Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver says the hit BBC food programme has made her a surprise later-life sensation. Andi, 55, took over from Prue Leith on the panel who had replaced Mary Berry when The Great British Bake Off moved to Channel 4.
Restaurateur Andi was a regular on Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, but Great British Menu has been a game-changer.
“I was hosting an award ceremony the other night and every third person that stopped me wanted to talk about Menu,” Andi told P.S.
“It has raised my profile immeasurably. I love that whole families sit down to watch, and it’s such an inspiration.
“It’s a privilege to do something that you love. I’m 55 and it’s an interesting time of your life to suddenly have all these things explode.”
Andi’s screen time is getting an even bigger boost from this week as she’s fronting her own new food series.
Beat The Chef is a 25-part cookery gameshow in which skilful amateurs go head-to-head with four chefs in fast-paced cook-offs to win a prize of up to £10,000.
Michelin-starred Mark Sergeant, cookbook author and celebrity chef Clodagh McKenna, award-winning chef James Tanner and Roux Scholar Frederick Forster are the pros in the show, which screens each weekday teatime.
Andi says there’s a real competitive element.
“They don’t want to lose to amateurs – they’re putting their reputations on the line.
“But above all, it’s fun. It was uplifting to make as so many things seem to be fraught and weighted with tension.
“I’ve joined a lot of things, like Great British Menu, that have been running a while, so it’s nice to be in at the very beginning of something.”
The latest series of Great British Menu finished just over a week ago and with so many dishes to taste, Andi says she has to have a shrewd strategy in place alongside fellow judges Mathew Fort and Oliver Peyton.
“I have about four bites off each plate,” she explains. “Because if you have more then you’re in trouble.
“The food doesn’t get wasted, though, as the crew are always on hand, forks at the ready.”
The recent series saw the chefs create a menu for a banquet at Abbey Road studios and music has always been a passion of Andi’s.
She was in ’80s band Rip Rig + Panic and singer Neneh Cherry is still her best mate.
“I’ve got a new venture celebrating Caribbean food launching with Neneh,” added Andi. “It’s very exciting.”
Beat The Chef, Channel 4, Mon-Fri, 5.30pm