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Esther Rantzen offered adults the chance to fulfil their dreams and make ‘the Big Time’ in this series of lighthearted fifty-minute documentaries – a kind of Jim’ll Fix It for grown-ups.
A housewife cooked a banquet at a top hotel, a vicar wrote a newspaper gossip column, and a Marks & Spencer shop girl joined the circus. But Esther’s most successful bit of wand-waving was her launching of Scottish teacher Sheena Easton to pop stardom.
The Big Time was also the show that destroyed the career of the queen of TV cookery, Fanny Cradock . . .
Fanny was invited to appear with a woman called Gwen who had won a magazine competition that awarded her the title ‘Cook of the Realm’ because of a particularly splendid menu she had created. She met Fanny at a restaurant to discuss her achievement and receive praise from the premier culinary celebrity.
Gwen’s menu started with a seafood cocktail and then went straight into duck with blackberry sauce. Fanny rolled her wild eyes and raised what was left of her eyebrows. She puffed up her cheeks and exhaled noisily. She was not happy.
Gwen explained evenly that her menu had been good enough to win the Cook of the Realm award. Franny glanced at her sharply and said, “Yes dear . . . but now you’re among professionals”.
Fanny’s cruelty – and the public backlash against her – permanently damaged her career, and Fanny Cradock never made a cookery programme again.