EXCLUSIVE: Wonderhood Studios, the production and advertising company launched by former Channel 4 CEO David Abraham, is cooking up its first commission – a BBC format featuring Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal.
This comes a year after Abraham, who also used to run U.S. cable network TLC, set up the company.
Eat The Years will see The Times’ food critic and television presenter Giles Coren challenge Blumenthal, who has presented a slew of cooking shows for Channel 4 including How To Cook Like Heston and Heston’s Fantastical Food, to re-create the 2001 tasting menu from the latter’s revered The Fat Duck in Maidenhead outside of London. The documentary will feature a range of chefs that have worked with Blumenthal as well as front of house staff, food experts and celebrity guests for a one-off event.
The format has the potential to return with different chefs and restaurants.
Eat The Years will air on BBC Two and was commissioned by factual commissioner Simon Young and BBC Two controller Patrick Holland. The format, which was developed by Wonderhood’s Emma Lorenz, will be exec produced by Rebecca Templar and directed by Sam Roubicek.
The Fat Duck, which opened in 1995, secured its second Michelin star in 2001 and was also named Restaurant of the Year by the AA.
Wonderhood’s television business is run by BBC creative director Samantha Anstiss and Lorenz, previously director of development at All3Media’s Lion Television, who are overseeing its push into non-scripted television.
The BBC’s Young said that the broadcaster was keen to have Blumenthal’s “infectious enthusiasm for food” on the channel. “Particular foods often provoke striking memories in all of us, and this film will show just how far we, and Heston, have come in the last twenty years, providing a unique portal into our recent past.”
Blumenthal said, “Taking the Fat Duck back to 2001 presented so many challenges. The kitchen was so much smaller of course and we certainly have better equipment today. However, the biggest challenge of all was taking myself and the original team back to their former selves. I wasn’t expecting that to be so tough. To serve dishes that we have developed and evolved was difficult to get our heads around but it was a blast. At that time, we were making so many discoveries not only about our cooking and techniques but also about ourselves. As we were filming we realised just how different as people and cooks we all are now. One thing that hadn’t changed though was our chemistry in the kitchen and it was great fun working with the old team again. Back then, we had no idea what was happening outside our tiny kitchen so as well as being a journey back into our own history as a restaurant it was fascinating to see it against a backdrop of Britain as a whole. I hope viewers find it an interesting look at my own and the country’s gastronomic history.”
Anstiss added, “This is a immersive format which combines food, biography and contemporary history in an innovative and entertaining new way. We couldn’t be more excited to have produced the programme with Heston and his brilliant team from The Fat Duck, past and present.”
In March at the Deadline-backed event INTV in Jerusalem, Abraham revealed that Wonderhood Studios had won its first commission, but declined to give any details. At the event, he said that the “walls” between advertising and original content “need to come down” to fix “stretched storytelling” and the problem of “too much content”.
“Over the last few years there’s been too much content created and too much of it is not really content that will attract the audience, but the challenge for brands is not just to create videos but create ideas that can draw the audience, our challenge is to come together to see if this cross-disciplinary approach to get to better ideas, it’s all about the ideas,” he added.