Great British Menu 2016 Blog by Jenna Lloyd - The North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th October 2016

This week on Great British Menu 2016, three chefs from the North East were hoping to impress veteran judge Tom Aikens. Tom is the youngest British two Michelin star chef and a former Banquet champion.

Another young chef who works in a Michelin star restaurant, Tommy Banks (The Black Swan at Oldstead) was new to the competition this year. Returning chef Mini Patel (The Pointer) was eliminated on the Thursday in the 2015 heat but he was determined that he would make it to the final this year. The third chef, Chris Archer (Cottage in the Woods) was another newcomer to GBM but seemed confident. 

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - starter courseMini’s starter ‘Charity Begins At Home’ was inspired by the Queen’s charity work and also by some time he spent working at a soup kitchen. He was making a guinea fowl broth/consommé with white port, chicken stock, white wine and vegetables. The heat was on – judge Tom Aikens got a nine for his Banquet starter and that too was a consommé. Mini also made spheres from the thigh meat of the guinea fowl, blanched vegetables and some reduced broth. These would be served chilled, and would release when the hot broth was poured over the top. With the broth would be an aerated celeriac puree, black truffle and pan fried porcini mushrooms.

 A rather whimsical addition to his dish, Mini made rarebit ‘toasties’ – combining Cheviot & Reiver cheeses with cream, Worcester sauce, mustard, North East brown ale and truffle. He sandwiched this in white bread, cut them into little shapes and served them on wooden sticks with the dish. Donation pots were also on the side.

>>>Want more cheesy recipes? Click here...

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - guinea fowl starter

Tom loved the way Mini had interpreted the brief and felt the sphere was a nice, contemporary touch. He didn’t like the toastie very much and felt the vegetables were too crispy. While he liked the flavour of the consommé, he didn’t agree so much with the addition of purée.


Tommy Banks Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - starter courseTommy Banks was doing a take on ‘Oeuf Drumkilbo’ for his starter. Rumoured to be a favourite of the Queen mother, the dish is a bit like a prawn cocktail with slow cooked eggs. Tommy was using duck eggs, which he cooked in the water bath for an hour before smoking them with oak woodchips. He was also cooking kohlrabi in butter, which he had grown himself. Tom said he doesn’t like kohlrabi but Tommy didn’t seem phased by this and felt confident in the produce. He made a vinaigrette using rapeseed oil, mustard and chicken stock.  To add acidity to the dish, Tommy pickled thin slices of radish and blanched mustard seeds. Finally, he pan-fried langoustine tails and served it all in a ceramic egg shape dish.

>>>There's some delicious duck egg recipes here...

Tommy Banks Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - starter course

Tom liked the presentation, with the theatre of the wood smoke. He also liked the smokiness of the egg and felt the acidity of the radishes and mustard seeds were a nice touch. He added that he wasn’t expecting the sweetness of the kohlrabi – he had almost been converted! Overall however, Tom felt the dish “lacked finesse.”


Chris Archer - Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - starter courseChris Archer was dedicating his starter to Great British athletes. A keen cyclist himself, his dish was called ‘Gold’ and featured many golden elements including slow cooked egg yolk, golden beetroot consommé and lamb sweetbreads deep fried in curry powder. He too was making a consommé but was trying a very contemporary clarification technique. Chris was using agar, which when hydrated, boiled and added to the liquor is supposed to set like a curd, holding the part you don’t want.

>>>For more consommé recipes, click here...

He managed to get this to work and his consommé came out clear. He added real gold leaf to it before serving in a specially designed terrine, modelled to look like a velodrome. In a separate bowl, Chris served girolle mushrooms glazed in maple syrup, slow cooked egg hen’s egg yolk, cubes of golden beetroot and crispy lamb sweetbreads. A golden cycling trophy was also beside the plate.

