Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Andi Oliver is an essential part of Great British Menu. Taking over presenter duties from Scottish comic Susan Calman, Oliver has sat centre stage on the popular BBC cooking competition for three years now.
Being an experienced food writer, musician and even a former Great British Menu judge, Oliver is certainly no stranger to the limelight.
With the new series well underway, here’s everything you need to know about the host – including her impressive chef credentials, incredible restaurants, surprise connection to 80s icon Neneh Cherry and those amazing dresses.
Andi Oliver has appeared on Great British Menu since 2017 (Credit: Alamy/Steve Vas)
Who is Andi Oliver and what band was she in?
Oliver, 59, is a famous food writer, musician and restaurateur. The Great British Menu presenter is also well known for being a member of post-punk band Rip Rig + Panic with 80s icon Neneh Cherry, along with her brother Sean Oliver, Mark Springer, Gareth Sager and Bruce Smith.
Oliver was a vocalist in the group, while her brother played bass, Smith was on the drums and Sager on the guitar, saxophone and keyboard.
Despite enjoying some commercial success, sadly, the band split in 1983. Commenting on the group’s split, Cherry told Spin: “Everyone needed to go and do their own thing. I don’t remember us splitting up, but there was an overspill into another overspill.”
Despite her passion for music, after the band went their separate ways, Oliver’s passion and interest in food began to flourish and she went on to carve out an incredible career in the industry.
As well as presenting and previously judging the Great British Menu, Oliver also previously hosted BBC 2 cooking show Neneh and Andi Dish it Up.
She is also a regular contributor to shows such as Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet and Truth About Food.
And most impressively, Oliver has also ventured into the restaurant business herself (but more on that below).
Andi Oliver has moved to presenting duties on Great British Menu (Credit: BBC)
Is Andi Oliver a chef and what are her food credentials?
Oliver is revered chef and restaurateur today, but her culinary training primarily took place organically as she was growing up.
“When I was about 12, I started having these dinner parties,” she told the Evening Standard. “I was that odd kid who did that! I was obsessed with recreating pictures from books – like ones by Marguerite Patten.”
Oliver then started making more complex recipes at home and finishing off weekly dinners (like pies, rice and seafood dishes) whilst her mother was at work.
Her education continued when she went to visit her best friend in Sweden and became fascinated with several cooking techniques there, like curing fish.
Throughout her music career, food remained an underlying passion for Oliver, and she used to cook for friends and band members – drawing in crowds of people with her chicken, rice and peas.
The popularity of her causal spreads encouraged the TV favourite to take on shifts at nightclub The Globe in west London.
“It was this late night crazy club off of Powis Square. We would be making chicken and rice and peas and slaws and salads and baking cakes and doing all sorts,” she told Foodism.
“People would go down to the club and get very, very wasted and then come up at 2am, starving, and we’d have this massive array of food. And that was the first time I really thought about food being a path that would take me outside of my home, I guess.”
Having learnt to cook without formal training, Oliver became an outspoken advocate for taking to the kitchen without professional training.
“You don’t have to be trained in French tradition to be a chef,” she said in an interview with Big Hospitality. “All over the world people who haven’t been trained in the French tradition should be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with any one of the French chefs – the ones revered by Michelin.
“It’s really important that we should start to reevaluate cooking.”
Why did Andi Oliver replace Prue Leith on Great British Menu?
Oliver only came on board after Leith, who is probably most well-known for founding Leith’s Cookery School, left the BBC to take over presenting duties on the Great British Bake Off on Channel 4.
So to a certain extent, the decision was taken out of the BBC’s hands.
Given how much Great British Menu grew in popularity throughout the 2010s, Leith’s decision to leave the panel in 2017 came as a shock to some. And Andi Oliver’s arrival in 2017 may have been slightly surprising.
However, given her previous food show experience and industry credentials, Oliver was a natural choice.
Prue Leith left Great British Menu in 2016 (Credit: Alamy/Tommy London)
Does Andi Oliver have a restaurant?
Oliver doesn’t currently have a bricks and mortar restaurant, but she has fronted several throughout her career.
For four years, she ran successful pop-up restaurant, The Moveable Feast. She was also creative restaurant on Hackney’s Columbia Road before taking over the restaurant concept, Sugar Shack, at The Jackdaw and Star pub in Homerton.
In 2016, she opened her first permanent site, a café named Andi’s in Stoke Newington, which has since closed.
Then, 2020 saw the launch of her newest restaurant concept, Wadadli Kitchen – which was created to showcase Caribbean home cooking at its finest.
This started as a restaurant in Hackney Wick, but after briefly closing in 2021, it relaunched as an events space with Caribbean catering included.
Why does Andi Oliver carry a fan on the Great British Menu?
Oliver has previously admitted that she carries a fan on the BBC show to help her deal with hot flushes.
“It’s a menopause thing!,” she told The Express. “At any second I could go into a major hot flush.”
Oliver’s fans have now become part of her look, and many viewers would struggle to imagine her without one by her side.
