My first thought watching the opening credits was, have they dickered about with the theme tune, making it sound like some Star Wars ripoff? My second was, ‘Ooh goody, here’s Gordon Ramsay,’ anticipating some mega-shouting upcoming, the sort that would make Marcus Wareing (before he shape shifted into a ‘Nice Guy’) wobble in jealousy more than the damn panacottas he yarps on about endlessly.
In this iteration, the first heat starts with nine hopefuls who’ll be whittled down to two by the end of the week. This is an improvement, as there was nothing so irksome as watching someone being needlessly offed from a round of supremos, while a duffers round had someone inferior go through simply because of the strictures of the format. With each new face, we’re treated to a little snapshot from their younger days. That’s nice and all, but this isn’t Bake Off. We’re here to see cooking, not how little Eddie emerged from the womb clutching a pestle and mortar, goddamit.
‘We’re doing something different,’ announced Torode (Toady) and Wallace (Shrek) proudly. I sighed inwardly, thinking what are ‘we’ attempting today? Welding? No, they make their signature dish (another Bake Off rip-off term) in the kitchen, then take it through to the judges in a brand new tasting room so wood-saturated it resembles a Swedish sauna, albeit with a few extra whisks.
‘We won’t be watching them prepare the dish,’ marvels Shrek. Excellent. I’m glad he understands how walls work. Good for the contestants, as the gurnometer of Shrek is off-putting indeed. Bad for us, as they stand there pontificating about what the dish might be. ‘The top three go through, the remaining six cook off for the last four places,’ announces Shrek, holding up his fingers so he understands what ‘four’ is.
Instead of Toad ‘n’ Shrek prowling about pointlessly, you have the next batch of three contestants in a circle on bar stools, watching the first three cook. They look a bit uncomfortable, as if they’re at a kid’s party where they haven’t had the rules explained. They call out things to their rivals as they’re cooking, such as, ‘I hope you trip up as you make your way through the inexplicably unopened door!’ Joking! (contd…)