Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Cindy Challoner, Wales heat

The  Staff Canteen

The penultimate heat of this year’s series of Great British Menu will hit the airwaves tonight at 8pm on BBC Two.

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 Andrew Sheridan, Cindy Challoner and Tom Westerland representing Wales.

Born in the Welsh seaside town of Aberaeron, Cindy was the head chef of The Classroom at Cardiff and Vale College until February this year. 

The acclaimed restaurant is staffed both by students and professionals and regularly hosts guest chefs - including the executive chef of Lucknam Park, Hywel Jones - for masterclasses and takeovers. 

What was it like to be on GBM?17851945 low res great british menu

It was good, it was new. Nothing I’d experienced before which is great.

Had you taken part in competitions at all?

No, it was my first one.

Had you come across the others before, Westy or Andrew?

Yeah, Westy I’d met before because he came to Hywel Jones’ pop-ups at The Classroom – which was nice, because I got there and I thought “thank God, I know someone.”

Image: From left to right, Cindy Challoner, Tom Westerland. veteran judge Phil Howard, Andrew Sheridan. Credit: BBC Pictures 

Were you pleased to have Phil Howard as your veteran judge?

It was okay; I would have liked Angela Hartnett, but yeah, Phil Howard turned up. I found he was quite brutal, but I suppose they all are aren’t they.

What did you think of the brief this year?

It was brilliant, there was so much that you could do with it. Everyone had their own idea, in opposition to the previous years.

How do you think you would have dealt with the one from last year for example?

Oh God yeah, the NHS. Last year I got the phone call, I got shortlisted and I never got through, so I knew it was the NHS and I got told to practice just in case someone pulled out but I was thinking “Oh my God what will I do for it.”

I think you just cope. It’s one of those things I think if you’re put in that situation you’ve got to make it work. It’s good, it keeps you on your toes I think.

Can you tell me a little bit about your dishes – you went for a Tom Jones themed starter, same as Westy right?

Yeah. Green, green grass of home.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I think because of where I was born and where I’m from, Tom Jones was a massive inspiration to me.

I wanted to do something quite patriotic; I speak Welsh as well so I wanted to apply that to my food and make something nice.

And it’s a nice song as well so I thought, “d’you know what, brilliant.” Hopefully it’ll come across as well.

17851984 low res great british menuYou get all different types of chefs on GBM, some of them have their own restaurants, some of them work at hotels or for other chefs at independent restaurants. They all come in the hope of showcasing something about their identity. What were you hoping to get across?

My own skills, what I could do. I didn’t realise the amount of pressure we were going to be under, which was fab. I think when you’re under pressure you perform a lot better – or you don’t because you make a lot of mistakes.

I wanted to show who I am and what I’m good at.

Image: From left to right, Oliver Peyton, Andi Oliver, musician, farmer and guest judge JB Gill and Matthew Fort. 

And when you entered did you have one of your dishes in mind you particularly wanted to take to the banquet?

My main course, yeah. I thought that’d be my strongest. 

What would you say the benefits of taking part in competitions like GBM are?

You learn a lot being under that kind of pressure. You push yourself a lot more than you normally would in the kitchen. The pressure is quite high because you have a constant camera on you looking at all your cock-ups, which is like “oh no” but I think it helps you improve.

Is there anything you’d change about the competition?

No, I think it was good to be honest. I watched previous years and where this was the first time these guys had taken over I think they did a fantastic job. You could tell they were all in it together and they wanted it to be a fab hit.

Would you do it again if they asked you?

Yes. At the time I said no, but I think if I got asked again I would because I know what to expect now. When you go into a situation where you don’t know what’s happening and you don’t know anything it’s hard to go in with confidence.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 1st May 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Cindy Challoner, Wales heat