Mary Berry to lead the hunt for Britain’s Best Cook in new BBC1 competition

New eight-part show will see the 82-year old return to her first love of judging as her loyalty to the BBC pays off

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Mary Berry is to return to judging a BBC1 cookery show, this time leading the charge to find the best of ordinary British cuisine, RadioTimes.com can reveal.

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The former Great British Bake Off host will be “returning to her first love” according to the BBC as the lead judge in new food competition series Britain’s Best Cook, set to start next year.

The new show will be presented by Claudia Winkleman (pictured, below, with Berry at a recent food awards). A second judge to accompany Berry is still being sought, the BBC has confirmed.

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Aiming to “test the real-life expertise of truly great home cooks”, Britain’s Best Cook “will celebrate the food people make for their loved ones every single day”. The 8-part series is made by factual independent producer Keo Films.

Over eight episodes, the ten contestants will be called upon to demonstrate skill and individual flair under pressure as they’re asked to serve the “most perfect version of dishes that define modern British home cooking”, as well as create their special take on well-loved classics. 

The judges will be on the hunt for dishes that “define a new benchmark of excellence”, whether it’s perfect pork crackling, an ingenious twist on the chicken pie or the ideal chocolate pudding.

Each challenge will reveal new tips and techniques as the competing cooks battle to prove they have the technical ability, resourcefulness and creativity to get through to the final and be crowned Britain’s Best Cook.

Berry said: “I am never more at home than when I have my judging hat on. This series is going to encourage proper home cooking which I have always championed and I cannot wait to start. Claudia, for me, is the icing on the cake.”  

As for Winkleman, who as well as Strictly Come Dancing presented The Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2, she says: “I am over the moon to be part of this show. Am slightly obsessed with Mary so will follow her around with my own moussaka for most of the filming. Apologies in advance.”

Ever since the BBC lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4 it’s been on the hunt for a replacement cookery specactular – and sources say that the Corporation believes that Britain’s Best Cook is the answer.

The BBC said: “At a time when British cooking has never been more varied, inspiring or of such high quality, this series will test the real-life expertise of truly great home cooks and will celebrate the food people make for their loved ones every single day.

“Returning to her first love, with more than 75 cookery books to her name, Mary Berry’s authority in the home kitchen is beyond question and she is the natural choice for the lead judge.”

Charlotte Moore, BBC director of content, added, “Home cooking has quietly become one of the nation’s favourite obsessions and so there is no better place than BBC1 to compete for this crown. The queen of all judges Mary Berry will be the indisputable head judge with the irresistible Claudia Winkleman hosting proceedings. But, who will be Mary’s judging partner? The search is on!’”

Since she decided to leave The Great British Bake Off after its transfer to Channel, the BBC has been keen to retain Berry’s services and also reward her loyalty.

This year viewers have seen Mary Berry Everyday, the BBC2 show in which she shows off the recipes that have shaped her cooking over six decades. She has also signed up to make Mary Berry’s Secrets from Britain’s Great Houses for BBC1. 

However, Britain’s Best Cook marks her return to food judging.

The BBC confirmed that Britain’s Best Cook will air in 2018 but it seems unlikely to compete against The Great British Bake Off in the schedules – if Berry gets her way anyway.

Earlier this year Berry revealed at the Radio Times Covers Party that, while she was keen to return to judging, she didn’t want to pit herself against the show she worked on alongside Paul Hollywood, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins.

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“It would depend what I was judging,” she disclosed, “I wouldn’t think of judging anything that was in competition with the Bake Off because I wish it well. It is, I’m sure, going to be successful.”