Great British Menu 2017 Blog by Monica Turnbull - Central heat

The Staff Canteen

The central heat of the Great British Menu 2017 got off to a creative start as the contestants cooked up a culinary storm, including an amusing take on the unpredictable British Weather.

The Great British Menu 2017 contestants for the central round of the competition are former Junior Chef of the Year, Nick Deverell-Smith, of The Churchill Arms. He is joined by head chef at Murano restaurant, returning contestant Pip Lacey, who used to work as a graphic designer (quite the career change!) and chef proprietor of Orwells restaurant, Ryan Simpson.

The chefs are cooking dishes to meet a ‘taste of summer’ brief and be in with the chance of serving their food at a banquet celebrating 140 years of the Wimbledon Championships. The chefs are being scored this week by competition veteran Richard Bainbridge, who beat contestant Pip Lacey two years ago.

>>> Related: Pip Lacey, Head Chef, Murano

First to serve was Ryan with his dish Summer Fruit & Veg. The dish, which was unusually served in a poly tunnel, consisted of cannelloni – made of pastry instead of pasta – stuffed with a cream and goat cheese mix and wrapped in a tomato jelly mix. The cannelloni was wrapped in a very technical tomato gel which included two types of seaweed: one to stiffen the jelly and one to keep it flexible. Richard was impressed with Ryan’s technical skills.

Ryan hit a winner for his presentation with the chefs and Richard, who is owner and chef of Benedict’s restaurant. The only criticism of the dish was with the cannelloni. The chefs thought that there was an overload of goat cheese!

Ryan Simpson, Great British Menu 2017
Ryan Simpson presents his Summer Fruit & Veg dish to veteran judge, Richard Bainbridge

>>> 10 minutes with: Ryan Simpson, Orwells

Next to the pass was Nick with a very green offering inspired by the courts at Wimbledon. The Grass Is Always Cut To 8mm had a base of pea mousse topped with lemon-infused, roasted asparagus, wild asparagus, mangetout slices and skinned peas. To finish he added edible violas and pea shoots in Wimbledon colours.

Richard appreciated the elegant presentation but unfortunately the peas didn’t please. The mousse, which was perfectly set, was described as grainy. Oh dear…

Last to plate up was Pip with her refined take on minestrone soup inspired by the unpredictable British weather. Whatever The Weather combined Wimbledon coloured ravioli, deep fried tomatoes soaked in honey-marinade and summer vegetables in a tennis ball shaped bowl. She topped with a tomato gel canopy and accompanied with a watering can of tomato rain.The chefs exclaimed “wow” when they tried the soup though Richard had questions about the gel canopy.

Pip Lacey's Whatever The Weather, Great British Menu 2017
Pip Lacey's Whatever The Weather

When the scores were announced it was Pip’s summery soup that came away with the high points. She scored nine. Ryan was awarded eight points and Nick seven as Richard said it didn’t have the wow factor which he was looking for.

With just two points in it, it’s all to play for in the next set.

The Great British Menu contestants 2017 felt the shark bite during the fish course round of the central heat as veteran Richard Bainbridge dished out the scores.

The chefs are cooking for a chance to serve their dishes, all with a ‘taste of summer’, at a Great British menu banquet celebrating 140 years of the Wimbledon Championships.

Last night saw returning contestant Pip Lacey, head chef at Angela Hartnett’s restaurant Murano, serve a questionable lobster, strawberries and champagne dish named By The Courtside. Pip, who was knocked out of the competition two years ago by Richard, struggled with her lobster during cooking as it stuck to the shell and received raised eyebrows as she took, what looked like, burnt strawberries out of the oven.

Pip Lacey, Great British Menu 2017
Pip's strawberries for her dish, By The Courtside

However when it was plated up on a comical toy tennis court, the fun dish received laughs from Richard, who is chef proprietor at Benedicts restaurant, and the other chefs. The lobster was said to be cooked well, however Richard didn’t enjoy the strawberries or lovage, which he admitted he doesn’t like.

>>> Get the recipe for Pip's By The Courtside here

First-time contestant Ryan Simpson also cooked lobster for his fish dish but in a very different style. Come Rain Or Shine was a tribute to the British tradition of having a summer barbecue no matter what the weather! Ryan, who owns Orwells restaurant, served a ‘barbecued’ lobster, which was, in fact, blanched, smothered in barbecue sauce, placed in chargrilled shells and blow torched. He served this with six-step chips, lemon infused salad and lobster mayonnaise. It certainly sounds mouth-watering…

Richard was impressed with the presentation – it was all served on a mini barbecue – but wasn’t hooked on the six-step chips, which he described as “like a spring roll.” Fair enough. The chefs liked the lobster but weren’t convinced by the chips either and said they would give the dish seven points.

