Former Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry is back doing what she does best this week as a judge on BBC1's new cookery contest Britain's Best Home Cook, hosted by Strictly's Claudia Winkleman. Here, Mary and Claudia spill the beans on the new show - and on whether Mary will ever do Strictly...

Claudia Winkleman and Mary Berry on loving working together on a brand new cookery contest…

If you’ve missed Mary Berry as a judge on our TV screens, you’re not alone. But this week she’s back where she belongs for BBC1’s new cookery contest Britain’s Best Home Cook, hosted by Strictly‘s Claudia Winkleman.

Each week, Mary and her co-judges, Chris Bavin and Dan Doherty, will be tasting the delights of 10 ordinary cooks as they face two pressure-cooker rounds – a key ingredient test and a challenge to put their stamp on a home-cooked classic, such as burgers or pasta.

Those who don’t meet the judges’ exacting standards in those tasks must then face a dreaded elimination cook-off before one of them is sent home. The real twist, however, is that the contestants will be living together under one roof!

Here Mary, 83, and Claudia, 46, sit down with TV Times for a chat about the treats in store…

It looks like you two are having fun working together…

Claudia: “Absolutely! I didn’t even know what the show was about at first but they had me at Mary! We could have been doing a show about cushions or eyebrows, I just said yes. Some of our contestants are also obsessed with Mary – one couldn’t look at her and when Mary tried her food and said she liked it, she just melted!”

mary main britains best home cook

Britain’s Best Home Cooks marks Mary’s first TV judging role since The Great British Bake Off

What do you love most about the new show?

Mary: “I’ve always wanted to do a programme on proper home cooking. These cooks don’t want to open restaurants and, as judges, we don’t want to see any jus or zig-zags of sauce on the plates or stacks of anything – this is about cooking that you do for family and friends. Nothing is pretentious. Also, unlike Bake Off, they have to do their own washing up!”

The contestants all live together, so is it a bit like The Apprentice?

Claudia: “It’s definitely different that they all live together but I don’t know how much like The Apprentice it is! The camaraderie is quite something. I’m inherently evil, so I wanted them to be competitive but they’re not.”
Mary: “I think it’s a wonderfully creative format and the idea of them living together is brilliant. The Apprentice is all about drama and tension and great highs and lows, but this is more caring. If they’ve had a downfall we’ll find something nice to say about their food to bring them back. We don’t want tears and dramas. We want to see people doing proper home-cooked food.”

best british home cook dan chris

Mary judges the cooks alongside chef Dan Doherty and former market trader Chris Bavin

Does the fact the contestants are so close make the eliminations more difficult?

Claudia: “Yes, even in week one we didn’t expect the reaction – they were on the floor! We were like, ‘Guys, come on!’ They really look out for each other.”
Mary: “The bond that they had was lovely. I would have hated to be the only judge on the show because the responsibility is enormous! It’s right to have a trio of judges so we can be sure that we make the right decision.”

What makes a good home cook?

Mary: “Background knowledge, a passion for cooking and they’ve got to be innovative and creative. Also somebody who thinks beyond the box and is in control of time because it’s no good them being brilliant cooks and not finishing – we can only judge what’s on the plate.”
Claudia: “I’m a terrible cook so I’ve got no idea! I manage to serve food that’s both raw and burnt. I break science when I cook. I made Mary something that was supposed to be a brownie but could have been a brick.”
Mary: “Around the outside there was a sort of frill of black and you know how you should have a lovely soft middle? Well, this was hard!”

Were you impressed by the contestants’ cooking, though?

Mary: “I was. In the first week they make a burger. I’ve done all sorts of burger, but wow, I was amazed by what they produced! The other thing is that sometimes the ingredients they want aren’t in the cupboard and they’ve got to think around that, which is just what you’d do at home.”
Claudia: “And they use quite humble ingredients because at home none of us have 900 spices, so often they just throw things together and the food is absolutely amazing.”

Claudia, have you been trying to persuade Mary to do Strictly this year?

Claudia: “Yes, they’re all doing it! I probably shouldn’t say it but you’ll see them all in September. Mary starts with a rumba!”

Britain’s Best Home Cook starts on Thursday May 3 at 8pm on BBC1.