One of the BBC's longest running and much loved cookery shows 'Great British Menu' - has been plunged like a pus-covered scalpel - into hot water. The theme of this year's competition, Seventy Years of the NHS has challenged twenty four of the UK's most talented young chefs to come up with dishes in celebration of the nations favourite health service. So far, winning dishes have been inspired by topics as wide-ranging as the diversity of the workforce, the discovery of Penicillin and Nye Bevan.
However, the menu of Marcus Atkins, Head Chef at stylish London Bistro, Chef De Fiction, has fallen foul of BBC bosses because of its controversial political subtext.
"My dessert course," explained Atkins "is called 'Political Football', it's basically a giant meringue filled with Creme Anglaise, the two feet are made from over-ripe bananas. One decorated in a blue-cheese foam, the other with a cranberry jus. The whole thing is presented inside a giant stopwatch. It's a footballing metaphor that highlights the increased waiting time for operations under the current government.
Earlier in the week Atkins caused a Tweet storm with his starter, 'Pate the Nurse Doesn't Have any Beds', which Banquette Veteran Tommy Howard complemented for its bold lack of ingredients awarding it the maximum 10 points. "Basically," explained Atkins "You know when you go into a restaurant and you order a pate for a starter? They never give you enough toast, do they? Well, I've decided to go one further and not serve any toast at all. The toast represents beds. There is toast, but if the judges want it, they have to eat it in the corridor."
Atkins' other courses haven't pulled any punches. His fish course 'Virgin or Whore?' highlighted the issue of privatisation in the NHS. His 'main', a delicious baby suckling pig locked inside a steel cage with a 'CLOSED DUE TO BEST CUTS' sign on the front (so that diners can only look longingly, but not enjoy the food) draws attention to the record number of maternity unit closures under the current administration.
The show has drawn criticism from many quarters. Conservative MP, Andy Bracksette was outraged. "This is outrageous! For a public broadcaster that is supposed to be impartial, to allow such a blatant example of left-wing political bias is quite appalling. How did this get past the 1922 Committee?..I mean, BBC Board!"
Atkins' controversial menu will now face final scrutiny by the judges as he goes head-to-head with second place rival Shane Twin. Atkins is optimistic that he can get one of his dishes to the banquette.