They’ve also provided her ample opportunity to make fashion statements, over the years.
“If I’m going to have a fan, it has to be fabulous and set off my whole outfit!,” she added.
Is Andi Oliver married?
Andi Oliver lives with her partner Grant Hackett in Clapton, east London.
The couple met over 20 years ago at a speakeasy in Shoreditch and, according to an interview Oliver gave to Local Buyers Club, bonded over a “mutual hatred of camping”.
According to the star, she and her other half can often be found hanging out in Millfields park with a speaker system and some good food.
Oliver also has a daughter, Miquita, from a previous relationship.
Andi Oliver with her daughter Miquita (Credit: Alamy/Sipa USA)
Who is Andi Oliver’s daughter Miquita Oliver?
Andi Oliver’s daughter Miquita Oliver is also closely associated with the music industry.
The 38-year-old radio and TV personality is probably most famous for her stint as the host of Channel 4’s Popworld, as well as the face of T4 from 2006 to 2010.
Oliver is a well-known DJ, previously hosting shows on BBC Radio 1 and 1 Xtra.
She also has an ongoing interest in fashion, previously appearing on shows such as This Week to discuss the subject.
Miquita Oliver is a former host of T4 and Popworld (Credit: Alamy/PA Images)
What happened to Miquita Oliver?
Despite her successes in show business, it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for Oliver’s daughter.
In 2011, for instance, she filed for bankruptcy, following the non-payment of a tax bill. This experience inspired her to produce the programme Young, British and Broke: The Truth About Payday Loans in 2013.
Oliver has also alleged that the BBC fired her in 2009 following an outburst against fellow DJ Ferne Cotton.
According to Oliver, she jokingly referred to Cotton as a “devil woman“. This allegedly prompted the BBC to let her go, despite a promising start to her career.
Musician Neneh Cherry is Andi Oliver’s best friend and paid for part of Miquita’s education (Credit: Alamy/PA Images)
More recently, Oliver has managed to turn things around, appearing as a presenter on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch, among other TV gigs.
Plus, she is spreading her love of fitness by trying to get fans skipping through her new initiative, Skip School.
“I lost everything, but it was a real lesson in surrendering to a moment and being humbled – and then having to pick yourself back up and live differently,” she told OK! magazine.
What has Andi Oliver said about her hair?
As well as her expert opinions on top-quality cooking, Oliver is instantly recognisable for her shaven-headed appearance.
However, while her close-cropped haircut has been her signature style for years, Oliver has revealed that some people are inexplicably outraged by the look.
In a 2020 interview, Oliver told the Radio Times: “Twitter’s the cesspit of filth, but I had a guy on Instagram the other day saying that I was going to hell if I didn’t grow my hair.”
She went on to add: “I wanted to message back and say, ‘Darling, there’s so much other stuff that hair’s not going to be the thing that sends me to hell’.”
Andi Oliver’s fellow Great British Menu judges include Rachel Khoo (Credit: BBC)
What is Andi Oliver’s net worth?
Estimates from the wealth aggregator Celebs Age Wiki put Andi Oliver’s net worth at somewhere in the region of $1 to $5 million.
However, it’s clear from previous interviews that Oliver hasn’t always been so well off. As she told Local Buyers Club in 2017: “It has always been up and down and that seems normal to me – sometimes we have money and sometimes we don’t.
“Everyone thinks because they see you on telly you must be rich, but I’ve never been driven by money.”
Neneh Cherry and Andi Oliver’s show aired in 2007 (Credit: BBC)
Where does Andi Oliver buy her dresses?
Oliver often dazzles with her outfits on Great British Menu, and she’s not made a secret of where she loves to shop – she buys her dresses from Gingham Doll.
READ MORE: Nigella Lawson Isn’t Actually A Chef
With brightly coloured dresses, the brand is so proud to be a favourite of Oliver’s that it even has a category on site now, named ‘As Seen On Andi Oliver’.
Does Andi Oliver have any cookbooks?
Oliver’s first cookbook is being released in April 2023, and it’s named The Pepperpot Diaries. The long-awaited cookbook is full of both traditional and new Caribbean recipes for home cooks to replicate at home.
With a varied array of influences, Oliver was inspired by her travels in Antigua, and a journey she went on to rediscover the flavours she grew up with as a kid.
The book also explores what the future of Caribbean food could look like, and how it changes depending on where you travel and who influences you. You can pre-order it online here.
Before the cookbook’s release, Oliver also shared a lot of her recipes online. For instance, BBC Food lists no less than 46 Andi Oliver recipes, including ackee and saltfish and Marrakesh-inspired lamb.
The same website also lists several recipes produced in collaboration with her cooking partner Neneh Cherry. These dishes follow in the footsteps of the duos 2007 show Neneh and Andi Dish it Up.
Whatever you’re in the mood for, there are plenty of the TV host’s recipes to inspire you.
Great British Menu is on BBC Two, Thursdays at 8pm.