BBC announces new cooking show

GBBO books 

Fans of The Great British Bake Off who were disappointed that the show was leaving the BBC now have something to look forward to watching. The network has just announced that it will be producing a new reality cooking show begininng in 2017.

Called 'The Big Family Cooking Challenge', the program will follow multi-generational family teams of amateur cooks, who will participate via their home kitchens, each facing a weekly culinary challenge. One by one the teams will be eliminated until one family stands as the winner. Twelve episodes have been ordered for the show, which has not yet cast any judges or started filming.

It's not clear whether this is the program hinted at last month that would star Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc, and Sue Perkins. Last week, the BBC announced it had struck a development deal with GBBO winner Nadiya Hussain, so GBBO fans also have that to console them.  

Observer Food Monthly announces 2016 awards

OFM awards 2016 

The 2016 Observer Food Monthly awards were announced at a gala celebration last Thursday. The awards, in their 13th year, celebrate the best of British food and drink. Categories range from best restaurant and best cheap eats to best food personality to best market and more, including our favorite, best new cookbook. While most of the categories are for professionals and businesses, there is an award for best reader's recipe. Judges are drawn from across the food industry. EYB Member favorites like Nigella Lawson, Nathan Outlaw, Nigel Slater and Lorraine Pascale are all on the judging panel. 

The 2016 Best New Cookbook Award went to Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo. The book can be viewed as "a love story: of Pyo and Bourke as a couple; and of Bourke towards a cuisine little known in the UK," notes interviewer Tim Lewis. The pair met in 2008, when Bourke was transforming from a career in media to being a chef. Bourke first trained at Ballymaloe cookery school in Ireland, and now mixes writing with consulting and pop-up supper clubs. He has written two other cookbooks prior to Our Korean Kitchen,  The Guilt-Free Gourmet and The Natural Food Kitchen.

Jamie Oliver took home the award for Best Food Personality and Pierre Koffman nabbed the Lifetime Achievement Award. Edinburgh food blogger Kerry Teacle won the reader's recipe award with her whisky, orange and almond cake. The recipe will be published in indexed magazine Observer Food Monthly so keep an eye out for it in next month's issue. 

ATK's post-Kimball plans are all wet

America's Test Kitchen cookbooks 

When news broke that Chris Kimball was leaving America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated, which he founded more than 20 years ago, people wondered how the brand would change and what the bow-tied star would do. While Kimball has moved on to a new venture ( Milk Street Kitchen), it looks like ATK has opted to sail the high seas.

That's right - America's Test Kitchen is partnering with cruise line Holland America, installing replicas of its iconic television sets on board several cruise ships. Starting next month, ATK will host on-board cooking demonstrations and workshops. But that isn't the only change they're making; the company announced that it is also moving ATK headquarters out of the suburbs to Boston's Seaport District. According to a press release, the new location has nearly double the square footage of ATK's current headquarters and will contain three television studios, multiple photo and editing studios, plus state-of-the-art test kitchens.

This move follows an announcement earlier this week of a new website called Cook's Science. The aim of Cook's Science is "to tell stories about food science by stepping out of the kitchen and reporting from the field." ATK sees this as a logical extension of the company's methodology, which has always been rooted in a scientific approach to cooking. 

BBC may launch a rival show to GBBO

James Martin cookbookFans who were disappointed that Mary Berry wasn't going to stay with The Great British Bake Off as it moves to a new channel will be happy to hear that the BBC is planning a new cookery competition starring Berry along with former GBBO co-hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins. Sources state that the BBC have told Berry "that she will be placed at the heart of the corporation's cookery line-up and will be styled as the broadcaster's number one television chef until she chooses to retire." There is also a rumor that former Saturday Kitchen host James Martin is being considered as a replacement for Paul Hollywood on the new cooking program.

The BBC will have to tread carefully as they develop a format for any new competition. Love Productions, which owns the rights to GBBO, accused them of "ripping off" the format to create a show about amateur hairdressers, and the BBC had to pay damages. 

