Three weeks left

Posted by Jeni in Great Food Live | 19 March 2007

Today we announced that the show had three weeks left. I was surprised at my reaction. I thought I would get really tearful but actually it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I kept examining my feelings when I said it and my body didn't fall apart.

Dave Baker, our producer, had created an insane show. The process of putting one GFL out on air is complicated and time consuming. I am merely the jockey. The producer comes up with the ideas, writes a script. The researcher and assistant producer research and produce the props, the stories, the information. When it's all just about there, I'm given a skeleton script and off I go. If the horse is lame there's nothing I can do to get it over the jump. If the horse is a three legged nag with a heart of fire then I can just about get it round the course, but if, like today, they give me Shergar, then that's what you get. A bloody good ride.

There are three teams that work their bits off all week. There's also an overall Editor, Caroline Blackadder, who is extremely experienced (she needs to be) and an endless back up team of runners, technicians, home economists who produce the one they made earlier and countless others who through sheer grit, determination and very low wages, get the show on on a daily basis.

There are no duffers. If there were, the show would shudder to a grinding halt. We rehearse the show from about ten in the morning, putting down voice overs and grabbing stills of things then, believe it or not, we walk through all the physical bits, rehearsing each recipe so that the camera ops know exactly where to point their lenses. I go back into makeup at noon'ish and then, at 12.30 on the button, we go out live. I have the PA counting down the times in my ear. It's very precise. Each recipe usually takes about seven minutes, but some take five and some take ten, but three words a second means there are a lot of words. Telly time is different from real time. Three minutes can feel like a lifetime if the contributor is bad, or a golden moment if they are good.

Wearing an earpiece requires split brain work. I have always known I have a split personality, not to mention voices in my head, but being miked up all the time can be exhausting. Being able to go to the lavatory without a battery pack stuffed in my drawers is like taking off a tight pair of shoes. The freedom! Although I do know that an average wee takes 23 seconds. I know because I have to!

That's how it's been for the last five years. Five days a week, not counting high days and holidays. We did go through a year of pre-recording two out of the five shows, but it was a nightmare, having to remember when to lie.

Anyway it's back to Mr Baker and his Monday show. The line-up was ridiculous:

  • Nancy Lam - high energy
  • Jocelyn Brown - higher energy
  • Sean Marshall - cool energy
  • and Mike Robinson - no energy (joke)

The noise, and the control, that had to be exerted to make sure that nothing too explicit was said live on air, was exhausting.

Mike made faggots. Wonderful meaty balls wrapped in caul fat, sitting on a bed of creamy spinach and roast potato. British food at its best.

Jocelyn talked about her life as a backing singer for John Lennon, Diana Ross, Bette Midler, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross... the list is endless. She shared little bits of her life. John Lennon taught her how to make sushi - good eh? She also sang us a snippet of her disco hits and then proceeded to cook us a fabulous plate of Southern Carolina chicken with potato salad that was so moreish I did just that - I had a lot more.

Nancy made hot chilli prawns that choked us all but tasted like heaven. Sean made Red Snapper in Goan Sauce with a touch of heat that also choked us but had us gasping for more.

And now I am hungry for more of it all.

Funny, eh? That's my day at the office. I wonder whether I'll turn into one of those sad cases who pretend to be still working when the job has ceased. Maybe I'll time myself in my home kitchen, get Jim to stuff some batteries down my knickers when I go to the bathroom, or maybe I'll just roll over and die? Watch this space.

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At March 19, 2007 8:08 PM Oosbind wrote:

Nice one, Barnett. What do you mean, knickers? Incontinence pants, more like.

2. At March 22, 2007 9:52 AM Donna Varley wrote:


Thank you so much for your energy and enthusiasm over the last five years.

The show has been a pleasure to watch and has changed my, and I'm sure many others', approach to food and cooking. As a result of your show I have discovered farm shops, farmers markets, fair trade etc. and am passing all this on to my daughter. You will be very much missed x

3. At March 22, 2007 9:33 PM Kathy Reynolds wrote:

Just to say you will be missed so much. Since the beginning of GFL and finding you again as a TV presenter - what will we do without you. Much has happened during your progs. The loss of my Father and Mother in Law and more recently a nephew who was only seventeen. Like many others you have helped me through all of this with your laughter and jokes and wonderful presenting - don't mean to be morbid but it will be missed by so many! Having nearly got on to the show with the offer of tickets for myself (53) my ma (86) and My daughter (27) but near misses because of all of the above. I watched with great regret at never attending the live shows, nevertheless, I have engulfed myself and taken part in spirit! I am now a more acompolished cook and receive great praise from all who sit at my table. This is partly because of the teaching of GFL but most of all because you Jeni B made everything more watchable. You will be missed - but hopefully we will see you again soon.

