Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Benedict Reade, Scotland heat

The Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from Scotland: Benedict Reade

This year Benedict Reade from Edinburgh Food Studio takes on Lorna McNee and Ross Bryans in a bid to make it through to the Great British Menu 2018 banquet which celebrates 70 years of the National Health Service. This year’s brief is to create celebratory and heartfelt dishes in tribute to the heroic staff of the NHS.

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Benedict Reade

Having previously held the position of head of research and development at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, it is fair to say that  Benedict Reade knows research, but despite these credentials, Ben hasn't actually seen an episode of Great British Menu before!

Why did you want to be involved in Great British Menu?

I am one for taking opportunities and if someone asks you to do something like that then why not?! I thought it was a great honour to be asked and it’s a wonderful big 'who’s who' of British cooking. How often do you get an opportunity like this?

This years’ theme is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS – how easy was it for you to come up with dishes to be served at the anniversary banquet?

The dishes that I made were not dishes that I have served at the restaurant and they were invented 100% for the competition. The temptation would be to think ‘what can I cook best?’ and then retrofit that to the concept. Instead of doing that, my dishes were very concept-led. I really enjoyed that creative process.

What does the NHS mean to you and how rewarding is it to possibly cook your food for these incredible individuals?

I think every one of us has had some touching involvement with the NHS. It’s so all-encompassing and important – it’s life and death stuff. I have grown up with my mother working for the NHS.

How difficult is it to cook in the Great British Menu kitchen alongside other chefs?

At Edinburgh Food Studio, we host so many chefs - I am quite adaptable so I wasn’t really fazed by cooking with different people. That has probably helped me a lot in this process.

What was the best part about being on Great British Menu 2018?

I have never really competed before and I don’t really have a competitive outlet in my life. Everything that I do tends to be very collaborative, but it was nice to have that outlet and competitive streak. 

Were there any negative parts to being on Great British Menu?

It sounds ridiculous, but I hate staying in hotels – just staying in an anonymous hotel is just a bit shit really. You finish up and go back to your hotel room and you are just ‘uurrggghhh! – now what am I going to do?!’. Plus, it was hard to get away from the restaurant.

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

I’ve got such respect for the judges that I was just very happy to receive that and that I agreed with the critique 100% - I had no issues with being judged. Being judged by a highly-acclaimed industry leader is much more valuable and something to really listen to. It was an amazing opportunity to have frank critique from respected people. That’s a gift.

Were you more nervous about being judged by the veteran chef or the judges?

I am not a nervous person – I will just try my best and see what happens. The most nerve-wracking thing is doing it publicly and being judged by your friends and peers. That to me is the most nerve-wracking part. It’s out there, people are going to watch this and if I make a total arse of myself – everyone is going to know.

Do you have any standout memories during your time on Great British Menu?

Licking Lorna’s plate! It was just so fucking delicious!

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

If they asked back for sure – I loved it. Part of it is the cooking and part of it is the banter. It’s great. It’s fun to be around people who are trying their best who are your colleagues in one sense and your competitors in another. Regardless of how well you do, it’s just great to be up against your peers and have something to measure yourself against. It was just a wonderful experience. You are around people who are trying so hard and putting so much effort in. 

Would you encourage your peers, colleagues and chef friends to take part in a competition like Great British Menu?

Absolutely, I think it’s just a great opportunity to compete with your peers and to be judged by people that you respect and to get some exposure – definitely!

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th August 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Benedict Reade, Scotland heat