At first, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this show. Although I love the wholesome, charming nature of the amateur contestants in The Great British Bake Off, I was worried that the “family” element of this new cooking show might get a little too sentimental for me — if the main ingredient in every dish turned out to be love, for example.
However, I was very pleasantly surprised to find that although it had its moments, The Big Family Cooking Showdown manages to bring the good-natured, non-hostile competition of Bake Off alongside what turns out to be an entertaining insight into a wide variety of British families and their home cooking.
Presented by Nadiya Hussain, a previous winner of Bake Off, and TV & radio personality Zoë Ball, the competition is simple. Two teams of three go head to head in each episode of the “heats” completing three challenges. The first dish is the “10-Pound Challenge” where contestants create a meal on a budget in the “Cook-Off” kitchens, a beautifully renovated barn somewhere in the Kentish countryside.
The second challenge sees the families cooking a main and dessert in their own home for the judges, presenting their very best “Family Favourite” meal. Finally, back in the barn, the contestants produce a meal that would”Impress the Neighbours.” Each dish is judged by Michelin Star chef Giorgio Locatelli, and cooking personality/teacher Rosemary Shrager. One family per episode is chosen to remain in the competition and move on to the semi-finals.
Though the down-play of aggressive competition and the constantly changing contestants make The Cooking Showdown quite a slow show to really get into, by the closing of the season I was thoroughly hooked. The best thing about this show is how much it inspires you to cook, as I’m sure it has for many people. When you not only see amateur cooks but 17-year-olds alongside their parents, siblings and grandparents, cooking up a storm, you start to get excited about what they can produce and how you at home could do it too.
The other nice thing about the show is that it simply asks the contestants to bring what they know along with them. The themes for each dish are deliberately loose: “Brunch,” “Picnic,” “Sharing Platter,” for example, allowing the families to play to their own strengths and make the food that they know well.
Whether you’ve got it on in the background or you sit down and watch it with your own family, The Big Family Cooking Showdown is wonderful, light-hearted entertainment for anyone interested in food or looking for some easy watching.
The Big Family Cooking Showdown
BBC (UK), Netflix (NZ)
2 November 2017
11 hrs 48 mins