Chris Archer - Great British Menu 2016 - North East Heat - starter course

Tom Aikens said that the eggs were perfectly cooked and congratulated Chris on getting the consommé clear. However, a traditionalist at heart, he said that the agar didn’t show enough skill. He wanted more crispness from the sweetbreads and more acidity to bring the dish together. He also added that he didn’t quite understand the story.

Tom scored Chris and Mini six eight, and gave Tommy an eight. He said he expects to see more skill, and wants to see a ten from the next course!

Tommy Banks was out in the lead after a rather impressive round of starters from the North East chefs. Chris and Mini were in joint second and Tom Aikens was expecting big things from the “world-renowned fish” we have here in Britain.

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

Tommy’s dish ‘Preserving the Future’ was to shine a light on British produce, not just the mackerel he was using but also a rather unique herb, some sweet woodruff. He described it as a ‘spicy’ flavour but one that can be used in desserts, a bit like Tonka bean or vanilla.  Tommy featured different preserving techniques in the dish – curing the mackerel and fermenting some dragon’s egg cucumbers.

As he is allergic to oysters, he had chosen to use oyster leaf instead as the next best thing. He was also making a linseed cracker from linseed that his Dad grew. A frugal chef, Tommy used the fish trimmings to make a mackerel tartare. For acidity, he made a vinegar liquor with the woodruff, red wine, sugar and cloves. He added some gellan gum and water to it before chilling to make a gel. Just before serving, Tommy scorched his mackerel fillets with a blowtorch. First on to the plate was ewe’s milk yoghurt, followed by the fillets, seed pods from the oyster leaf plant, the tartare, the fermented cucumber, oyster leaves and dew drops of the vinegar gel. He topped it with the linseed cracker and served a Woodruff Beer on the side.

>>> Westlands have lots of different micro leaves available!

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

Judge Tom said that the tartare was a touch under-seasoned. He had been worried about the acidity levels of the dish, but said that ultimately the flavours worked well together. He thought that the gel in particular was excellent and that a lot of thought, care and attention had gone into Tommy’s very original fish course.


Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

Mini Patel was hoping to improve on his previous appearance, having received a five for his fish course last year. ‘Little Fish, Big Fish’ was a tribute to North East landscape architecture and the idea of the eventual success of someone who starts out small.  He had chosen very similar ingredients to Tommy – curing and lightly blowtorching his mackerel. He diced the tail, almost like tartare and added it to diced shallots, gherkins and capers.  

To the ‘tartare’, Mini added horseradish, crème fraiche, lemon and parsley. Using a more contemporary technique, he compressed cucumbers, before scorching those too. His pickling liquor had a golden beetroot base. The final and rather unusual accompaniment to the dish was a savory sorbet made from red beetroots. Mini juiced them before reducing them, then he added liquid glucose, malic acid and transferred them to an ice cream maker. These were served on a cold Perspex presentation box with illustrations of well-known Northern architecture. He garnished the dish with nasturtium leaves, beetroot powder, radish seedlings and lemon oil dressing.

>>> Click here for more beetroot recipes...

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

Tom Aikens said that after yesterday, Mini needed to come back fighting and he did with this dish. He called nearly every component “faultless” apart from the scorched cucumbers, which he said could have done with a touch more seasoning.

Chris Archer - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

On Monday, Tom had said that he didn’t really get Chris’ story behind his dish. He was hoping that ‘The Beautiful Briny Sea’ – an homage to British fisherman – would show a stronger link to the brief. Chris was attempting a more refined take on the humble British classic, fish and chips.  He made ‘langoustine bonbons’ – a fishcake-style combination of pan-fried langoustine tails, baked potato flesh, ketchup and parsley that were then deep fried. Another fried element to the dish, Chris was making beer battered ‘scraps’. He wanted to create a “pleasurable seawater jelly” using oyster juice, fish stock and fish sauce. He boiled the three together before seasoning with fresh lemon juice and setting w agar.

