Celebrity Best Home Cook: a warmingly wholesome answer to MasterChef

Mary Berry watches contestants from a balcony, and everyone’s incredibly nice – but one guest leaves an unsavoury aftertaste

Kitchen role … contestants Shobna Gulati, Desiree Burch, Gareth Thomas, Rachel Johnson, Ed Byrne, Tom Read Wilson, Karim Zeroual, Ed Balls, Ferne McCann and Ruth Madeley.

Kitchen role … contestants Shobna Gulati, Desiree Burch, Gareth Thomas, Rachel Johnson, Ed Byrne, Tom Read Wilson, Karim Zeroual, Ed Balls, Ferne McCann and Ruth Madeley.
Photograph: Nicky Johnston/BBC/KEO Films

I know what you’re thinking: how is Celebrity Best Home Cook (Tuesday, 9pm, BBC One) any different from Celebrity MasterChef? Er, well, there are three judges instead of two. The kitchen they prepare their dishes in is kitted out in fancy bricks-and-wood decor, instead of MasterChef’s anodyne white-on-white. They don’t have to go to a restaurant and baste duck breasts during a busy lunch service. They are incredibly different shows, where celebs cook spaced out in a big kitchen to a deadline, then the judges eat the food while a narrator describes it. One thing you can say, about Celebrity Best Home Cook and Celebrity MasterChef, is: they are definitely different shows.

Sort of. If you missed Best Home Cook last series, it was a show where very decent cooks, but not excessively so, create homely meals in the competitive cooking show structure we all know and love, while Mary Berry soothingly says what she likes about them. This bit is different: less the knife-to-the-throat “did you poach that turbot, you idiot!” energy of MasterChef, and more your nan pretending the cake you cooked is nice. The second series features celebrities, because it’s easier to book celebrities and have them bubble together in a pandemic. Angela Hartnett and Chris Bavin mill among the contestants with Mary Berry, at peering position from the balcony above, watching them at a safe social distance through opera glasses. I wish I was joking about the last bit. I wish that was one of my “jokes”.

Here’s what I wasn’t expecting: I like it. It is so warmingly wholesome you can’t help but be pulled into its cosy thrall. Here’s Gareth Thomas, serving Glamorgan sausages in honour of his husband. There’s host Claudia Winkleman flirting heartily with Shobna Gulati. Cooking competitions always forge a strange, pure beam of friendship between the contestants but here, among the delicate should-we-be-doing-this mood of a show filmed mid-pandemic, it is so overt: when chefs get positive comments from the judges, which they almost always do, the rest of the class whoop and clap for them. In a world so full of darkness, it’s just so … nice!

But Rachel Johnson is also there, which, depending on your disposition, might be a problem. Personally, I think it’s bizarre that not one but two members of the prime minister’s family are so firmly set on participating in reality television. First Stanley soured an entire series of I’m a Celeb … before taking that dark, ruinous demeanour to Celebrity Gogglebox. Now Rachel is here, cooking a big mac and cheese and pretending this is normal.

Listen, I’m just a regular guy: I like to watch low-jeopardy celebrity cooking shows to see actual celebrities, not to be reminded of the nepotism that seethes through British culture. Maybe you don’t mind seeing the prime minister’s sister artlessly making frittata. I do: I think it ruins the wholesome Mary Berry binoculars cooking show entirely, and I won’t be participating in any further episodes until she’s voted out. Someone has to make a stand, and it might as well be me. The revolution starts here. On Celebrity Best Home Cook.

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