|Fern Britton (1994–2000)|
Ainsley Harriott (2000–2010)
Ready Steady Cook was the cooking game show where two teams cook-off in a race against time.
Two celebrity chefs with two contestants (one per chef) competed as teams to prepare the best meal. One was called Red Tomatoes, the other Green Peppers. After August 2007, the kitchen were coloured even though the tomato and pepper motifs still featured on the guests' aprons and in the show's logo.
The contestants were then each given money to spend on ingredients for the chefs to prepare a meal.
Occasionally, the permitted budget was increased: a so-called Bistro Bag allowed for ingredients of up to £7.50, while the Gourmet Bag could have a value of up to £10. On some occasions, they used a £3.50 Budget Bag. Also on a few shows, a Lucky Dip Bag was used, which contained ten items. The chef closed his or her eyes and picked out half of the items at the beginning. At the halfway mark, the chef randomly picked a sixth item, which might have helped or hindered the chef. The chefs had no prior knowledge of the ingredients they had to prepare. Another format was used on occasion in which both kitchens were given the same ingredients, and the toss of a red and green die determined who had first pick.
The teams were given 20 minutes to make a meal using the ingredients bought plus the usual items found in a kitchen pantry. The host would meanwhile move back and forth between the teams to ask questions about the meals being produced. Prior to the September 2006 Series, it was customary for the chefs to name their dishes, which usually included a pun.
The preparations were voted on by the studio audience, who each held up a card showing either a red tomato or green pepper. In the newer episodes, the audience members pushed a button on their seat keypad to indicate who they would like to win. The winner received a cash prize of £100, which celebrity guests donated to charity (an example the regular guests sometimes followed) but this was changed to a plate towards the end of the series. The runner-up used to receive a hamper containing a variety of items, such as a set of knives, pasta and sauces, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but later received a Ready Steady Cook mug due to budget restraints.
This was introduced in 2000, the same year Ainsley Harriott became presenter, extending the programme from 30 to 45 minutes. The contents of the quickie bag used to be decided on by the series producer and a home economist. Their decision was based on produce that was currently in season or unusual ingredients that had not featured on the show recently. In late August 2007, the quickie bag changed its format with the bag being brought in by George Edward Mcauliffe, who challenged the chefs to prepare the dish.
The two chefs each had a chance to describe what they would cook using the bag of ingredients and the audience members voted to choose which dish they would like to see prepared. The winner then had 10 minutes to complete the described dishes, with the help of the other chef and the host. The hectic preparation of the chosen chef's suggested dishes often included a slight element of chaos and ad-libbing along the way. A viewer's question relating to a cooking problem was usually put to the chefs, further adding to the pressure upon them to complete their dishes in the time allowed.
Originally as a spin-off that ran alongside the original on BBC One, Celebrity Ready Steady Cook had celebrities, often competing against a family member or friend, provide the bag of ingredients to the same budget of £5. Later series would see the public completely replaced with celebrity guests.
- Classic Bag – The original format where the contestant brought in a bag of ingredients costing up to £5.
- Budget Bag – Similar to the 'Classic Bag' but the ingredients could only cost up to £3.50.
- Bistro Bag – Ingredients worth £7.50.
- Gourmet Bag – Worth £10.
- Doubling Up Bag – Both contestants would bring in the same ingredients. The host used a coin or dice with a Green Pepper and Red Tomato on it to decide which chef would decide what to do with the ingredients first. The other chef had to do something different.
- Forfeit Bag – The chefs had to choose a card at random with a forfeit which prohibited their use of a certain store cupboard ingredient such as "No Fresh Herbs", "No Spices", "No Citrus", or "No Wine".
- Gamble Bag – The chefs were presented with three mystery ingredients and were given the opportunity to swap one of their ingredients with one of these mystery ingredients. They did not have to swap, but if they dd, they couldn't change their minds once the new ingredient was revealed.
- Lucky Dip – The Chefs were presented with a bag of ten items from which they had to pick five at random. After 10 minutes had passed, they then chose a sixth ingredient, which, depending on what the chef had started cooking, could either help or hinder them.