Tom Aikens was horrified to find out that Chris was throwing away the actual oyster itself! He made a luxury tomato sauce by roasting langoustine shells with shallots, carrots and tomatoes. Chris reduced the sauce down before finishing it with butter and a bit of store-bought ketchup! Another classic element of the dish that he was hoping to refine, mushy peas or “Yorkshire caviar” as he called it. Chris started with softened shallots and garlic, then added frozen peas, vinegar, fresh cream and pea puree. Finally, he added chop chives and parsley to season. The majority of the dish was served on a fish-shaped plate, with the ‘bonbons’ on a separate presentation box resembling a wooden crate.

>>> You can find more turbot recipes here...

Chris Archer - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - fish course

Because of Tommy’s allergies, he couldn’t sample the dish. Mini was unimpressed that the oysters weren’t present in the dish, but he did like the sauce. Tom said that he could see how Chris had tried to elevate the dish and liked the bonbons and the ketchup. He did however call it “sacrilege” that Chris had thrown away the oysters and felt that overall, the dish lacked originality.

All three chefs were particularly nervous about the scores, especially Chris who said: “I just served fish and chips to Tom Aikens!”. He seemed to be quite impressed by both Tommy and Mini, scoring them a rather generous nine each but he only gave Chris a seven for his fish and chips.


Last night’s episode of Great British Menu started on a rather sad note. We were informed that Chris Archer had been taken ill and couldn’t continue in the competition. This left Mini Patel and Tommy Banks competing for the North East. With only two points in it and Tom Aikens still wanting to see a ten, things were pretty tense!

Chris Archer ill - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course

Sargeant Johnson Beharry - gallantry medal - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course

Mini’s main course was called ‘The Gallant and Brave’ – a tribute to British servicemen and women and civilians who have been awarded the Queen’s Gallantry medal. Mini met one such person, Sergeant Johnson Beharry who had to undergo emergency brain surgery when injured in the line of duty. An explosive device hit Johnson’s truck and despite sustaining serious brain injuries, he managed to drive his fellow soldiers to safety before being taken for surgery. Sgt Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2005.

The star of Mini’s dish to honour such heroes was a rack of venison. He slow cooked the venison in the water bath, vacuum packed with butter, fresh herbs and juniper berries. He was also making a venison ‘bun’ combining the mince with diced shallots garlic, chicken livers, port and spices. He made the mixture into balls before wrapping them in cabbage and caul fat. Tom Aikens seemed unimpressed by the caul fat, as it can be a risky ingredient to work with.

Mini braised the parcels in stock, then left them to cool before finally wrapping them in puff pastry ready for cooking just before service. Mini also made a ‘savoury granola’ to accompany the dish from oats, seeds, nuts and curry spices. Tom reminded him that he too had made a savoury granola on the show and it was “really, really good”! Mini honey roasted parsnip rings and made a sticky red cabbage, braising it with dried cranberries and grated apple in red wine vinegar, port and red wine. He seasoned this and sweetened it.

>>> Looking for more cabbage recipes? Click here... 

Mini Patel Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course venison

To finish the venison, Mini braised it in a pan with lots of butter, garlic and thyme. He then brushed it with Dijon mustard and rolled it in a pistachio crumb. Mini had specially commissioned Gallantry medal plates and served his meat, granola, parsnips and parsnip puree, venison ‘bun’, pickled chicory rounds and a rich red wine sauce. He put the plates in special medal presentation boxes.

>>> See more venison recipes here...

He was a bit worried about how rare the venison was and expressed concerns about the ‘soggy bottom’ in the bun. Tommy tried to console him: “Tom Aikens might like a soggy bottom!”

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course venison

Tom really liked the story and the different flavours in Mini’s dish. He said the granola was definitely as good as his own. He did however point out the same faults that Mini had noticed – the venison needed more resting and the pastry in the bun was undercooked.


Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course lovageTommy’s dish was called ‘Beef at the Cutting Edge’. He was cooking a Wagyu/Angus cross sirloin raised in his neighbour’s garden. He said he didn’t want the animal too have “died in vain”, slow cooking it in the water bath and then sealing it on an indoor barbecue. Tommy was also cooking bone marrow, chopping it and combining with fresh herbs before returning it to the bone to roast. Tommy was making a lovage and garlic emulsion. He started by blanching the lovage in boiling water, then blended it with grape seed oil at a low temperature. He then passed the lovage through a fine cloth to get the oil. Combining mustard and wild garlic caper brine with a chicken reduction, he then whisked in the lovage oil to make a lovage/garlic emulsion.

>>> More lovage recipes here...

Tommy’s starter was criticised for not packing enough flavour. He was hoping to correct this with the main, serving hen of the woods mushrooms, wild garlic seed pods and Primo cabbage hearts. He had brought nasturtium flowers from home and used these as a garnish. Just before service, he brushed the bone marrow with beef fat, glazed his mushrooms with chicken stock and finished caramelising his cabbage in butter. Tommy served it all on one plate, except the bone marrow which he served on miniature hay bales. He presented Tom and Mini with Sheffield steel knives to eat the beef with – a traditional thing in Yorkshire.

>>> Click here for lots of ideas using Scotch beef...

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - main course beef

Tom had very high expectations for this dish and he was not disappointed. He said that Tommy’s beef was very nice, it “cut like butter”. He complimented the strong flavour combinations but felt that the cabbage was the only thing that didn’t have enough seasoning.


Tom awarded Tommy a nine and Mini a seven. He said he still wanted to see a ten and that both chefs are “very capable of doing it”. Both chefs seemed annoyed that the smaller elements had let them down. 

After Chris’ shock departure earlier in the week, the North East heat had become a head to head between Mini and Tommy. Although this meant that both were guaranteed to cook for the judges, it was still tough. Both chefs still really wanted a ten from Tom Aikens!

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course meringue

Mini’s dessert ‘Exploring New Frontiers’ celebrated the exploration and conquering of Mount Everest. A special moment in British history for a team of Brits and one New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary. Mini incorporated this into his dish in a bit of a playful way with English blackberries and a kiwi! These would be used in two fruit sorbets. He was making a mountain from dehydrated meringue shards and made a second glossy Italian meringue. Some of the blackberries, Mini served compressed and he added the others (in the form of a coulis) into a crème patissiere. He made a soil from yuzu, white chocolate and cocoa butter.

He served all of his components (albeit a few minutes late) on chilled slate and filled a glass cloche with a smoke of dried lavender, juniper berries and peppermint oil. He dusted matcha tea powder around the edge of the slate and for some reason, had changed the name of his dish to ‘Breaking New Frontiers’.

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course meringueMini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course meringue

Tom loved the story and the presentation but he said that unfortunately the smoke had overpowered everything. It had “completely destroyed” the kiwi sorbet. He also said that Mini should have served more meringue – it was more of a “molehill” than a mountain!

>>> Click here for more meringue recipes...


Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course tuileTommy’s dessert was called ‘My Great Briton’ and it was a tribute to his late grandfather. Fred Banks was a big figurehead in the local community and was responsible for looking after the Kilburn White Horse – a structure built into the side of a hill. Tommy really admired him and the way he looked after people and so this was a very important dish for him. He was using Douglas fir in several elements in his dish, making a parfait and a sherbet and including it in a sour cocktail.

He set himself the challenge of making a lemon verbena curd, vinegar and gel. The lemon verbena also went in the cocktail. Tommy was really trying to perfect his white chocolate tuile – he remade it three times as he was desperate to score a ten for this dish! Another element of the dish was a ewe’s milk yogurt sorbet. There were a lot of elements to this contemporary dessert.

>>> More lemon recipes here...

When he served, he brought out a bonsai fir inspired by the site, this was surrounded by smoke and the lights were then dimmed. A recording of Tommy’s grandfather talking about the White Horse structure played to the chefs and you could see that Mini and Tom were very moved by this.

