Jamie Oliver’s next food TV show will offer budding cookbook authors a deal with a prestigious publisher as its prize. The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver will air for the first time on 31 January at 8 p.m. on Channel 4, with judges familiar to much of the London food world. Jimi Famurewa, Evening Standard restaurant critic and frequent Masterchef judge, will be joined by Georgina Hayden, acclaimed cookbook author of Taverna, alongside Penguin Michael Joseph managing director Louise Moore.
The show will be a blend of cooking challenges devised to test and judge recipes, and publishing challenges devised in part to push the contestants and, according to Moore, to “demystify” an industry frequently criticised for its narrowness of scope and reliance on existing networks. PMJ is Oliver’s longstanding publisher, with Oliver having worked with Moore on numerous books; Hayden is also a former member of Oliver’s food team.
Moore told the Bookseller:
Cookery is no different, or more or less diverse, than any other publishing genre as far as I understand it. I think it is a more familiar and comfortable creative process to the great British public than other genres though, and also one of the few that lends itself to TV.
In the now traditional excited flurry of Instagram announcements, Oliver said he was taking a backseat on the cooking in order “to act as a mentor to a bunch of the great British public, who’ll be competing for the most incredible prize, a publishing deal with my wonderful and longstanding publishers @penguinukbooks — guys this has never been done before !!!”
Hayden said “I’ve got so much to say about what was an amazing experience this was,” while Famurewa echoed her sentiments: “I’m in total awe of the lovely people I made it with — plus the cooks all competing for a publishing deal — and I really think we’ve all created something special.”
With the highest profile U.K. cookbook news of last year being the plagiarism allegations surrounding Elizabeth Haigh’s Makan, there is no doubt hope that the show can claw something back. It’s also an interesting new entry into not just the British food TV universe, but the range of programmes that take skilled crafts and turn them into entertainment. At first glance, it appears to speak to how a cookbook deal can translate into multi-channel fame, whether on TV, YouTube, or elsewhere, more naturally than other genres.
How much the show will truly have to say about cookbook publishing? Only time will tell.