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Great British Menu: Prue Leith replaced by Andi Oliver

Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort

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Prue Leith with fellow judges Oliver Peyton (L) and Matthew Fort

Prue Leith is leaving BBC Two cooking contest The Great British Menu after 11 years as a judge.

The cookery expert and writer is to be replaced by Saturday Kitchen regular Andi Oliver on next year’s show.

Leith made her last appearance during the series finale broadcast on Friday night, saying being on the show had brought her “huge pleasure” but that it was “time for a change”.

Regular judges Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton will return for the 12th series.

‘Inventiveness and skill’

Leith, who is also a novelist, said she had enjoyed “eating and judging the very best in modern British cooking”.

She said: “From the first Great British Menu for the Queen’s 80th birthday to honouring those who fought on D-Day, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the inventiveness and skill of the chefs.

“I am very proud of the banquets we’ve put together. However, with 11 banquets under my belt in more ways than one, I think it’s time for a change and, with much hesitation, I’ve decided to relinquish my seat in the judging chamber.”

She said the new judge would be “terrific”, adding: “I hope she’ll continue my good work in keeping Matthew and Oliver under some sort of control.”

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Andi Oliver said it was “hugely exciting” to be joining the show

Andi Oliver, who is also a panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet, said she was “thrilled” to be joining the show.

She said: “It’s such an iconic programme and I have watched it religiously from the very beginning.

“I love that it celebrates the extraordinary levels of culinary excellence in this country, so being part of that and having the chance to taste some truly incredible food from the best chefs in the country is hugely exciting.”

She first appeared on TV in the band Rip, Rig and Panic with Neneh Cherry, and has also presented from the Brit Awards and Glastonbury Festival. Her daughter is TV presenter Miquita Oliver.

‘Clip around the ears’

Peyton said it was a “massive shock” to learn Leith was leaving, describing her as “a legend”.

“I will truly miss Prue but I’m a huge fan of Andi’s and can’t wait for her to join us,” he said.

Fort said he would miss Leith’s “elegant presence, good humour, practical culinary sensibility and occasional verbal clip around the ears”.

He described her replacement as “charming, funny and blessed with sound gastronomic judgement”.

Chefs to have taken part in the series over the past 11 series include Angela Hartnett, Simon Rogan, Marcus Wareing, Lisa Allen and Jason Atherton.

Friday’s finale saw Mark Abbott, Tommy Banks, Mark Froydenlund and Adam Reid – who have five Michelin stars between them – serving their dishes at a banquet for people who have been honoured by the Queen, in an event to mark her 90th birthday.

The first episode of the 2017 series will be the 500th since the show began.

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