the judges then individually choose their personal favourites, meaning up to three home cooks could find themselves at the top of the group after this round, and therefore in an advantaged position for the next. In a twist, those favoured in round one will get to decide on the single ingredient for round two that the whole group must improvise a dish around.
Chris Bavin says: “The first challenge our cooks face is called the ultimate and that will change each week. We will ask them for their ultimate burger, their ultimate pie, their ultimate fish dish and so on. So it’s their signature dish, something they’ve cooked many times before. They’ve got to create a dish that’s close to them, that either they’ve grown up eating because their grandmother used to make it or they make at home all the time. Then the twist comes - once we pick our favourite it gives our cooks an advantage as whoever wins from the first round gets to pick from two key ingredients that everyone’s dishes must be based on in the second round.”
Round Two: Cooks Challenge
In this round, the winner(s) of the first round chooses one main ingredient (from a selection) with which all the cooks must then invent a dish with that at its core. From plums to mackerel – the winning cook could decide to play to their own strengths choosing an ingredient they can confidently impress the judges with, or attempt to stump their fellow competitors by selecting an ingredient that will flummox them all.
The best home cooks are adaptable and unflappable – they can whip up something delicious from the most simple of ingredients. This is a chance for the cooks to really show off their creativity and ability to think on their feet. The cooks all have access to a fridge and a pantry stocked with store cupboard staples in order to create their dish. As each week goes by, the selection of main ingredients requires more skill and ingenuity.
Judges Mary, Chris and Dan can choose any number of dishes that truly stand out and will be looking for those that demonstrate skill, creativity, finesse – and of course taste. For the home cooks, there is a real incentive to set themselves apart from their competitors, because those who really impress the judges are saved from the Elimination Round.
Chris Bavin says: “With the chosen key ingredient in mind, the cooks then have the night to research it but they’re not aware of all the other ingredients they’ve got to make it, then they come in and they have a store cupboard and a fridge of different ingredients. All their preparation might go out the window. So they’ve got to come in with a few options, they definitely need a plan B possibly even a plan C and D!”
Mary Berry says: “They don’t know what’s in that store cupboard, or in the fridge, they might have decided to do something with almonds and they’ve worked it all out in their heads, but they get here and there’s no almonds so they have to think again. They cannot bring the recipe in, it’s got to be in their head. So it’s really like it would be at home, there’s a glut of apples you don’t want to waste and so you’ve got to do something with them and then you get them in the kitchen and the ingredient you particularly wanted isn’t there so you’ve got to think again.”
The Elimination Round
All cooks who failed to stand out in the previous rounds must earn the right to stay in the competition by proving their worth in the Elimination Round. Each week the number of cooks to face the Elimination will vary - it could be a handful of home cooks or the entire bunch – it’s a question of who has earned the right to avoid it.
The Elimination sees the cooks face high-pressure, high precision tasks where there is no room for error. Get it 100% right, or risk leaving the competition.
The judges will give the home cooks a classic recipe that the cooks must follow and execute perfectly, which none will know about in advance. Increasing in difficulty as the weeks progress – this critical test assesses all aspects of their skills and technical ability. Once they have tasted all the dishes the judges confer and choose one cook to send home.
Chris Bavin says: “The elimination round is when it gets more technical. We give them an exact recipe to follow to the letter.”
Mary Berry says: “The recipe is really detailed. But we don’t give them too much time and they’ve got to serve it up in time.”
Dan Doherty says: “We only give them the exact amount of ingredients so if they do mess it up, that’s it, no second chances. There could be 10 people in that round or there could be two, you could be an amazing cook but if you have a bad half an hour then you’re off.”