Great British Menu 2018 blog by Cameron Huck – North West heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2018

The Great British Menu is back and the contestants this week are from the North West. The chefs have begun the battle to get the chance to cook at a banquet honouring 70 years of the NHS.

Entering the kitchen this week is Liam Simpson-Trotman who is co-owner of Orwells Restaurant, Craig Sherrington, chef-proprietor of Virginia House and Ellis Barrie, chef and co-owner of The Marram Grass.

The seventh week of the Great British Menu had the chefs from the North West battling it out to get a place in the regional final on Friday. Judging them this week and looking for perfection in their dishes was veteran chef Michael O’Hare.

Ellis Barrie of The Marram Grass started the week off with a dish dedicated to the founder of the NHS, Aneurin Bevan. Based on a Welsh breakfast, Ellis made a potato and leek gratin, cheddar and charcoal shards a potato tuille and smoked potato puree in his multi-element dish called ‘From the Coal Came a Good Egg’.

From the coal

>>> See recipes from Ellis Barrie here


Liam Simpson-Trotman, the partner of Ryan Simpson-Trotman who competed in the competitions Central stage, made a dish that was a tribute to his mum’s chicken soup that she made when he was sick. Called ‘Get the Soup On, Don’ it was made of a chicken, mushroom and sweetcorn soup served alongside a boudin blanc and chicken skin.

Get the soup on Don

>>> See recipes from Liam Simpson-Trotman here


Craig Sherrington from Virginia House made a dish inspired by the ready meals his wife would take to work when she did night shifts at the NHS. An unusual dish made of a risotto partnered with maple-glazed chicken wings, madras sauce and a Thai-inspired consommé it was unusual, to say the least.

There goes the bleep again

>>> See recipes from Craig Sherrington here


When Michael gave the chefs feedback he was clear in stating he was looking for dishes that excited him. Ellis’ dish looked good and Michael enjoyed the smoked potato puree but found the proportions of the dish to be off and there was not to be enough truffle in this celebratory dish.

Liam was praised for his soup and Michael said the chicken skin was incredible, but it was too small a portion.

Michael loved Craig’s connection to the brief in his dish and wanted to love it, but didn’t. The flavour combinations didn’t work for Michael and he found the consommé too strong.

This feedback was reflected in the scores. Ellis scored a 7, Liam a 6 and Craig a 5.

Day 2 for the North West chefs meant it was time for the fish course and all of them had a point to prove. Veteran judge Michael O’Hare demanded excellence from them after an underwhelming set of starters and the chefs were keen to impress.
Liam took inspiration from his grandma who had always told him to have a fish oil a day and a bit of fish each week. For his dish, ‘One a Day’, he served up cured cod with an anchovy mayonnaise and caramelised cauliflower alongside several other elements in his clean dish.

One a Day

Craig was trailing after the starters and hoped his dish that was inspired by his friend, a head chef in the NHS, would be enough to get him into the lead. Made up of pan-fried mackerel, a cockle emulsion, brown shrimp butter and brown bread tuilles, he was hoping to really utilise the best of the Morecambe seaside in his dish that was called ‘In It for the Long Trawl’.

In it for the long trawl

Ellis was in the lead after day one a wanted to maintain his lead with his dish, ‘53rd Millionth Baby’. His complex dish was made up of three main components, a mackerel mousse, tartare and cured in rum, then blowtorched. He served it alongside a kohlrabi tagliatelle and beetroot jelly.

53rd million baby


Once all the dishes had been served it was time for the feedback and scores. Michael found Liam’s dish to be clean and inviting and that the cod was spot on in its cooking. However, it needed more anchovy mayo and a better, more obvious link to the brief.

Craig received high praise for his dish, which Michael called a ‘joy to look at and a pleasure to eat’, and that the dish itself reminded him of the seaside.

Michael enjoyed Ellis’ heartfelt message and how all the main elements were cooked but found the rum cured mackerel had too much rum flavour and the tagliatelle was far too long.

This led on to the scores, Liam was given an 8, Ellis a 7 and Craig a 10! The first 10 of the week no less! 

It was the main course in the Great British Menu and therefore the chefs knew they would have to give their A game to get ahead, especially as there was only one point in it.

Craig, who was still riding the high from his 10 in the fish course, hoped his multisensory dish ‘A Sense of Occasion’ would maintain his position at the top. It was a classically inspired dish made up of a Dexter beef fillet, braised shin of beef wrapped in savoy cabbage and a pithivier was designed to involve every sense. He served it with the guests being blindfolded to heighten the impact on their other senses.

A sense of occaison

Liam, who had struggled throughout the week to successfully link his courses to the brief, hoped to rectify this with his dish ‘Memories of Home’. Caribbean inspired it involved a lamb rump, scrag end, orange sweet potato puree and roasted white sweet potato.

