Great British Menu 2018 chefs - James Cochran, London and South East heat

The Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 finalist from London and South East: James Cochran

This year James Cochran from Restaurant 1251, took on Selin Kiazim and Scott Goss in a bid to make it through to the Great British Menu 2018 banquet which celebrates 70 years of the National Health Service. His starter cep-tional, made it through to the banquet - get the recipe.

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James Cochran - credit: jessicajillphotography

James Cochran worked at two Michelin-star restaurant The Ledbury before opening his own place, James Cochran EC3. Now he’s cut all ties with the restaurant and has embarked on a new venture in Islington called Restaurant 1251. He is  looking to source most of his produce from Kent to support small, local suppliers - so customers can trace where there ingredients are from. One thing you may not know about James is he once met Whitney Houston on a beach and she made him cry!

Why did you want to be involved in Great British Menu 2018?

Well every year you see the best chefs in the UK and Northern Ireland  competing to be the best in their regions, they push themselves to the limit! I got the phone call asking if I was interested and I was reluctant to do it because I felt this was way out of my league but after friends and family sat down and said 'what do you have to lose?', then it was a no-brainer.

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?

Well I think the NHS in one way or another has touched so many people's lives. This was a way to say thank you to the unsung heroes and my journey involved my personal connection with my family. When I was designing the menu I wanted it to focus on my childhood memories with the dishes brought to a restaurant standard. I wanted a heart felt story so people eating the dishes can connect them to my story.

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

We don’t give the NHS and the people who work within it enough praise which they deserve. They work relentlessly hard, every day and all year, to make sure our nations patients are well looked after. So for me on a personal level it was a privilege to be involved in Great British Menu and it gave me that hunger and drive to try and get to the banquet.

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

It’s so intense! I mean I didn’t sleep for like 48hrs prior to filming. You’re up against the best chefs in London and the South East and we all know this is one of the hardest regions in the show. I went in very unorganised, I had never plated up any of my dishes or cooked them prior before this so that was extra pressure added on top.

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

Yeah but all of my own doing - I was so unorganised. I feel as the competition went on I became more confident and more comfortable in what I wanted to achieve. I have to give shout out to my girlfriend Jessica Partridge she supported me from the beginning!

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

I believe any criticism is productive criticism and everything that the judges said I took on board and it paid off. 

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

I was so much more nervous being judged by the chef because they pull and critique your food. But as a chef you are always learning so take it on the chin. 

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

I have quiet a few! Doing the moon walk in the kitchen, throwing meat around the kitchen when I overcooked it and the support and love from all the chefs.

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

No I wouldn’t.

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

Yes but you have to be mentally and physically prepared for an intense cooking competition. You always have to remember to always have fun - that would be my advice! It’s an experience you will never forget.


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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - James Cochran, London and South East heat