Zoe Ball on BBC2's Cooking Showdown: 'I'm not the greatest cook!'

Cooking Showdown nadiya and zoe
(Image credit: BBC / Voltage TV Productions)

As The Big Family Cooking Showdown kicks of on BBC2, hosts Zoe Ball and Nadiya Hussain reveal what family feasts we can expect – just don't expect Zoe to be rolling her sleeves up…

Zoe Ball and Nadiya Hussain tell us about the families on The Big Family Cooking Showdown who'll be making ordinary home-cooking extraordinary…

Most of us love to dine out at fancy restaurants from time to time, sampling delicious cuisine cooked by experienced chefs. But, really, nothing beats Mum's homemade Shepherd's Pie or Grandma's Sticky Toffee Pudding.

TV Times has come along to a converted barn in Shoreham village, Kent, where the ovens are at the ready for BBC2's The Big Family Cooking Showdown. Presented by Strictly's It Takes Two host Zoe Ball and 2015 Bake Off champ Nadiya Hussain, the new 12-part series sees 16 very different families battle it out to be crowned the nation’s best family of cooks.

Each week, two families of three will compete in a series of challenges in the studio kitchen to impress judges, renowned chefs Rosemary Shrager and Giorgio Locatelli. And in a twist on other food shows, the families will also welcome Nadiya, Zoe, Giorgio and Rosemary into their own homes, where they'll whip up dishes using their favourite family recipes.

Here, Zoe and Nadiya tell us more...

Cooking Showdown may be compared to The Great British Bake Off, which has moved from BBC1 to Channel 4. Does that concern you? Zoe: "People have been asking: 'Is this the new Bake Off?’ But, truly speaking, Bake Off is the new Bake Off now! Obviously, people will make the comparison because Nadiya won Bake Off. I love it when our contestants see Nadiya for the first time in our studio because we all share that moment when we all wept when she won." Nadiya: "It's tough for me watching the contestants getting judged. Doing this show has, many times, transported me back to my time on Bake Off, and I see that our contestants are engulfed in the madness of this show, just like I was. When I see the expressions on their faces, I often need a moment to step away because it’s just too emotional."

The Big Family Cooking Showdown

Nadiya and Zoe with show judges Rosemary Shrager and Giorgio Locatelli

What makes The Big Family Cooking Showdown different from other cookery shows on TV? Nadiya: "Well, to start with there's not one contestant, there's three, all from one family, so it's a real team effort. We have a great mix of families from all different cultures, cooking all different cuisines." Zoe: "This show is intergenerational so, for instance, we had three brothers in one family and, in another, we had an amazing grandma who's 80, who cooks with her daughter and her grandson. What also makes this show different is that we get to go all over Britain, into people's home, which is a real privilege."

Do you see a different side to these families when they’re cooking in their own homes? Nadiya: "You get that competitive nature in the studio and then, when you're in their homes, you see how they REALLY cook. People are so much more comfortable in their own homes." Zoe: "Yeah, we've found they're much more relaxed because they've got their own pots and pans around them, their own ovens and they know how the hob works. But this is also where viewers get to see the relationships within the family: who gets on with who, who's the boss, who thinks they're the boss and who does everyone turn to when things start to go horribly wrong." Nadiya: "Doing this show has definitely made me realise just how important food is in keeping families together."

Cooking Showdown Charles family

Competing this week are the Charles family L-R: Betty (29), husband Dan (32) and Betty's mum Jean (59)


Have you both always cooked with your kids? Nadiya: "Yes. From the moment they could sit in a high chair comfortably, they've been chopping vegetables and all sorts. So, with my nine and 10-year-old, I can leave a list of ingredients on a Post-It note for, say, Bolognese or Pesto sauce and they can just get on with it. Growing up, my dad would say: 'You've got to cook', so now I'm the same with my kids. I tell them: This isn't a restaurant and I'm not the chef. It's our home, so we've all got to cook!'" Zoe: "I've never been the greatest cook – Jamie Oliver has pretty much saved my life! I've always lived with brilliant cooks, who've always been happy to feed me, so I've never really learnt. But I've been learning lots on this show – although there have been some hilarious moments where I've said things like: 'Oh, I love fennel' and Nadiya's had to tell me: 'That's not fennel, Zoe!'"

Cooking Showdown Marks family

The Charles's will be competing against the Marks family: Grandma Torun (86), her daughter Jessica (55) and grandson Oskar (29)


What can we expect from judges Rosemary Shrager and Giorgio Locatelli? Are they like good cop, bad cop? Zoe: "No, while there is a serious element as it's a competition, Rosemary and Giorgio are an absolute hoot and they really want to help the contestants learn. The lovely thing is that, no matter what happens in the kitchen, Rosemary and Giorgio will always find something positive to say. At the end of the day, someone's made you food and that's actually quite a loving act."

Cooking Showdown Rosemary Giorgio

Rosemary and Giorgio will be giving their verdict on all the dishes the families serve up


So, with all these families coming from different backgrounds, what sort of cuisine can viewers expect? Nadiya: "We've had healthy food, indulgent food and dishes prepared on a budget, things we all think about as families when we're cooking. And I think we may have travelled the entire world in one show – all the different colours, flavours and smells, it's been heaven. We're also seeing a new definition of British food cooked by families who now live in Britain but with influences from the countries they’ve come from." Zoe: "We had one family where the father's Italian, the mother's Irish but they cooked Vietnamese food! And while we've had family favourites like Shepherd's Pies and the like, we've also had dishes you'd never think of cooking at home – food that's really got the 'wow' factor!"

With such lovely food around, have you had to worry about your waistlines? Zoe: "Oh, I've definitely put weight on doing this show – it's a nightmare! I'm not keen on tripe but, apart from that, I’ll eat anything." Nadiya: "I decided when we started filming that I wasn't going to bother with the scales. We're really not allowed to eat the food but we manage to try things sneakily. I just love potatoes cooked any way. As soon as I see them, I’m in!"

The Big Family Cooking Showdown starts on Tuesday, August 15 at 8pm on BBC2.

Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and WhatToWatch.com

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!