Memories of home

Ellis had given himself a lot to do with all his dishes prior to the main course and this was no exception. Called ‘The Pig investment 1948’, it had 10 elements in this ambitious dish. Four cuts of suckling pig were involved, pressure cooked shoulder and belly, roasted rack and pork neck wrapped in water pastry were served with a yeast puree. Ellis also made a chicken and pork jus that was cooled and shaped into a coin for the guests to meltdown at the table and pour over their plates.

Pig Investment


Michael was looking for excellence with these dishes and his exacting standards did not waver. He was impressed by the cooking of Craig’s beef but was disappointed by the fact the dish was supposed to be multi-sensory but involved a blindfold which removed the sense of sight.

Liam had a much better link to the brief in his main, but Michael found the sauce to be unrefined and 'frankly a bit gloopy'.
Michael appreciated the amount of work Ellis does put in but thought that he should rein it in a bit to make sure everything is of a high quality.

All the chefs had mixed days which was echoed in the scores, all the chefs received a seven. This means that there still is only one point separating the chefs going into the desserts round.

The dessert course

The fourth day of the Great British Menu for the North Western chefs was dessert day. It was incredibly tight with the only one point separating the chefs.

Craig’s dish was a homage to the NHS staff who sacrifice their major holidays to help look after people. It took the most festive of puddings, the Christmas pudding and reinvented it for the banquet setting and was named ‘The Missed Celebration’.. Craig made a brandy syrup sponge, brandy crème anglasie and a Christmas pudding ice cream for what could be his final dish of the week.

missed celebration

Ellis, never one to shy away from giving himself a mountainous workload, wanted to make a dish to thank the NHS staff who helped to save his brother’s life. To do this he made a tempered white chocolate sphere filled with a saffron custard, which he served on top of a yuzu gel, honeycomb and a nectarine sorbet for his dish named ‘Worth Their Weight in Gold’.

Liam, the only one of the chefs who specialised in pastry made his dish ‘Not So Hot Toddy’ in honour of his friend who is a paramedic for the NHS. It was made of two main elements, a honey ice cream, made from Liam’s own bees honey and a giant macaron filled with lemon curd and a cream cheese filling. He served it on top of whisky gel.

In what was the chefs last attempts to wow Michael, the chefs knew they would have to make something excellent to get through.

not so hot toddy

Craig, with his festive dessert was praised for the technical parts of his dish, the sponge was very good as was the ice cream, but he was penalised for how the message of the dish could remind the banquet guests of the holidays they missed instead of being thank you.

Ellis’ dish truly meant a lot to him and that came across, Michael loved the dish and praised Ellis for the technical prowess shown in the dish.

worth their weight in gold

Liam was commended for the vibrant colour of his macaron and the taste of his honey ice cream, however, Michael didn’t find it to be enough of a show stopping dish to bookend the banquet.

After that all that was left was for the chefs to receive their scores. Ellis went straight through, scoring a magnificent 10, making his final score 31, for his dish and was accompanied by Craig who ended up scoring 30 overall. This meant that Liam was eliminated after he scored an 8, meaning he finished the week on a 29.

North West regional final

The regional final of the Great British Menu pitted Craig Sherrington up against Ellis Barrie to find out who would be going to the national finals.

Joining the esteemed panel of judges was Dr Jake Dunning who worked in West Africa during the Ebola virus outbreak. He was hoping for exciting, contrasting dishes that represent the NHS.

Both chefs had been disappointed with their starters scores earlier in the week and were hoping to impress this time around. Craig had a dish of two halves, both equally tasty but not compatible.

Ellis adapted his dish, by making his welsh cake a bit smaller and the judges heaped praised on the dish.

Craig had scored the first 10 of the week with his fish course ‘In It for the Long Trawl’, and wanted to replicate that score. The judges, particularly Matthew Fort, loved the dish and how it reminded them of the seaside.

Ellis’ fish course was in contrast scored a 7, and he hoped to elevate his dish. He added a beetroot bread to try and balance out some of the flavours, but the judges found it rather dense.

Both chefs received a 7 for their mains so they knew they would have to nail the dish to have a chance of getting through.  Craig changed his dish slightly by putting his beef shin inside tis pithier, hoping it would make the pastry less dry. He needn’t have feared as the judges adored his dish and the message behind it.

Ellis had trouble getting his jus coin to melt in the week, so he made it smaller and placed burners on the tables for the judges to melt them in. Despite the theatricality of his dish, the judges were not big fans of it, finding it looked better than it tasted.

Last course was the dessert. Craig with his festive dessert had been executed well but had not scored as many points because it was not necessarily a dish celebrating the NHS. The judges enjoyed it but found the sponge a bit dull.

Ellis had wowed Michael with his highly unusual and equally technical dessert, scoring a 10. The judges however were not as big fans, with Andi not enjoying the saffron custard.

Once the last dish ahd been eaten all that was left was to find out who had gone through. Remarkably, both chefs scored exactly the same and so both went through!

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th September 2018

Great British Menu 2018 blog by Cameron Huck – North West heat