The British public was in uproar yesterday, following an announcement from the BBC that it would be axing the food section of its website as the latest in a round of cuts to the corporation's online publishing budget. The site currently hosts more than 11,000 recipes from chefs including Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Raymond Blanc—plus gems like Alexa Chung's salted caramel brownies and shortbread from Lulu's own kitchen (how will we cope?).
After outcry on Twitter and more than 172,500 people signing a petition to save the resource, the Beeb announced that content from the site wasn't actually being deleted, but rather archived, meaning that recipes would still be accessible with the correct link. Some recipes, it said, would also migrate to the BBC Good Food site, the commercial arm of the BBC's online food publishing division.
Despite the BBC originally announcing in the official press release that it would "Close the BBC's Food website," a spokesperson today told MUNCHIES that "we were always planning on archiving [the recipes]. We only very rarely delete anything on BBC Online."
Whether the BBC's recipes are to be forever lost down an internet sinkhole or simply moved to a more profitable #content provider, what does this mean for the British home cook? In an age when anyone with Wifi connection and basic spelling skills can bring up a recipe for duck à l'orange, we asked top chefs and food writers for their thoughts on the BBC's decision to down scale their recipe section.
Oh, and the MUNCHIES recipe section isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Just sayin' …
Anna Jones, chef and author of A Modern Way to Eat and A Modern Way to Cook "People trust the BBC's recipes—they are reliable and user-friendly. Not having them would leave a big hole and I'm not sure how we'd fill it. They are also a really valuable record of how we eat in the UK and how the food scene has changed in the last decade or so—it would be a massive shame to lose that."
Jeremy Lee, head chef at Quo Vadis "That bank of recipes archived in the BBC website is a fantastic resource full of years of writing by all manner of cooks, writers, and chefs—and it's much cherished. Losing such a valuable collection to the inevitable, dull drum of progress is a very great shame."
"I'm pretty sure Britain won't starve without Yvette Fielding's take on kedgeree or Abbey Clancy's cupcakes."
Peter Gordon, executive chef at The Providores and Tapa Room "As a contributor, I admit I don't understand the financial side of keeping the BBC recipes online, but surely all that effort and work that has been created over the years won't simply be wiped forever. The bigger issue is the current government's meddling in the corporation, which it seems to find elite and critical, and this needs to stop. We wouldn't burn a library down to save money, and therefore we shouldn't be forced to shut down a freely accessible resource for millions of people. It's simply madness."
Felicity Cloake, food writer and author of The A-Z of Eating "I'm very relieved to hear the BBC has agreed to relocate its food content rather than axing it. Though the BBC Food site isn't as comprehensive as the outcry seems to suggest (pretty sure Britain won't starve without Yvette Fielding's take on kedgeree or Abbey Clancy's cupcakes), I'd mourn the loss of any such resource. You can never have too many recipes for something, as long as they're reliable. As a bonus—Gregg Wallace's stuffin muffins have been saved for the nation. Thank God for that."
John Whaite, Great British Bake Off winner 2012 and author of Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients "For many, deleting those recipes would be akin to shredding an heirloom bundle of family recipes. These recipes aren't thoughtless words, plonked into a computer—these words represent a modern form of our heritage and our culture."
Dan Doherty, executive chef at Duck and Waffle "I don't really understand why they are closing it down, websites can have a huge impact and earning potential, which are run by few people, as opposed to anything in print, which has much higher overheads. With things seeming to move away from print and into digital, and also with so many programs tied to the recipes, it seems a very strange decision to axe it."
Edd Kimber, Great British Bake Off 2010 and author of The Boy Who Bakes "Personally it feels like a ridiculous move made because of pressure from the government who seem totally out of touch with how British people feel about the BBC. The recipe archive is a trove of British cooking and is so popular that it feels insane that anyone would even consider getting rid of it. It's the first place many people turn to when looking for a recipe, and if by removing them it discourages anyone from cooking, that's a truly sad thing. I hope the recipes manage to find a new home and the government realise that the BBC is a truly valued institution."
Carl Clarke, head chef at Chick 'n' Sours "To be honest, I'm not really bothered. In many ways it's a good thing to get rid of a load of old shit recipes that probably won't work anyway because the TV chef hasn't been arsed to develop them in the first place. Only sad thing is I'll miss nicking a few recipes from Delia!"