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TV QUICKFIRE: Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver on hosting The Great British Christmas Menu

The Great British Christmas Menu culminates in a banquet dedicated to key workers. We found out more from Andi Oliver

Andi Oliver with contestants on The Great British Christmas Menu
Georgia Humphreys

WHAT CAN VIEWERS EXPECT FROM THE GREAT BRITISH CHRISTMAS MENU?

The brief is to say thank you to our key workers, who have literally been the backbone of this country throughout the last year. People have lost their lives, people are risking their lives on a daily basis, just to keep us safe, and being able to do something that, in some small way, shows the gratitude we all feel for them is huge for us. And the chefs really rose to the occasion.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO FILM?

It's so joyful, the whole thing. We've got veterans back in the kitchen as well; we've got Tommy Banks, Tom Aikens, amongst some others as well – some surprise ones who I'll keep up my sleeves.

We've got some Great British Menu favourites. Some of the stars from the last couple of years are cooking with veterans who were judging them before, so that's hilarious fun. Some of the veterans are like, 'Oh my god, I forgot how hard it is in this kitchen!'

HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO HOST?

At first, I really wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to do it, because I loved being a judge on Great British Menu so much, and I just was a little nervous about leaving that behind. I love Oliver and Matthew, and I was like, 'Oh, I won't be with Oliver and Matthew anymore!'

I had a little bit of separation anxiety, I think. But it's been an absolute joy, I have to say. Getting to know the chefs, watching them go through the emotional journey throughout the week, has been a complete revelation. I knew it would be interesting, getting to work with the chefs more closely and see how the dishes evolve and develop.

It's just a joy to watch their imagination spark. Honestly, one of the chefs last week impressed me so much. The changes they made to a dish from the Monday, to the time they got to the judging table on Friday… I was absolutely gobsmacked.

YOU USHER THE CHEFS THROUGH THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE COMPETITION

I'm like the kitchen shrink – absolutely! We've started filming the new, main series as well now; some of them have been here before, but most of them are brand new to the competition – they don't even know what to expect. And even the ones who have been before and are now coming again, they know what to expect, but they all say that it's not any easier.

HAVE YOU BEEN COOKING A LOT IN LOCKDOWN?

All the time, it's a really lovely thing for my mental health. It's a really important form of creativity for me, my cooking. In April, my daughter Miquita and I started an Instagram series called, 'What's for dinner mummy?'; us cooking and dancing and playing music. It was like a little window into our family life. And then we decided to do a pop-up restaurant, at the top of my road; it was really odd suddenly having this time on my hands, and I'm not good at sitting on my hands.

I've got like five or six big Weber BBQ things, and my friend's got a pub at the top of my road, so we wheeled them up and set it all up in his giant pub garden, and we did a Caribbean BBQ takeaway, and a little takeaway bar. We had the time of our lives! And everybody in our local neighbourhood absolutely loved it.

:: The Great British Christmas Menu starts on BBC Two on Tuesday December 1.

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