Ed Gamble and James Acaster on the Off Menu Podcast

3. Michelle Keegan

Put simply, Acaster’s 2019 appearance on Celebrity Bake-Off changed the man (see above: Rylan Clark), and this beauty of an episode with Star Baker Michelle Keegan is our proof. Actor Keegan is a bread-loving delight who quickly tuned into her role as chief winder-up of James Acaster – always a rewarding dynamic. By the time she makes her dessert choice, all hell breaks loose and the result is glorious chaos.

Even before the cheese board schism, Keegan’s childhood memories provide a rich selection of ‘hang on, what?!’ befuddlement. Fence-hopping to scrounge food off the neighbours, eating leftover school dinners, bits boards, 2am ham toast snacking, everything coming with a slice of Warburtons (even her choice of wine is bread-related)… it’s a very fun, very carb heavy time. 

2. Ainsley Harriott

Human manifestation of joy Ainsley Harriott does not disappoint at the dream restaurant; there’s a lot of singing, constant belly laughs and a shedload of fun in truly one of the podcast’s best episodes. The boys describe Harriott as a huge part of both of their childhoods and you can feel how much they love him and are so happy to hang out with him. 

It’s no surprise that a man who coined ‘Susie salt and Percy pepper’, went viral with “why hello Jill!” and told us to “give your meat a good ol’ rub” is a soundbite-machine in this episode; he’s so entertaining you don’t notice while you’re listening how many actually useful food tips he’s doling out – such is the magic of Ainsley, he’s teaching us all through hilarious osmosis. 

1. Joe Thomas

If you came away from his stint on Taskmaster still not quite knowing who Joe Thomas is, then his Off Menu will tell you: the man’s an absolute mess. Where to begin? Thomas holds full conversations with himself, posing and answering his own questions, arguing with his violent inner monologue, flipping from hesitant and cerebral to absolutely enraged with zero requirement for outside input. It’s very, very funny, but you’re also left worrying whether he’s getting quite enough sleep.

This episode starts slow with a great deal of butter chat before building to a headline story involving a dead lamb, a local dad at a romantic time of year, and a hole in the back garden of a woman known only as Soft Touch. Then Willie and his Perfect Chocolate Christmas gets involved, the wheels come off, and somehow James Acaster emerges from it as the straight man. Weird, funny and unforgettable, the lamb story and Willie are now such a part of Off Menu lore they’ve even made a return visit for a 2020 Christmas special. A bonafide classic.

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