All but one of the ingredients that went into Celebrity Best Home Cook (BBC One) were reassuringly familiar. The recipe was Great British Bake Off meets MasterChef, with former Bake Off supreme being Mary Berry presiding over a kitchen of celebs striving to impress.
The assembled c-listers presented a who’s who of familiar faces. There was Ed Balls (a veteran of Strictly Come Dancing), Rachel Johnson (Celebrity Big Brother), Shobna Gulati (Celebrity MasterChef) and so on. And presenter Claudia Winkleman is, of course, the face, and trendy haircut, of Strictly. If ever there was such a thing as boil-in-a-bag reality TV this was it.
But there was a curious aftertaste mixed in and that was, of course, the flavour of a global pandemic. Filmed during lockdown, the celebrities were unleashed in a vast open kitchen, to facilitate social distancing. Berry, meanwhile, took in the action from a balcony high above, surveying the action through binoculars.
She looked like the Pope suggested Ed Byrne (The Great Comic Relief Bake Off). Berry was certainly the closest thing on screen to infallibility. And her presence contributed hugely to the wholesomeness that rippled through what was otherwise very much a meat and veg addition to the genre of celebrities-doing-things-under-pressure.
Berry was joined by Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett and fruit and veg expert Chris Bavin. Despite his credentials, Bavin was more stick than carrot when it came to assessing the cooking. Not that he was alone: this was a judging panel that erred towards the Simon Cowell policy of telling it like it is.
“Too safe,” Rachel Johnson was informed when presenting a perfectly acceptable platter of macaroni and cheese. Shobna Gulati was admonished for an excess of meatballs in her egg and meatballs dish.
The Great British Bake Off made Berry a national treasure (before the producers hotfooted it to Channel 4). Celebrity Best Home Cook was a show created in her image. As with Bake Off the emphasis was on sensible cooking rather than MasterChef-style haute cuisine.