More details about the new GBBO have trickled out after we learned that Paul Hollywood was staying with the show. It's apparently going to be extended to 90 minutes in length, although Love Productions chief Richard McKerrow assured fans that the show would keep its original format. "Bake Off will be produced by the same team, in the same tent, with the same recipe," he said.

Berry leaves GBBO; Hollywood remains

Mary Berry's Foolproof CookingIn an update to the drama surrounding The Great British Bake Off's move from BBC to Channel 4, host Mary Berry has announced that she will not be involved with the new show. However, Paul Hollywood has signed a three-year deal with the network, making him the only original host making the move.

Berry said that loyalty to the BBC, which had "nurtured her and the show", influenced her decision. Hollywood tweeted that he was "staying in the tent with the bakers where I belong" although he did thank the BBC and his co-hosts "for making my time in the tent great fun and really rewarding."

Opinion is divided on whether the GBBO will be successful without popular hosts Berry, Mel Giedroyc, and Sue Perkins. Michael Grade, former BBC and ITV chairman, is one of the skeptics. "It's a huge gamble in my view," he said, noting that the chemistry between the hosts played a large role in the success of the show.  Others, like former contestant Tamal Ray, think the switch can be good. "About time there was a bit of a shake-up," says the ex-finalist.

T. Susan Chang's new podcast

T. Susan Chang

T. Susan Chang, who you likely remember wrote weekly EYB blog posts about cookbooks and whose work regularly appears in the Boston Globe, on NPR and other major news outlets, has an exciting new project: her very own podcast. Called The Level Teaspoonit's all about our favorite subject - cookbooks.

Each week Susie will look at several of the latest cookbook releases, discuss what's happening in the world of recipes, and test a couple of recipes from the selected books with a friend who likes to cook. Three episodes have been released so far, and you can find the podcast on iTunes,  Stitcher and Google Play.

The latest episode reviews The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen  by Yasmin Khan, Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China  by Fuchsia Dunlop, and Simple: Effortless Food, Big Flavors by Diana Henry (US version, UK version here.) In addition, Susie and her guest, Christina Barber-Just, make a few recipes and discuss other notable releases. 

Books reviewed in previous episodes include Samarkand: Recipes & Stories from Central Asia & The Caucasus by Caroline Eden and Eleanor FordITSU 20 minute suppers: Eat beautiful with noodles, grains, rice and soups by Julian Metcalf and Blanche Vaughan, and All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by  Carolyn Phillips.  The podcast has been received rave reviews; we're sure you will enjoy it too.

Trouble ahead for the GBBO?


Two recent announcements have shaken the foundations of Britain's most popular television program. The first announcement was that the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) was moving from the public-service BBC to commercial station Channel 4. If that wasn't enough drama, two of the show's hosts - Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc - said they were not going to follow the program to its new channel

The production company behind the show, Love Productions, opted to go for a big payout with the move to Channel 4, garnering an estimated 25 million GBP for the franchise. A BBC spokesperson had told The Telegraph that it had lost GBBO after a "catastrophic breakdown" in its relationship with Love Productions. The move stunned the nation as tabloid headlines made the announcement with headlines such as "Bake Off gets poached". 

Uncertainty swirls around the show's other popular hosts, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, who have often commented on how the GBBO's success depends in part on the team effort of the hosts. Mary Berry's husband hinted that Berry may not make the move to Channel 4. Both Berry and Hollywood are involved with other programs with the BBC and reportedly wanted GBBO to remain there. 

All of this upheaval is raising concerns that the show will go the way of another popular BBC program, Top Gear. Following some controversial comments by one of its hosts and additional drama, all three Top Gear stars quit the program and the new season, which relied on replacement hosts, was a distaster. If Berry and Hollywood also choose to leave GBBO, the show's future is in serious doubt. We may have to wait until 2018 to find out, as Channel 4 may not be able to air a full series in 2017 due to a clause in the current contract between Love Productions and the BBC.

