‘The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver’: release date, interview, episode guide, and all about his new series

'The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver' has a book deal as its prize for the winning chef.
'The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver' has a book deal as its prize for the winning chef. (Image credit: Channel 4)

The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver is a new challenge show on Channel 4 for relatively unknown chefs who are seeking the kind of fame and fortune that Jamie's achieved. Since his first cookbook The Naked Chef hit our stores in 1999, Jamie Oliver has pretty much cornered the market when it comes to recipe books. In fact he’s Britain’s second-best-selling author, just missing out on the crown to a certain J.K. Rowling, so it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing.

Now, for The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver, the TV chef is embarking on a nationwide search to find the next bestselling cookbook author by helping an unknown cook secure themselves a publishing deal. For the series 18 cooks will go to Jamie’s HQ in London and battle to win this life-changing prize.

“I never thought I’d be involved with a competition show but for this one the prize is a book deal so it felt different. It’s very real, very tangible and if you’ve got the hook and the authenticity and the angle then the competition is open to anyone,” says Jamie. “I actually think it’s one of the most uplifting and pleasant experiences I’ve had in TV in 25 years.” 

So here's everything you need to know about The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver on Channel 4...

‘The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver’  release date

The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver is a seven-part series that launches on Channel 4 on Monday January 31 at 8pm. Each of the seven episodes will then land on streaming service All4 once aired. 

Is there a trailer for ‘The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver’? 

No, not at the moment, but if and when one becomes available we post it on here. 

‘The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver’ — how it works

Hundreds of chefs applied to take part in The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver and the 18 successful applicants have been invited to Jamie’s London HQ, where he will mentor them through a series of challenges. Each one must have an idea for a cookbook and those being pitched include a recipe book dedicated to lasagna, quick and easy vegan dishes, meals that can be mopped up with bread and a love letter to Austrian food. 

The first three episodes of The Great Cookbook Challenge With Jamie Oliver see three rounds of six cooks work in the kitchen with Jamie before pitching their book idea to the judges; Jimi Famurewa, Georgie Hayden and head judge Louise Moore. Six contestants will then be selected for the challenge stages, where they prepare dishes and take on publishing related tasks. The judges whittle down the contestants week by week and the eventual winner is awarded a life-changing publishing deal as the winner’s cookbook will be published by Penguin Michael Joseph later this year.  

On his role as mentor Jamie Oliver said, “I didn’t want to have to choose between people. Really what I had to offer was more helping each individual find their hook, their thing, their confidence and trying to help them get all of the assets and facets and of what’s required to get a page really working.”  

‘The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver’ — meet the judges Louise Moore, Jimi Famurewa and Georgina Hayden

Head judge Louise Moore is the MD of Penguin Michael Joseph, the firm who will publish the winner’s book. “It starts with the recipes,” she says. “They’re the essential part of the book. I’m looking for someone to build on that and start to put their voice in there, so they’re saying “This is who I am. This is what I’m showing you how to do, and here are the recipes to help you do what I do.” Louise will have help from Jimi Famurewa, a restaurant critic and food writer, and award-winning recipe writer and author Georgina Hayden.  

Georgina thinks the key ingredient to a great cookbook is 'Accessibility'. She goes on to say: "I don’t mean that everything has to be available in the supermarket, I just mean the person buying it needs to know straight up what they’re getting. Is it clear? Is it concise? From the title, the subtitle, the cover, it has to be packaged in a certain way. And, on a bigger scale, the recipes have to deliver. If you make one or two recipes and they don’t deliver, you’re done, it’s gone to the charity shop or been regifted. So you have to really think about who it is at home cooking the recipe."

On what makes a good cookbook, Jimi adds: "You need an individual uniqueness, someone’s story, someone’s personality shining through. Fundamentally, it’s recipes. There are so many recipe books lying around the studio, I picked one up the other day and straightaway there were three or four things I wanted to cook. It feels a bit intangible in some ways, but you know it when you see it. It’s that sweet spot between a familiarity, where you think “I know that dish” but it contains a little kernel of genius, some extra twist that you’ve never thought of before."

Jamie Oliver with his judges.

Jamie Oliver with his judges, Louise Moore, MD of Penguin Michael Joseph, food critic Jimi Famurewa and cookbook author Georgina Hayden. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Jamie Oliver interview on hosting 'The Great Cookbook Challenge'

Did you really just say you dislike TV cookery contests?!
Jamie says: "I hate them – with the exception of Ready Steady Cook, which was part of my youth!  The constructs of competition and TV bring out competitive, masculine notes which I’m not that into. I prefer to find talent in a more nourishing, nurturing way so there’s nothing dramatic – we don’t even put time limits on the competitors in our series. I don’t want to make that show. The lovely thing about The Great Cookbook Challenge is that it offers hope and possibility." 

It’s a unique prize – usually a winner gets a trophy or title!
Jamie says: "Getting a book deal is huge as publishing is brutal and it’s hard to get your pitch in front of anyone. We’re talking about spending £100,000 on producing the winning cookbook, which is a lot of money. And it could be life-changing; it was for me. My books have shaped my career, taken me around the world and given me amazing opportunities. That’s why it’s so exciting to search for the next cookbook star."

Tell us more about the show…
Jamie says: "We had hundreds and hundreds of people apply, which we whittled down to 20 and then six. It was quite emotional! First off, the chosen six pitch their idea for a cookbook and make their signature dishes for the panel of experts to taste. We give them challenges such as a weekend feast and mid-week meal to cook and help them hone their book concept. Three finalists will see their book brought to life, with Lou, Jimi and Georgina having the final say." 

