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Mary: This show has a brand-new format.
The contestants live together and can do whatever research they like to plan the next challenge. But when they get into the kitchen, they may find the ingredients aren’t all in the cupboard… [See right for more.]
The challenges focus on home cooking – is that something close to your heart, Mary?
Yes, it’s proper cooking. There won’t be a zig-zag of jus on the plate. We don’t have jus, we have gravy!
Claudia, you’ve admitted that you’ve become slightly obsessed with Mary…
Claudia: There’s a restraining order [laughs]! When I was asked to do the show, they had me at “Mary”. It could have been me and Mary in Hull for eight weeks discussing the radish and I wouldn’t have cared.
What is it you like so much about her?
Close your ears, Mary! We’ve all followed her recipes and love her food, but she’s never like: “I know how to do this better.”
How are your cooking skills, Claudia?
Appalling! But I’m very keen to eat – I ate everything the contestants made. Even things I normally don’t believe in, such as aubergines! I can’t fit into anything now. And no, I’m not pregnant!
Will viewers be able to follow the recipes at home?
Mary: Yes, we want viewers to think: ‘Gosh, I can pick up those ingredients on the way home.’
Claudia: Nobody has magical market shelves in their home. You’ve got a chicken breast, a slightly off tomato…
How would you describe yourself and your fellow judges Chris and Dan?
Mary: I think we were all fair. You’ve got to look at the pros and cons. In some cases, timing is what it’s all about. Nobody had extra time and if they hadn’t finished their dish, we couldn’t mark it.
Claudia: Sometimes I tried to give them extra time. The producers would say: “You’ve got two minutes,” and I’d see somebody struggling and say: “You’ve got seven minutes!”
Claudia, it’s your job to talk to the contestants while they’re cooking. Does that make it hard for them to concentrate?
I just try to make them laugh. At one point I had a colander on my head and the contestant just went: “Not now!” You have to know when you’re being helpful and when you’re being annoying.
Here's how it works…
The first task is Your Ultimate, where the 10 contestants showcase dishes they make at home. The winner, or winners, of this challenge decide the main ingredient for round two, the Key Ingredient Test.
Here, each cook must invent a dish based on one main ingredient and those who impress are spared the dreaded Eliminator Cook Off.
The number of contestants facing this final high- pressure task varies. The judges present the cooks with a recipe they must execute perfectly. Then it’s judgment time, with one of the chefs heading home each week…
Were the contestants intimidated to meet Mary?
Mary: They were all absolutely lovely. You couldn’t wish for a nicer bunch. Gradually you build
a relationship with them. Claudia: One girl loved Mary so much that she couldn’t look at her. I’d go up to her and say: “It’s all right, she’s human!”
Mary, you’re always on TV and publishing books – do you ever take time off?
I enjoy what I do, I don’t see it as work. It’s my sheer pleasure.
Britain's Best Home Cook, Thursday 8pm, BBC One
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