This year saw each course bring a new hitch to the judging field, beginning with the starter where the competing chefs were made to judge each others’ dishes, with their points added to those of the usual judges. This made the opinions of fellow chefs as crucial as that of the veteran judges, plus guest judge actress Patricia Hodge.
The decision saw Tom Aikens up his game from the heats to win with his ‘chicken egg / egg chicken’ dish over Colin’s gazpacho and Raymond’s stout. Oliver equated its flavour to a “Eureka moment” and Patricia called it “exquisite”. Even fellow chefs admitted it was delicious (Richard Davies gave it a perfect 10).
Tuesday brought the fish course, this time with impressionist Ronni Ancona casting her careful eye on the wit factor, and a new rule that saw new dishes brought to the pass, including a Sicilian-influenced dish from Michael called the “Cod Father” that perhaps was the best bit of real comedy in the series.
But the Don wasn’t enough to see Michael to the finals: it was Aiden’s prawn cocktail that won the judges over, an “amazing” dish according to Oliver and with a comedy red nose that was sure to suit the banquet.
On Wednesday, finalists prepared their main courses with comedian Ade Edmondson joining the other judges who gave the chefs yet another unexpected surprise: a wildcard ninth chef, Richard Bainbridge, whose main dish would also be judged alongside the others. And he made it through, leaving Richard the wild card’s red egg guinea fowl, Michael’s goat tagine and Aiden’s longhorn beef in contention for the fish course.
Ultimately, it was the ‘kid’ that got the judge’s goat, with a very proud Michael thrilled to have taken this top honour: “I love that dish and what it represents for Comic Relief”.
Thursday’s dessert came down to Daniel’s pineapple spectacular, Richard’s strawberries and cream and Michael’s donuts.
Here was the final twist to Great British Menu: the judges, including guest judge Charlie Higson, chose both Richard AND Daniel to share the last course, leaving the ultimate judgement up to the banquet guests.
Both the chefs and the judges gave Richard ‘9’s and ‘10’s for his dish, and Daniel's pina colada had Oliver feeling like he was in “a tropical paradise”.
It was a dramatic, emotional finish to eight weeks of intense competition, high gastronomy and a lot of laughs. In the end, the Great British Menu for the Comic Relief banquet read as follows:
Tom Aikens’ ‘Chicken egg, egg chicken’
Aiden Byrne’s ‘Prawn cocktail’
Michael Smith’s ‘I love kids but I couldn’t eat a whole one’
Daniel Clifford’s ‘Going out with a bang’ and Richard Davies’ ‘Strawberries and cream’
Job well done to Tom, Aiden, Michael, Daniel and Richard, and to all of the chefs who participated in Great British Menu, all of whom put their hearts and souls into creating dishes of both gastronomic and comic excellence.