Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Danny Parker, North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from the North East: Danny Parker

This year Danny Parker from Jesmond Dene House, takes on David Coulson and Dan Fletcher 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.

Danny Parker - Great British Menu 2018 contestants - north east heat
Danny Parker

Danny got his first kitchen job as a KP at just 14 years old. He then went on to work at Wynyard Hall with Alan O’Kane, before taking on the role of sous chef at Kenny Atkinson's House of Tides in Newcastle. He worked his way up to become head chef and spent four and half years there. In 2018, Danny announced that he would be moving to Jesmond Dene House as Executive Head Chef. He was also a finalist on MasterChef: The Professionals 2014 and made the finals of National Chef of the Year 2017. This is his second appearance on Great British Menu, having previously competed in 2017.

Why did you want to take part in Great British Menu again? 

I felt like last year it didn’t really go the way that I wanted it to. I really wasn’t happy with how it finished so I wanted to try and put that right this year.

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?

I found it really easy, purely because of the connection with the NHS. It doesn’t matter who you are. We’ve all been poorly and needed it, or we know people who work in the NHS. So I found it easy to think of connections and then to come up with the dishes.

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

I think to have the opportunity to cook for them and to represent them in the way that we can on Great British Menu is fantastic because they are really undercelebrated. The job that they do is fantastic, so it was quite emotional to do the dishes.

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

It doesn’t matter how many times that you’ve done it before – that kitchen is a pressure cooker! You’re up against it right from the start. 50% of it comes down to how it goes on the day and you have to keep your fingers crossed that it goes wrong for someone else most of the time. Even though you know that the cameras are there, they’re always in the way. It doesn’t matter whereabouts they are! There’s so much stuff that you have to remember that the viewer doesn’t know, they can’t see and they don’t have every angle. 

You have previously competed in Great British Menu - how does this year’s competition compare? 

There was more at stake for me this year. I thought that the choice of chefs for the North East region was really good. Last year me, Tommy and Josh were friends already and I was in Newcastle, Josh in York and Tommy in… the middle of nowhere! Having someone (Dave) from the same town as you certainly hots things up! It’s funny because it just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what food you cook on GBM or in Newcastle, people enjoy different types of food.

I remember trying a lot of Dave and Dan’s dishes and thinking that I would never do that, but it’s really tasty. That’s what GBM is about for me as a chef - you’ve thought about it that much, that there couldn’t possibly be another reason to be doing each dish!

Danny Parker - Great British Menu 2018 contestants - north east heat
Danny Parker
Credit: Optomen TV / Andrew Hayes-Watkins

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

The hard part is the fact that it takes over your life, and you’re in a different world for like three or four months. It would be harder for me now because I’ve got a little girl so if I got asked to do it again, I would have to think about it seriously. I honestly wouldn’t call it a negative because you come out the other end as a better chef.

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

You kind of want to get your point across to the critics but at the same time, you have to respect their decision. They do eat a lot of food and they do a lot of the competitions, so you’d be daft to question them but you do want to. 

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

Definitely the chefs. It’s so nice to be able to cook for these people and to get the feedback from them, good or bad. You take a lot more of it on board. Especially when you look at the people that they’ve worked for and where they are now. They’re much more scary than the critics or the guest judges. The veterans are the people who do it day in day out and they've got to the top of their game.

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

I’m not sure how it’s going to come across on TV so all I’m going to say is ‘when my squeezy bottle fell apart’! That will happen on the Wednesday… I have no idea how much of that bit will be on air, but I imagine quite a lot.

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

100%! It’s a fantastic week of filming, and I can’t stress how much - whether you win or not - you come out a better chef. The bookings and website visits when GBM is on all go through the roof! Kenny (Atkinson) has already done GBM and so there’s already people coming in because of that even now. 

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 13th August 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Danny Parker, North East heat