New Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver: Don’t call my hiring “tokenism”

"I'm there for a real reason," says Prue Leith's replacement on the BBC2 cookery competition – although she's proud to be "a middle-aged black woman on TV"

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Amid the chaos and burnt bridges of The Great British Bake Off’s move to Channel 4, a new queen of the TV kitchen rises, meringue-like in the form of Andi Oliver. 

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The London-based chef and restaurateur is stepping into Prue Leith’s shoes on BBC2’s professional cookery competition Great British Menu, as the latter leaves to become a judge on Bake off.

Oliver, 53, will be joining existing Great British Menu judges Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton, after making the move from BBC Radio 4’s much loved Kitchen Cabinet.

Speaking about her role in the new issue of Radio Times magazine, Oliver is proud of the diversity she brings to the show.

“Well, one of the reasons [I was selected] is because I’m a black woman, and not only that, I’m a middle-aged black woman. So hooray for being a middle-aged woman on TV, for a start. But a middle-aged black woman on TV, double hooray!” she says

However, she adds that her appointment is nothing to do with “tokenism”.

“I know what I’m talking about, I’m passionate about my subject, so I don’t think it is tokenism. I’m there for a real reason and there for the whole picture. And I’m really happy about that,” she adds.

London chef Oliver has been cooking all of her life, bringing her family’s Antiguan recipes to British restaurants – including the very trendy ‘mashed avocado’.

“Maybe everyone else has just caught up! My family are from Antigua and out there, we eat a lot of avocados, with salt fish and soused pork and plantain. There is some sort of hip crossover, I will give you that, but perhaps it’s because the time is right!”

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Read the full interview with new Great British Menu judge Andi Oliver in the new issue of Radio Times, available in shops and online from Tuesday 25 April