Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Ryan Simpson-Trotman, Central heat

The Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from Central England: Ryan Simpson-Trotman

This year Ryan Simpson-Trotman takes on Marianne Lumb and Sabrina Gidda 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.

Ryan Simpson, Great British Menu 2018 - Central heat
Ryan Simpson-Trotman

Ryan Simpson-Trotman is head chef and co-owner of Orwells Restaurant in Shiplake, Oxfordshire. Him and his husband Liam Simpson-Trotman set up the pub/restaurant in 2010, after working together at The Goose at Salome. Since it opened, the restaurant has seen critical acclaim, including reaching no. 31 and achieving a score of 7 in the Good Food Guide 2018. This is Ryan's second appearance on Great British Menu - he reached the judges chambers in 2017, but was beaten by Pip Lacey.

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

I came so close the year before so I wanted to go all the way this year! I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it and represent the NHS, which was a cool but challenging subject.

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 think the connection with the NHS was really difficult for me. I’ve never really been in hospital too much and luckily I’ve never had any major operations or anything. But the more I looked into it, the more that the connections became apparent. I think a lot of the dishes that I did were a nod to the NHS, but involving a sense of humour to lighten everything up.

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

It was really rewarding because I  went back to my hometown and visited the hospital there. There’s so much going on behind the scenes that you don't even think about - so many different conditions that people are being treated for, not just physical conditions but mental health and things like that. 

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

In comparison, I think that there was slightly more pressure this year. I don’t know whether there was an expectation to win because I’d been doing it before and I was against two other people who hadn't. Also with it being such a serious subject, there was a lot of pressure there too. You really wanted to get the dishes right and impress all those NHS heroes.

Do you feel that your previous experience in Great British Menu is an advantage?

100% - it is an advantage. You know how the production team works, the long hours – you’re just mentally prepared for it. I felt as though I was kind of a step ahead in that sense but to be fair, I was giving advice or a helping hand to Sabrina and Marianne any time that I could. Even though you’re competing against each other, you’re all working for the same thing. They're your peers so you respect each other on that level because they’ve got great restaurants too. It’s more rewarding to help people and encourage them, rather than to put them down. 

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

I think the fact that my lovely husband was on the show! There was the build up to the wedding and then after that, you had to get all your dishes done and get practising. We didn’t go on a honeymoon – we still haven’t done that yet! 

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

Just the worry of getting beaten by my husband! I think there’s a song out there – ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ and that’s Liam’s motto. Whenever I do something, that’s what he’s singing in the background!

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

I take criticism quite well. Anybody that gives me criticism, I always see as a customer and customers are what makes the restaurant busy.  If I strongly disagree, I will stand my corner though. 

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

When my veteran judge walked through the door, I thought ‘holy shit’! This person is very well thought of in the industry.  Even though they’re there to judge, they want to give out high scores if they can and they’re encouraging you to cook your heart out. I think you get that initial fear with any judge,  and then as the competition goes on and you get your first course out, you can kind of gauge where the persons at. You want that gratification instantly almost, because it’s making sure that you’re doing a good job on your food. 

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

Every year, if they asked me, I’d always do it. It’s good fun and it keeps you on your toes as well! Business does increase too – I think we saw a 20% boost last year and we can only double that this year with two of us on it.

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

Yeah 100%! I recommended Liam. It sharpens you as a chef and it gives you that little boost in life that sometimes, you might need. Also, it gives you an opportunity to represent great causes.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd September 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Ryan Simpson-Trotman, Central heat