BBQ Champ: “One of the many problems is that barbecued food looks like a crime scene”

ITV's Bake Off-style barbecue contest is white bread for the eyes, says TV editor Alison Graham

In what seems to have become a British seaside holiday badge of honour, I was recently attacked by a seagull. Fear not, no television critic was harmed in this unprovoked assault and, far more importantly, the chips that I was attempting to eat at the time remained intact in my cold, hard hands. 

What the scavenging beast obviously didn’t realise as he (she? I have no idea, sorry) clattered into me, wings whooshing into my face like the fan of a particularly aggressive Georgian lady, was that I am from Middlesbrough.

And if you come from Middlesbrough, you learn, from birth, never, ever to let go of food. Particularly chips and extra-particularly fish and chips eaten in the open air beside the bracing North Sea coast. Luxury!

Truly, I could come under sustained anti-tank fire while eating hot, salty, vinegary fish and chips in the teeth of a force-ten gale hurling hailstones right at me and I STILL wouldn’t let go of my dinner. It’s just the way I’m made.

After this feathery interruption, I wasn’t too traumatised and suffered only social embarrassment; your nearest and dearest and passers-by become transfixed and stare as they think “glad that wasn’t me” when you’re attacked by a seagull. I just brushed it off in the most soignée way possible, as if to say: “What, this? Ha, ha, I get attacked by seagulls every day, what of it?”

Of course, as I realised at the time, seagull attacks have become de rigueur, they’re a sign of British Summer. As is BBQ Champ. If ever a television series signified the seagull attacks of the summer schedules, it’s BBQ Champ, a competition for a £25,000 prize (£25,000!) where amateur barbecue enthusiasts cook on vast outdoor ranges. Its driving force/judge is the likeable Adam Richman, who hosted the hit American series Man v Food.

Now, one of the many problems with BBQ Champ is that barbecued food looks like a crime scene. No matter how good anyone is at heating bland hunks of meat over fire, no matter how delicious, it always looks like something from the postmortem slab in Silent Witness. 

This is not attractive television and it’s certainly not an attractive cooking talent show. Inevitably BBQ Champ must be compared with The Great British Bake Off (Wednesday BBC1).

But where Bake Off features cooked creations of infinite flounces and delicacy and can be gorgeous and dreamy to look at, BBQ Champ just looks like, well, charred meat. With maybe the odd side dish or burnt corn on the cob.

BBQ Champ does its best to crank up the tension as Myleene Klass (I don’t know what she’s doing here) wafts like a graceful sprite around the sweaty contenders and asks them about their barbecuing lives. Of course, everyone has a story and takes it all extremely seriously.

There was, naturally, a weeper in the first episode, a woman involved in a cook-off to stay in the competition. Tears coursed down her face as Richman and fellow judge Mark Blatchford tasted her sweetcorn. “Is it cooked?” she asked, anxiously, as if her very life depended on it.

BBQ Champ is the kind of thing that would only ever make an appearance in the summer because it’s white bread for the eyes, it’s clearly not expensive and it fills an hour on a Friday when, you might think, in good weather people might actually be out barbecuing for themselves. And as we’re all on holiday being attacked by seagulls, hey, who cares anyway? 

BBQ Champ continues on ITV on Fridays at 9pm  

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