Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: Finals week

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2015

You may have won the battle, but you haven’t won the war… I can imagine that’s what the chefs were all thinking as they marched down the infamous Great British Menu 2015 corridor one last time.

This week saw blood, sweat and tears (definitely tears), as the chefs battled it out not only to impress the judges, but to win over their competition, who also had a hand in scoring the dishes.

Great British Menu 2015While the chefs (who should be wearing name tags, for the audience’s sake) were all twiddling their thumbs and giving each other glares in the kitchen, Prue was harping on about how great it would be to have Jacqueline O’Donnell, the only woman in the competition, to go through to cook for the WI.

Just as I was thinking “haven’t you heard of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’?” the chefs were split up into three groups for each episode. A few of the chefs took on the brave task of completely reworking their starter for the judges. Matt Worswick, for example, who was not so fondly remembered for serving an undercooked partridge dish, reinvented it completely. Serving up a rabbit pie, rabbit loin wrapped in Parma ham, accompanied by what the judges felt was completely off-the-mark piccalilli.

Fourth time success Richard Bainbridge managed to get onto the shortlist for his ‘Jerusalem’ inspired starter, alongside Josh Eggleton, who created a completely new dish for the judges. Prue couldn’t stop singing Josh’s praises after tasting his crab tart, crab mayonnaise on toast and crab biske, which Matthew also raved about being the “finest crab soup” he had ever tasted.Great British Menu 2015 Everything changed in the fish course. Richard and Josh came 8th and 7th place for their below par fish dishes.

Richard took the risk of reworking his entire course, which didn’t work out well for him with Matthew commenting “if you would like eating lumps of tasteless fish in a glue then I’m sure its an admirable dish in every way”. The judges, just like in the regionals, could NOT get over Josh’s pie… without the pie.

Prue just kept exclaiming about her hatred for the lack of pastry, whilst the chefs found it concerning that the best flavours in the dish wasn’t the fish. Working through her nerves, Jak managed to get shortlisted with ‘A Pretty Kettle of Fish’, her strongest dish in the regional rounds, and one that they judges absolutely loved. Contrastingly, the chefs in the kitchen scored her lowly, commenting on the fact that it wasn’t very satisfying, or fit for a banquet. Joining Jak was, unsurprisingly, Michael O’Hare who presented the dish that had been talk of the kitchen all day.

Richard Bainbridge was going weak at the knees watching Michael dress his canvas, throwing out a variety of flattering adjectives such as “beautiful” “wonderful” and “amazing”. Great British Menu 2015Although Prue admitted she had a soft spot for Adam Bannister, he narrowly missed the chance to shortlist after changing his ‘Salmon and Cucumber’. Changing the presentation and adding a fish consommé almost made the judges forget that he had chosen not to serve his melting cucumber jelly.

Instead, Matt Worswick beat him to the post, serving his delightful assortment of vegetables from his grandma’s garden with an excellent piece of lobster tail. The main course saw one chef straight through to the banquet. Matt Gillian’s goat dish which impressed the judges in regionals, had been altered in order to achieve perfect 10’s all round! The dish, which previously lost points for a lack of storyline, was presented to the judges with a homemade story book celebrating billy goat meat.

The constant and varied flavours between the goat meats saw Oliver exclaiming “I have never tasted goat this good” and Matthew kissing the last crumbs off of his plate. During the battle of the trifles, it was Richard who came out on top over Ben Arnold, who was yet to shortlist. Richard’s adaptation of his nanny’s trifle really hit the spot, alongside the kooky Victoria sponge cocktail. While reading the speech which accompanied his dish, a few of the chefs shed a tear, which I’m not sure was due to emotion or exhaustion by this point.Great British Menu 2015

Alongside him on the shortlist was main course superstar Matt Gillan with his Save the Bees inspired dessert, which he had altered since regionals to reduce the sweetness in all the elements. Also joining them was Michael, who didn’t just adapt his dish, but changed it completely. Taking inspiration from WI recipes, Michael created a rather concerning sounding custard from mash potato. Fortunately, the judges loved it and thought about incorporating it into their own desserts from now on.

During the nail biting final, Prue, Oliver and Matt had the difficult task of finalising the menu. They were proud to announce that joining Matt would be Richard, who Matthew described as “a triumph of hope over adversity”, would be cooking both the starter and the dessert courses alongside Michael and his “wonderful and amazing” fish dish which won through to the banquet. Great British Menu 2015The day before the banquet, the chefs received some help, or hindrance, from three of the regional guest judges, and everyone seemed to be quite calm and collected. Until preparation time ran out.

Matt was nowhere near ready to leave the kitchen, but admitted defeat, and left his goats cheese to crisp up in the dehydrator… Which someone turned off during the night, resulting in a very stressed and upset chef in the early hours of banquet day. To add insult to injury, just as Richard and Matt were setting up their indoor BBQs, the fun police arrived and ordered them outside, which was obviously a massive inconvenience for the time-poor chefs.

Just as things couldn’t get any worse for Matt, the pressure cooker started playing up, meaning that the goat bones he had just chucked in there would either need to be cooked in separate smaller units, or the several men flapping around the machine would need to find a way to fix it. Fortunately, they did, and things were starting to look up. As ‘Jerusalem’ began to play for the ladies at the banquet, Richard was frantically rushing around theGreat British Menu 2015 kitchen trying to plate up his starter. The song felt like some sort of countdown to the chaos.

Barking orders to the chefs and the front of house staff, Richard started to think aloud how he wished someone else would have won a course at the banquet. Drama aside, the responses were all very positive, Prue saying that the meal was “better than what he served at the finals”.

Michael was the only one who seemed cool and collected throughout the experience. Taking three and a half hours to create 60 canvases, he was able to start cooking with only a couple of hours to go until service.

Recruiting the others to help spray-paint his boards, Matt had a whale of a time, thinking about the “misspent youth” he had whilst graffiti-ing with dashi sauce. Greeted with a surge of gasps and “wow”s, Michael’s take on fish and chips had ladies taking out their phones for a quick picture before diving into the artistic meal. Great British Menu 2015

Presenting his story book before the meal, the guests were saddened by Matt’s story behind the ‘wasted’ billy goats, destroyed at birth. With everyone on board, Matt was eager to serve his dish to the ladies with impeccable standards while it was still warm, however the service was just not fast enough, putting pressure on the chef.

Thankfully, the meals were delivered on time, and Daniel Clifford, the judge from London and the South East, was astounded by the talent, commenting “it’s the greatest dish I have ever tasted on Great British Menu”. After an astounding meal, who wouldn’t want to sip a lovely Victoria sponge cocktail?

Richard chose to serve those first; the 280 bottles that Prue and his family helped to label earlier in the day. “It really reminds Great British Menu 2015me of my childhood” was just one of the passing comments regarding the amazing trifle that 100% hit the brief. As the last episode of the series came to an end, I felt a mixture of satisfaction and sadness. For the last 9 weeks my evenings had been consumed with consommés, purees and a variety of confit meats, and suddenly it was all at an end. Until next year that is.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2015

Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: Finals week