Abi on the Great British Menu

Lights, camera, cook… Abigail’s star turn on BBC2’s Great British Menu

Client services manager Abigail Reeve has a starring role in the new series of BBC2’s Great British Menu – but you won’t see her.

Abigail, a university graduate in Food Development and Innovation, took a sabbatical from her job at Liquid to fulfil an ambition of working as a home economist on the prime-time cookery show.

“I was contacted by a fellow graduate from University College Birmingham who had carried out the role the previous year,” says Abigail. “With the format changing for the show’s 15th series, they needed a fourth home economist to support a fourth chef in the competition.

“In line with the BBC’s commitment to offering regional opportunities, they wanted someone that was also from the West Midlands. I was delighted to get picked.”

The new series features dishes inspired by classic children’s stories with the chefs hoping to impress judges Andi Oliver, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton. The chefs I looked after include Niall Keating of the two Michelin star Dining Room at Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa and Ruth Hansom formerly of Pomona’s, Notting Hill.

Produced and filmed in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire over nine weeks, Abigail said no two days were the same as the crew adhered to a tight schedule. So, what is the reality of supporting top chefs on one of the UK’s leading food shows?

Abigail says: “Much like the cheffing world and the intensity of a fully operative, busy kitchen, it isn’t glamorous at all. There are early call-times to be in the prep kitchen for 5:45am to receive fresh food deliveries of vegetables, fish and meat.”

Each week, the filming would include interviews, footage of chefs exploring and discussing ingredients and, of course, the creation of some amazing dishes.

There was no time to stop and prepare their own food, which meant Abigail, her fellow home economists and the camera crew were fed throughout the day by their own catering team.

“A continuous supply of snacks, fruit, water and hot drinks is provided,” says Abigail. “Unfortunately, we rarely get to try and taste the food prepared by the chefs. The standard is so high, and it must be an extremely hard job as a judge on the show.

“As someone who has a great interest in food, it was incredible to learn from some of the best chef talent in the UK. To be privy to the inception and workings of very creative dishes, exposed to fresh produce, handling ingredients that I had never seen before and only read on menus, opened my eyes to the fantastic supply chain we have in the UK. This insight has developed my skills and broadened my knowledge in ways that we could enhance client experiences at Liquid.

“It was also fascinating to get an insight into the inner workings of a top TV show and see the amount of time it takes to film the different sections that make up a programme. It was a breathless, exhausting, exhilarating experience – and of course I will be watching out to see my name feature on the credits at the end of each episode.”

Catch the first episode of the Great British Menu series 15 at 8pm tonight (Wednesday 18 March) on BBC TWO.