Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Alex Greene, Northern Ireland heat

The Staff Canteen

The final regional heat of Great British Menu 2019 is set to kick off on BBC Two tonight at 8pm.

The programme pits the country’s top chefs against one another for the chance to serve one of their dishes at a banquet. This year, the competition celebrates fifty years of British music and the reception will be held at Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded most of their albums in the 1960s.

This week will see chefs Alex Greene, Glen Wheeler and Chris McClurg representing Northern Ireland.

Alex Greene is the chef owner of Michelin-starred Deane's Eipic in Belfast. Originally from Dundrum in County Down, Alex has worked in many Michelin-accredited restaurants, starting at Deanes, followed by Gordon Ramsay's Petrus, then Claridge's and the Cliff House hotel in Ardmore. 

How was GBM?17852049 low res great british menu

It was interesting. Very enjoyable. Done a lot of things in my life and for some reason it was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.

It’s for television, so everything has to be done a hundred times. I’ve done plenty of competitions but for some reason it was just a different atmosphere.

Because the competition has so much prestige around it, the pressure of being on it adds to the whole thing.

What was it like cooking for Tommy Banks?

I’m a big fan of Tommy Banks, I like his food, it’s very natural. 

What did you think of the musical theme this year?

Yeah, music has been a big part of my life and I suppose it wasn’t difficult to pair food with music, the two are kind of like each other so to get the brief was easy, I didn’t struggle with that.

Were you happy with how everything came out?

No, not at all. You’re never happy, but it was a brilliant experience. For some reason the first two courses were tough maybe because of the pressure and the environment, then it got easier. Not easy – by no stretch of the imagination, but eventually I felt like myself in the kitchen and that came across a whole lot better obviously.

Image: veteran judge Tommy Banks, head chef of Michelin-starred gastropub, Black Swan at Oldstead. Credit: BBC Pictures

What are the advantages of taking part in competitions like GBM?

The advantage of taking part in competitions – especially GBM - may be the exposure. Number two, you put yourself in a totally different environment, it puts you under a different type of pressure, it makes you stronger.

You just feel all round like you’ve progressed a wee bit, it gives you more of an understanding of the industry you work in. It helps you later on in your career.

It keeps things fresh, keeps the industry interesting, keeps people interested in it.

I think other competitions make hospitality and cheffing seem very glamorous sometimes. I think GBM doesn’t show the drama, you get to see what goes wrong, you get to see the problems; it’s not all about the drama and glory, you understand how tough it is.

17852114 low res great british menuI think GBM is a very important competition and I think that’s why it gets so much respect; because yeah it’s TV and yeah they edit it a wee bit and of course they want a bit of drama but at the end of the day it’s as real as it’s going to get on TV.

I don’t have any negativity towards competitions and especially towards GBM; the guys working behind the scenes were fantastic and the team were fantastic.

Whatever they put on the TV is down to my own doing because I was there – it’s not like they were sneakily filming me or something – I was there, I said what I said, I did what I did so at the end of the day it’s my responsibility.

Image: Oliver Peyton, guest judge Loyle Carner, Andi Oliver, Matthew Fort

Would you do it again?

Well… I don’t know. I know I’m saying it’s all good and no negativity towards it and I know people go back and do it three times and you get that chance and that’s fair enough but for me, it’s expensive, and not only, if I went back I’d have a point to prove.

I don’t know. I’ve a lot going on outside of GBM; there’s no doubt about it, it becomes your life.

It’s a lot of work and you need to be 100% dedicated to it if you’re going to succeed – you don’t want to go on it and embarrass yourself. I would give it serious consideration but I wouldn’t say yes and I wouldn’t say no because you need to make sure that if you’re going to do it you shouldn’t take the decision lightly because there’s a lot to consider.  

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th May 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Alex Greene, Northern Ireland heat