4. At March 22, 2007 10:18 PM Karen Johnson wrote:

Thank you for a great five years. I have many fond memories of the show - one Christmas eve show in particular when you and Gino were particularly giggly. You will be missed big time as will the show.
Good luck and best wishes for whatever the future brings you x

5. At March 22, 2007 10:45 PM Steve wrote:

One thing you donít do when running a TV channel is to axe its flagship programme. Particularly when that show is responsible for increasing the viewership of that channel as a whole.

When I heard that GFL was to be given the boot I genuinely was very disappointed and angry. For over the last five years Jeni and the team have brought a refreshing new dimension not only to a food based programming but to day time television as a whole.

Jeni and GFL have significantly helped, woken up and rejuvenated the attitudes to food, drink and general gastronomy goodness in the UK. When has a programme been so educational yet so fun to watch?

Jeni, you and the show have been more than a pleasure to watch. As someone who is aspiring to get into the biz as it were, you have also been part of the inspiration.

I god only hope that another channel picks up the show or that UKTV realise the error of their ways and reinstate the show in some guise in the near future.

Kindest Regards

6. At March 23, 2007 11:38 AM Valerie Soley wrote:

Dear Jeni

I have discovered you recently following my retirement & am miffed to find out that your fantastic & witty GFL is being pulled. Please let all your fans know when you have been poached by a more deserving channel.

7. At March 24, 2007 8:39 PM Suzanne Jones wrote:

Dear Jeni,

I was very sorry to hear that GFL has been axed. I really do think that it has changed the way many of us think about food, and it has certainly introduced us to some wild and frankly odd (at times) ingredients.

I suppose that it just proves what I have thought for a while - those with brains never get to the top, and those without....I don't need to continue do I?

Anyway, I just wanted to say "thank you" for the last 5 years. I have learned a lot, and laughed until I have cried. Good luck with whatever you do next.


8. At March 27, 2007 2:54 PM Chrissie Wadsworth wrote:

Dear Jeni - have watched and loved you over these 5 years (I even sent you some smelly dried Indian fish). But I will really miss you. You have turned my life around as regards cooking, food and also what I wear. Please come back soon.
Lots of love

9. At March 28, 2007 9:22 PM Sharon wrote:

Jeni, you will be sorely missed, please say you're not leaving our screens for good?!! Your sense of humour, style, wit and wonderful sarcasm has made my day so many times, take care Jeni, be back soon,

Sharon xx

10. At March 29, 2007 1:31 PM Michelle wrote:

Jeni - I just wanted to say thank you and all the best for the future, I'm gutted that GFL is ending but at least it's going to be going out on a high! I hope we don't have to wait too long to see you on our screens again. You're an absolute star!!

11. At April 3, 2007 2:13 PM emma wrote:

i was so sad to hear that gfl has been ended.
i always looked forward to an hour of jollity after working hard all day and then feeding my 4 kids and hubby.
will miss the 'friendly' banter between jenni and guests, and the way they all jumped as high as she said!!
Jeni, you are the boss are'nt you!!! Will miss you and the show lots and lots and lots xx

12. At April 3, 2007 4:19 PM Louise Knight wrote:

Jeni,you will be greatly missed,programmes with stand in presenters were lifeless.You always look so fab and colourful,I feel like you're one of the family. I really hope we see you in another programme very,very soon. Good Luck.

13. At April 4, 2007 2:08 AM Aaron Griffen wrote:

Hey Jeni!

I was terribly upset to hear that the end of GFL was upon us!

I live in Australia, so we are a little bit behind, so fortunately we will have your warmth, humour and irrepressible and amazing personality with us for a bit longer!

Thanks for the great job you have done over the years on GFL.It really has been a pleasure to watch you and your guests (well some of them!).Hopefully we will see you light up the screen again soon!

14. At April 4, 2007 9:50 PM Neil Wildman-Whitten wrote:

Just to echo the comments here. My partner and I remember you fondly from the six o'clock show many moons ago and have watched GFL since the beginning. It's a crime GFL is being axed and a worse crime that your not in the new programme. Every good wish for your new ventures.

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.