The sugar industry's role in heart disease research


When a prominent medical publication like The New England Journal of Medicine publishes a story that links a substance to a detrimental health condition, people take notice. Dietary and lifestyle changes are often based on this kind of research, which has the backing of the medical community and is relied upon for its thoroughness and transparency of the funding sources for the research. In the 1960s, however, the reporting was more opaque, and the source of the scientists' funding was not known. This led to shady dealings, reports The New York Times, which recently uncovered documents that show that the sugar industry successfully skewed the research into heart disease, laying the blame solely on the role of saturated fats. 

Newly acquired documents reveal that the forerunner to today's Sugar Association paid the equivalent of $50,000 USD to several Harvard researchers to review several studies about diet and heart disease. The industry group cherry-picked the studies and made it clear to the researchers the outcome they desired. The final article comported with the group's wishes, minimizing any role of sugar in heart disease and instead pointing the finger at saturated fats. 

This isn't the first time that the sugar industry has influenced research. Last year, The NYT also reported on soft-drink giant Coca-Cola's substantial investment in research downplaying the role between sugar and obesity. Watchdog groups proclaim these examples are but a few of the reasons that health research should be conducted by public institutions instead of private entities. At least now most journals require all articles to indicate who funded the studies or reviews, although some industry groups may hide behind innocuous sounding names. 

Photo of How to make cinnamon sugar from indexed blog Leite's Culinaria

Did someone find KFC's secret fried chicken recipe?

buttermilk fried chicken 

Over the years, many people have claimed to possess the "secret recipe" for Kentucky Fried Chicken's "blend of 11 herbs and spices" developed by Colonel Harland Sanders. None of the claims have turned out to be true, but the latest comes from a relative of the late Sanders. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune says he stumbled upon the recipe at the home of a nephew (by marriage) of the colonel.

The nephew, Joe Ledington, has a scrapbook once owned by Sanders' late wife, Claudia Sanders. The recipe was found tucked away in the scrapbook, inside an envelope that also contained Claudia Sanders' will. Yum! Brands, whos owns the KFC name, says that the recipe isn't the one used in the restaurants. Others doubt the veracity of Ledington's claim too.

But the 67-year-old Ledington, who used to work in Colonel Sanders' original restaurant, thinks it is the real deal. He recalls mixing up the ingredients for the chicken's coating and that this recipe seems to comport with his memories. A Tribune staffer used the recipe (published in the article), adding a bit of Accent (msg), and claims that the result "was indistinguishable from what it purchased at a KFC restaurant." If you like KFC's chicken, you might want to give it a try at home. 

Photo of Rosemary-brined buttermilk fried chicken [Michael Ruhlman] from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore

Italy hands out stiff penalties for olive oil misbranding

 infused oils

Earlier this year we reported on the scandal of counterfeit extra-virgin olive oil being passed off as the real thing to customers in Italy and beyond. Now the Italian antitrust authority has started handing down stiff fines to olive oil producers caught mislabeling their oils. Discount supermarket Lidl and Spanish company Deoleo (makers of Bertolli, Sassa and Carapelli oils) have been fined €550,000 and €300,000, respectively, for branding malpractice. The Deoleo products were found to contain lower-grade 'virgin olive oil' instead of 'extra-virgin' as labeled.

The penalties for false labeling in Italy were recently increased substantially, as part of an effort to protect the quality of Italian olive oils. The fines were sextupled from the previous €2,500, and now manufacturers can be assessed up to €16,000 for each occurrence of mislabeling. Another law comes on the books tomorrow, which increases the fines for 'country sounding', which is the practice of misleading consumers by using symbols or images associated with a country other than that where the olive oil was actually sourced.  

A cynical person might assume that as some countries tighten up laws about misbranding, producers will move the product to countries without such protections. The laws in the US and some other countries don't carry the same level of fines for mislabeled products, so it can be easier for companies to pass off inferior oils to consumers without penalty. To complicate the matter, it can be difficult for users to detect substitute oils, making it easier to pass off lower quality oils as 'extra-virgin'. Finding a reputable brand is key to ensuring that you are receiving a quality product.

Photo of Flavorfully infused oils from The Minimalist at The New York Times by Mark Bittman

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