Great British Menu 2018 chefs - James Devine, Northern Ireland heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from the Northern Ireland heat: James Devine

This year James Devine takes on Shauna Froydenlund and Tommy Heaney 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.

James is a former National Chef of the Year winner and works at Ardtara Country House, Londonderry in Northern Ireland. He has previously worked at EIPIC as a sous chef which holds a star in the Michelin Guide UK and has worked at the Black Cat Restaurant as a head chef. He initially was going to pursue a career in Law, until he took a year out where he worked in hospitality. During this time James worked parttime as a college lecturer and also worked as a kitchen porter at a local restaurant.

The new NCOTY   James Devine
James Devine

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

Having watched the show every year since its inception, I think it’s fair to say it's every chef’s dream to one day get the call-up and have a crack yourself. I loved the idea of representing Northern Ireland, unfortunately, I’m not very good at sports so this is my only real chance!

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 the theme incredibly tough. It’s really difficult creating an idea or concept worthy of an institution such as the NHS. I like to cook dishes which are quite fun and playful. This theme is so important and demanded a certain respect and care in my approach.

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

It’s massive. The NHS is a huge part of my life. My sister Oonagh, unfortunately, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis in her teens and has been in and out of hospital ever since. Due to the invaluable efforts of the NHS, Oonagh has been able to live a rich full life.

This brief for me was personal in that sense. It was my way of thanking everyone who played a part in Oonaghs journey and I’m glad I had that chance to show her how much she means to me.

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

I found the experience kind of ok. I’m used to cooking in uncomfortable situations due to competing in so many different cooking competitions. I've gotten pretty good at blocking out distractions around me.

That being said, the heat was savage and it is hard trying not to swear!

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

The best part of being on Great British Menu was meeting the other chefs. Shauna and Tommy are great chefs and I’m glad I was cooking against such good guys

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

There is good and bad to everything – Great British Menu is no different. The good outweighs the bad though and it was a great experience to be part of.

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

It's shit! Nobody likes being criticised - but it’s what we sign up for.

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

Chefs always care about what other chefs think.

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

I guess my standout moment would be when our guest judge walked through the doors.

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

I would love to take part in Great British Menu again!

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


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st October 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - James Devine, Northern Ireland heat