The Fabulous Baker Brothers are fanatical about food
Ever wanted to know what towns taste like? In their new TV series, Fabulous Baker Brothers Tom and Henry Herbert travel across the country, troubleshooting restaurants and dreaming up recipes that capture the local flavour.
Each episode follows the brothers as they muck in with a business in need of fresh perspective, be it a greasy spoon or a tea shop. The aim is to unlock the food potential of each, and create locally- inspired dishes to draw the punters in.
"We tried to get a taste of each town," Tom, 34, says. "So for Blackpool we tried to make food that was pleasurable.
"Rather than going, 'oh, what this place really needs is a detox, we're going to give you a sprouts salad', we did fiery fish balls because they've got Morecambe Bay shrimps, and they're great to eat when you're on the hoof."
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At the end of each episode, locals are given the opportunity to vote for their favourite of the three dishes the brothers have created.
It's a similar idea to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares – going into a restaurant, spotting the problems, persuading the owners to sort them out, giving them a kick start.
Except the brothers prefer a more down-to-earth and friendly approach.
"We found that everyone we worked with loved the idea of being busy but they didn't like the idea of change," Tom says.
As Gloucestershire company owners, the brothers know what it's like to be in business. Tom, who lives in Horsley, and Henry, 24, from Minchinhampton, run Hobbs House Bakery and its next-door butchery in Chipping Sodbury.
There are branches in Cirencester, Tetbury and Nailsworth too.
"Some of the owners cried when we left," Tom adds. "It didn't feel like a negative, going there and trashing their business and their livelihood, it was more like going in with fresh eyes and seeing how they could tweak it."
Ramsay-style rants just aren't them.
"That's not our style," says Tom. "We're much more around the same side of the table as the owners."
Henry adds: "But to get to be on their side you have to have that honest chat.
"Which is of course really awkward and it's quite difficult, because we'll only just have met them, and then we try their food and we're like, 'look, we have to be honest and it's not very nice'.
"But, if you didn't do that, they'd be wondering, 'why are you here? If there's no problem then what are you doing?'
"Deep down lots of them know."
During filming, the pair encountered some shocking meals, the worst being squirrel terrine and a disappointing dish they sampled in Bourton-on-the-Water.
"It was local trout served with seasonal vegetables. Sounds good, let's have it," Tom says. "It was beautiful trout that had been frozen for convenience, but then defrosted and cooked in the microwave with nothing on it, and served with deep-fried croquets and overcooked peas.
"It was just so depressing, we were like, 'Why would you cook it this way?'"
Their toughest challenge, however, was in York, at The Cornish Pasty Bakery where the menu included a ropey chilli lasagne.
"They were pretty busy so they were the hardest battle in terms of trying to get them on board," says Henry.
"All we could do was try and inspire them and push them in the right direction."
One of the brothers' aims was to create better food choices for tourists – beyond fish and chips – that really captured the spirit and flavour of specific areas. Achieving this meant mixing with the locals.
Describing their time in Exmouth, Tom says: "It might not be our scene but we went out with the local Shanty singers. "They drank brandy and, not saying they're drunkards, but they had a great time. It's a thing they do by the coast, reliving this old tradition and it was great. "We wanted to try and get that into a meal, and we found a way of doing it."
Though food and local flavour are at the heart of the series, the brothers' relationship is a big part of its winning formula, too.
Having grown up together, working as a pair seems natural – though they have their share of friendly competition, of course.
"We're brothers, so there's always a slight competing for your mum's affection," says Henry.
"But we do different jobs so, even though we've got the same goal, we're not trying to compete for the same crown. We're better when working together."
To which Tom adds: "And that competitiveness encourages us to up our game."
The boys' new series begins on More4 tomorrow at 9pm. Their book, The Fabulous Baker Brothers: Glorious British Grub by Tom and Henry Herbert, is published on February 28 by Headline, priced £20.