Chef Nick Deverell-Smith hoped his fishy take on afternoon would impress Richard however his scones unfortunately weren’t a show stopper. Nick, who owns The Churchill Arms restaurant, served white crab meat and avocado cream, crab scones and spicy chilli jam on grass covered tennis racquets. In a quirky touch, the chefs were also given a white headband to wear while eating the dish.

Nick Deverell-Smith, Great British Menu 2017
Nick Deverell-Smith's Cross Court Crab

The chefs thought that the crab was cooked perfectly and Ryan described it as “moreish”. However Richard thought that the crab scones were too dense. The dish received top points for presentation and was said to completely hit the taste of summer brief.

There were shock waves when Richard announced the scores. Ryan came out on top with nine points for his lobster dish. Pip was left stunned when Richard gave her a score of seven and Nick was left disappointed with a score of six.

The chefs may be despondent now but the competition is set to be fierce when the chefs return to the kitchen tonight!

From a ploughman’s platter to a bird of prey, the Great British Menu contestants 2017 turned up the heat in the kitchen in the hope of being crowned a Wimbledon champion.

The Great British Menu central contestants have had a tense rally so far this week as they play for the chance to serve their food at a banquet celebrating 140 years of the Wimbledon Championships. Veteran Richard Bainbridge, of Benedicts restaurant, has proven to be a tough judge and has given a mixed bag of scores so far.

Pip Lacey, head chef at Angela Harnett’s restaurant, Murano, was left despondent after her fish dish flopped. She was determined to regain the lead with her main course.

Game, Set & Match Rufus was a tribute to Wimbledon’s resident hawk. Rufus helps to protect the club’s courts by keeping them clear of pigeon’s. To pay homage to the trusty bird, Pip served barbecued pigeon with blackberries, cabbage and fennel coleslaw. This was placed on a tray decorated with grass and brambles, and a charming pigeon and summer cup pie served in a tiny picnic basket.

There were questions over the barbecue flavour of the pigeon and Richard thought that the coleslaw should be more refined. The adorable little pie was a hit too with the chefs enjoying the fruity flavour.

Pip Lacey's Game, Set & Match Rufus, Great British Menu 2017
Pip Lacey's Game, Set & Match Rufus

Ryan Simpson, owner of Orwells restaurant, was given nine points for his fish course and was determined to maintain the same standard with his main. Ploughman’s And A Pint was a summer feast of beer glazed ham hock, sourdough crisps, cheese sauce and piccalilli.

The risky pickle was quite a feat for Ryan who whipped it up in a day! Unfortunately it was said to have a sharp flavour. Thankfully the ham hock was cooked perfectly.Owner of The Churchill Arms, Nick Deverell-Smith, sadly missed the brief with his venison dish. When Two Stags Lock Horns consisted of juniper crusted venison, artichoke puree, garlic cabbage, honey-glazed carrots and a chive and garlic butter.

The dish didn’t look summery but Nick had cooked the venison perfectly – it cut like butter. The blueberry sauce was said to be a tad too sweet. The chefs praised Nick’s cooking highly, saying they would score him an eight for that alone, however they said they would give him a seven for hitting the brief. The dish was very autumnal.

Nick Deverell-Smith, Great British Menu 2017
Nick Deverell-Smith

The atmosphere was serious as Richard gave his feedback. When he announced the scores there were smiles and frowns. Pip was elated to take the lead as she was awarded nine points. Ryan was given seven points putting him in second place. Nick was also given seven points and remained in third place, admitting that he missed the brief.

Richard, who has served his own dessert at a Great British Menu banquet, is expecting great things from the contestants tonight. This is an incredibly tough week in the kitchen!

There was sweet success for two Great British Menu 2017 contestants as the central heat of the competition reached a dramatic climax.

It’s been a rollercoaster in the Great British Menu kitchen as the competitors battled it out for a place to cook at the Wimbledon banquet. Competition veteran Richard Bainbridge, of Benedicts restaurant, has had tough decisions to make when dishing out the scores.

Ryan Simpson, Great British Menu 2017
Ryan Simpson, Great British Menu 2017 

First time competitor Nick Deverill, of The Churchill Arms, took a risk by creating his own spin on the classic dessert rice pudding and a tribute to the pineapple on top of the Wimbledon mens’ singles trophy be-cous he could… sorry. Nick used cous cous instead of rice in his dish named And The Winner Is… He also included a boozy element by adding spiced, soaked pineapple. This was accompanied by vanilla and rum cream and toffee popcorn. It was served inside a decorative pineapple.