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course lemon verbenaTommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course lemon verbena

Tom loved the theatrics, particularly the voiceover and said that each component was perfectly executed. It was clear that the dish meant a lot to Tommy and it showed great skill. For this reason, Tom awarded it a ten.

Mini Patel Tommy Banks Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - dessert course scores

This also meant that the North East chefs had achieved the joint highest combined score across the week in GBM history! Both will cook for the judges tonight and both are very excited.

I’m really not sure who’s going to win at this point!

The guest judge on GBM this week was The Ritz London chef John Williams. They’ve recently been awarded a Michelin star this year and John knows all about cooking for royalty! The Ritz is the only hotel in the country with a royal warrant for banqueting. 

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging starter

Despite some very high scores, Tommy Banks was not getting complacent just yet. He told the audience that: “Mini’s got stronger every day this week” so he wasn’t about to sit back and relax! Despite Tom Aikens' comment that Tommy’s starter was ‘lacking finesse’, he was not making any changes to it. Oeufs Drumkilbo is renowned as a royal favourite – John Williams has cooked this dish for the Queen Mother. He said that Tommy’s sauce needed a bit of acidity to it.


Mini on the other hand was making significant changes to his dish because of Tom’s criticism. He had decided to get rid of celeriac and add a chilled egg yolk puree instead. He was also adding guinea fowl breast to the bowl and served his broth in a soup tin to make it feel more ‘humble’. Matthew and John were unimpressed with what they called the “yellow scum” on the top. Oliver said he loved the smells but the dish simply wasn’t posh enough. Prue liked how it was a fitting tribute to charitable organisations.

 Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging starter

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging fish

Tommy made sure that he put extra seasoning on the tartare for his fish course this time. The judges were slightly torn on this one – Prue called the mackerel ‘delicious’ but Oliver and Matthew felt he had overcomplicated the dish with the flavour combinations. Oliver even called it “cheffy”.

Mini was feeling the pressure. His fish course scored him a nine from Tom Aikens – his highest mark of the week. He was taking on board what Tom had said about seasoning though and put more seasoning on his cucumbers and made his tartare more ‘horseradishy’. Prue said that this worked well with the mackerel and John was very complimentary of the beetroot sorbet.

 Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging main

Mini was making more changes with his main. He took off the kale and some other leaves and decided not to put the pistachio crust on his venison. He also made sure not to leave too much pastry on the bottom of his ‘buns’, as this had caused a soggy bottom the first time round. The judges really liked the dish overall but Oliver rightfully pointed out that it was rather classic, not cutting edge.

Tommy was also leaving his main, despite being told that it too lacked seasoning. Oliver Peyton was very impressed that Tommy had managed to make a beef dish look pretty. Matthew said that all of the components were great but they were all more interesting than the beef.

 Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging dessert

Mini was nervous having had some difficulty with his dessert earlier in the week. The smoke that he piped onto the dish, Tom and he both agreed had overpowered the food. He was making a last minute addition of blackberry coulis for the dish but sadly nothing could save it from the smoke. Prue and Oliver both commented that the smoke was a bad decision. Despite being theatrical, the flavours had tainted the other parts of the dessert.

Tommy’s dessert was awarded the only ten of the week. His dramatic presentation with his grandfather’s voice recording impressed the panel but then they had to chuckle when the actual dessert was brought out and it was rather small in comparison! All of the judges were very complimentary about this dish, particularly the lemon verbena and Douglas fir flavours and the crunchy tuille.

Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging dessert

They finally chose Tommy as a deserving winner of the heat but mentioned that Mini’s fish course was high achiever too. With tears in his eyes, Tommy said that he was so happy to have received all tens for his dessert and he hopes to take it to the Banquet for his grandfather.

 Tommy Banks - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging dessert scoring

Mini Patel - Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat - judging fish scores

>>> Read our interviews with the three North West chefs here

                                               >>> Read more about Great British Menu 2016 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th October 2016

Great British Menu 2016 Blog by Jenna Lloyd - The North East heat