Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Chris Harrod, Wales heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2018

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from Wales: Chris Harrod

This year Chris Harrod from The Whitebrook, takes on Jason Hughes and Andrew Sheridan in a bid to make it through to the Great British Menu 2018 banquet which celebrates 70 years of the National Health Service. Chris won the dessert.

Chris Harrod
Chris Harrod

A former protégé of Raymond Blanc, Chris Harrod went on to open Colette’s restaurant at the Grove in Hertfordshire before venturing out with his first restaurant with rooms, The Whitebrook in Monmouthshire, Wales. From the age of seven, Chris – originally from Worcestershire – always knew he wanted to be a chef. Since opening in 2013, The Whitebrook has gone on to achieve numerous awards and accolades including 4 AA rosettes and a Michelin star.

Tucked away in the picturesque Wye Valley, Chris uses his idyllic surroundings to create an array of dishes using only the freshest, foraged ingredients and locally sourced foods to truly capture the immense flavours of the valley.

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

It is a show that I have always watched and wanted to be part of as you are following in the footsteps of some amazing chefs that have taken part in previous shows. It was also a fantastic opportunity to raise my profile and show to a wider audience what we are doing at The Whitebrook.   

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?

Sheer dread at first! Not because of the amazing brief, but how do you tell the story on the plate. My first thought was to go down the route of letting the food be your medicine and the medicinal purposes of wild herbs, but then decided that was not hitting the brief of celebrating the NHS. Then I looked at the history of the NHS and this of course led to Nye Bevan, my initial thoughts were that everybody would choose to honour him. Then further research we found out that not only was he born in Monmouthshire but it was his upbringing in Tredegar that the idea of the NHS germinated, and with The Whitebrook also being in Monmouthshire, it wouldn’t have made sense not to acknowledge him. Therefore I created my menu as a celebration of Monmouthshire.

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

As a chef your biggest inspiration is to give your guests a memorable experience and to make them happy. The NHS is one of the proudest institutions our country has so to be able to have an opportunity to compete to be able to say a big thank you and potentially having an opportunity to cook and meet some of the incredible people would be a really special moment in my career.

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

Going into the Great British Menu kitchen you leave your Michelin star at the door because of the time constraints you are up against it, you cannot cook how you would in your own kitchen, the pressure is on and you are out of your comfort zone. You go in wanting to be practiced to perfection but with the pressure of running my own business I was not as prepared as much as I wanted to be. After the first day you get to know the kitchen so it gets easier as the week goes on. Working alongside the other chefs was a very positive one and we all got on well and pushed each other on.

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

Having a chance to meet and work alongside the other chefs, although it was competitive there was a very good rapport and friendships made and everyone was really supportive. Being part of the show and being given an opportunity to say a big thank you to all that work in the NHS and make it so special that we all take for granted.

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

When your dishes don’t go to plan and you have made a mistake and with the time constraints put upon us you cannot correct it and the cameras are seeing all of this. Also the early morning starts and I am used to the long hours but not the waiting in between filming and interviews.

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

It was harder than I was expecting. For me I have been a head chef or chef owner now for over 15 years so I was not used to being in a kitchen where I am being questioned or criticised so there were times when you have to bite your tongue as you put everything into the dishes. Other times you know you have not pulled it off and you have to put your hands up. But the veteran judges are there because they have succeeded in the competition previously and know what is needed to deliver a dish to the banquet so you would be foolish not to take their feedback on board and re-question the dish.

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

I don’t know, it is so time consuming and puts a lot of pressures on running my restaurant as we are a small team.  Straight after filming with all the stresses you say never again but as time goes on you do think maybe I would if they were to ask me and if I were to be in a position at the restaurant to be able to do it.

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

I have watched previous series and as a viewer you sometimes think what are these chefs doing, but it is not until you put yourself on the show and have to work within the pressures and time constraints that you truly understand. So yes I would definitely encourage anyone to take part in the competition. The show has been responsible in showcasing some of the best chefs in the county over the years.

 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Chris Harrod, Wales heat