Richard enjoyed the flavours, saying it was “the perfect level of sweetness” and the chefs enjoyed the cous cous which they said was a nice change from traditional rice.
Returning contestant Pip Lacey, head chef at Angela Hartnett’s restaurant Murano, was determined to secure her place in the regional final with her dessert. Pip served rum and pineapple punch, coriander semifreddo, chargrilled pineapple and fresh pineapple. She topped with pineapple sorbet and pineapple and coriander crisps.

Pip Lacey, Great British Menu 2017
Why The Pineapple?

Why The Pineapple? Came with a cute little note asking diners to pour the punch ‘over the golden grill’ which created theatre as dry icyspilled out of the presentation box. Despite the wow factor from the theatrics, the chefs still found fault with Pip’s dessert: the semifreddo was not set enough.

Ryan Simpson, owner of Orwells restaurant, opted to pay tribute to the endangered honey bee and use his homemade honey. Reap The Rewards included strawberry puree, freeze-dried strawberry powder and sweet and sour strawberries on honeycomb boxes. He added honeycomb and light honey puddings. He finished with a drizzle of honey and quenelles of honey ice cream.

>>> Get Pip's dessert recipe here!

For the second part of his dessert he served strawberry sauce and ice cream cones with homemade flakes in a mini ice cream van.

nick Great British Menu 2017
Nick Deverill, of The Churchill Arms

The chefs liked the subtle flavours of Ryan’s honey ice cream and the crispy cone. They also loved the texture of the pudding. Ryan wanted it to be “like a cloud” and while he said he’d “almost” got it that way, the chefs really enjoyed it.

You could cut the tension with a knife when Richard came to present the scores. He awarded Pip with nine points which sent her straight through to tonight’s regional final. Ryan was given a whopping nine which means he will also cook for the judges tonight. Unfortunately, Nick was given eight points, sending him home, but Richard encouraged him to have another go at the competition next time.

It’s all set to be a heated cook-off tonight!

It was a close call last night as the Great British Menu judges picked their national finalist from the central heat.

Returning Great British Menu contestant 2017 Pip Lacey, head chef at Angela Hartnett’s restaurant Murano, faced Ryan Simpson, chef proprietor of Orwells restaurant.

The contestants were hoping to impress the formidable panel of judges: restaurateur Andi Oliver, food critic Matthew Fort and restaurateur Oliver Peyton OBE. They were joined by guest judge, Paralympian Jordanne Whiley MBE.
The judges didn’t hold back as the competitors recreated their ‘taste of summer’ menus in the hope of hitting the big points and securing their place in the final.

While they liked the presentation of Ryan’s starter, Summer Fruit & Veg, Andi said that she became “bored” with it very quickly and Jordanne was confused with the edible earth, which she said tasted like chocolate cookies.  Ryan’s starter, Summer Fruit & Veg

Ryan Simpson, Great British menu 2017
Ryan Simpson's starter, Summer Fruit & Veg

When Pip’s starter, Whatever The Weather, was placed before them, they lapped it up. Pip, taking heed from veteran Richard Bainbridge, removed the ‘rain canopy’ from the dish (which was supposed to represent the British summer weather) and it seemed to make a huge difference! Jordanne said she could imagine it being eaten at Wimbledon and Andi liked the comical watering can. 

When the fish courses were served Ryan, on Richard’s advice, stepped up his game. His six-step chips had let him down earlier in the week but after chipping away at his technique (pun intended) he managed to impress most of the panel with the unusual take on the potato treat which had previously been likened to a spring roll.

The judges cooed over Pip’s main course, Game, Set & Match Rufus, which is a tribute to the hawk which flies over Wimbledon centre court to keep the pigeon’s away. Andi was impressed with the “lovely” pigeon and Matthew said the pie was an ace and should have been about three times the size!

As the judges struggled to decide between the chefs it all fell to the last serve: dessert.

Pip’s tribute to the pineapple which sits stop the Wimbledon men’s single trophy went down a storm. The judges enjoyed the theatre of the dry ice and the complex flavour of coriander in the semifreddo. Matthew declared it a clever piece of cooking.
Oliver declared Ryan’s homage to the endangered honey bee a brave dessert. They liked the mini ice cream van in which the dessert was presented and Matthew said: “I get a real buzz out of this dessert.” Haha…

After the judges had crunched the numbers they revealed that it was second time lucky for Pip and she had made it to the national final. She was left speechless. Oliver said that he hopes to see Ryan in the competition again after such a close contest.

Pip Lacey, Great British Menu 2017
Pip Lacey

The final is shaping up to be an incredible cook off!

>>>Read more about Great British Menu 2017 here

By Monica Turnbull

Twitter: @Monica_Turnbull

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Editor 19th June 2017

Great British Menu 2017 Blog by Monica Turnbull - Central heat