What are the wannabe cookbook authors like?
Jamie says: "They’re all very different. They include a roofer, who’s skint and makes money for his family roofing, but also has this incredible passion for food. He’s dyslexic like me, so draws everything. He struggles but his food is delicious. Then there’s a YouTuber and TikToker, who’s defined by ‘Likes’ and ‘Comments’, but ‘Likes’ are not the same as a book sale!" 

Who else should we look out for?
Jamie says: "We’ve a Filipino chef whose dishes are like a kiss of sunshine, but is it the time for Filipino food? And there’s a mum who makes pasta sauces for a living, but Asian food is her passion. She’s tough on herself, a real perfectionist, but very good. There’s a book in every one of them, to be honest, thank God I’m not a judge! I do everything as mentor – guide them, make suggestions, carry their plates… I was a human tablecloth holder earlier!"

Can anyone write a cookbook?
Jamie says: "Listen, I was a failure at school. I was a special needs kid who came out with an A in Art, a C in Geology and everything else was ungraded, so I had a bad relationship with education. I ‘wrote’ my first three books on a dictaphone; now I’m the second biggest-selling author in the country [behind J.K.Rowling] – how mad is that? Being a cookbook author is about having an idea, and a passion and expertise, and the brilliant thing about publishing is that it accepts anyone, of any shape or size – even a geezer!"

But don’t you need to be famous to make cookbooks sell?
Jamie says: "No! There are many successful cookbooks where no one knows the chef’s face. You don’t need to be all jazz hands and on the telly to have a brilliant publishing career. Nigel Slater was writing for years before he got a TV show."

You’ve sold over 46 million books worldwide. What’s the hardest thing about writing a cookbook?
Jamie says: "You may feel I’m good at knocking them out, but there’s a whole year of trauma getting there! One of the hardest things is trying to work out what the public want; it’s usually a lot! When I started doing The Naked Chef [on BBC2] almost 23 years ago, the average time people spent cooking dinner was 46 minutes – now it’s 23 and that was before COVID-19 and food delivery companies, so I think we might be down to 18 minutes now! But the public want more – they’ve tasted more, travelled in a culinary sense around the world and are spoiled taste-wise, which makes an author’s job much harder! Basically, the public want food that is tasty, fast and without any washing up!"

Finally, are any of your five children showing signs of wanting to follow in your foodie footsteps?
Jamie says: "I don’t think so. My Dad never pushed cooking on me – not that my kids would do anything they’re told anyway! River [who’s five, the youngest of Jamie and his wife Jools’ brood] might surprise me. And [11-year-old] Buddy is smashing it doing Cooking Buddies [culinary tutorials on YouTube], but it’s only for fun. He just wants to be on a skateboard!"

'The Great Cookbook Challenge with Jamie Oliver' episode guide

Here's an episode guide to The Great Cookbook Challenge which we'll be updating weekly...

Ep1: Monday January 31, 8pm
A retired teacher is keen to write a culinary love letter to Austrian food and a young chef wants to introduce Filipino cuisine to the UK. Do the three expert judges  Louise Moore, Jimi Famurewa and Georgina Hayden think their ideas will translate to create a cookbook bestseller? 

Ep2: Monday February 7, 8pm
The second group of six cooks are hoping to convince judges Louise, Jimmi and Georgie of their potential cookbook idea by presenting a dish that best explains their concept. The cooks each believe they have what it takes to write a unique cookbook and seal the deal and this week’s cookbooks being pitched include one all about lasagnes, one celebrating seasonal produce and one offering easy Asian-inspired recipes. 

Ep3 Monday February 14, 8pm
The third and final group of six cooks hoping to win a life-changing publishing step forward to impress. Mentored by Jamie Oliver, this is the cooks’ one chance to demonstrate their passion for cooking and communicating it to others in the hope to seal this life changing deal. This week’s cookbooks range from promoting unsung ingredients and crusading against waste to seeking inspiration from travels and inspiration closer to home. Only two cooks will be selected to fill the final two slots and go forward to the next stages of the series. 

Ep4 Monday February 21, 8pm
In the first knock-out round of the series Jamie supports the cooks as they create two dishes to try and impress the judges and prove their cookbook idea has a clear ‘voice’. Their first challenge is to cook a weeknight meal, a staple of most cookbooks. These have to be quick and simple to make but will the judges be impressed as a chicken tikka lasagne battles it out against a Filipino stew, a chilli tofu stir-fry, a vegan take on beef noodles, a creamy coconut dahl and a chicken and black bean stir-fry?After an intense first challenge, our cooks must create their biggest dish yet, a weekend feast. The family-sized meals created by the finalists include a roast pork dinner, lemongrass lamb chops and a venison and fig pasta-free lasagne. As well as being judged by experts, the dishes will undergo further scrutiny in a twist that leaves the cooks shocked. It’s then up to judges Louise, Jimi and Georgie to decide which of the six cooks will be eliminated from the competition.

Katie whips up her best recipes for episode one.

Katie whips up her best recipes for episode one of 'The Great Cookbook Challenge'. (Image credit: Channel 4)

Our brief guide to Jamie Oliver’s career as a top TV chef

Talented chef Jamie Oliver MBE shot to fame as The Naked Chef back in 1999 and his cookbook became a bestseller. After three series of The Naked Chef programmes, Jamie made the documentary Jamie’s Kitchen, where he trained young adults with disadvantaged backgrounds to work in his restaurant Fifteen. He also ran a successful campaign to improve school meals and started Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he encouraged ordinary people to cook healthy meals, which he also replicated in America. He’s since hosted numerous shows, including Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, Jamie at Home and Jamie’s Quick and Easy Food. Jamie’s also written more than 30 bestselling Jamie Oliver books and opened numerous restaurants.  

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Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus Whattowatch.com. I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.