Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Emily Scott, South West heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th April 2019

The South West 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, first cooking for a veteran chef followed by a panel of judges, 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 Emily Scott, Joe Baker and Lee Smith, all firstcomers on the programme and all restaurant chef owners representing the South West.

We spoke to them about what it meant to them to take part in Great British Menu.

Emily Scott is the chef owner of St Tudy Inn in Bodmin. Originally from  Sussex, Emily moved to Cornwall out of love for a man – and stayed there out of love for the region.

 St Tudy Inn is a Gastropub, which, since it launched, has received a Bib Gourmand recognition in the Michelin Guide, and this year ranked 24th in the Estrella Top 50 Gastropub list.

What was it like to be on Great British Menu? 17851769 low res great british menu

It was both one of the best and one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It was a brilliant experience, great people, great team, great fun.

How did it feel to be out there showcasing food from your own restaurant?

I’m the kind of person who wings quite a lot, I jump in with both feet and then go ‘oh, oh my God I’m doing this.’ It’s only when I got there that I suddenly felt very nervous.

You have six weeks to plan what you’re cooking but within that I was also working so it’s all quite intense. It got to the point where my parents were like ‘Oh my God are you really cooking that for us again, do we have to try that again?’

Image: from left to right, Joe Baker, Emily Scott, Lee Smith. Credit: BBC Pictures

The realisation that it was a competition was quite tough. I’m very competitive but usually with myself. I found myself up against these amazing chefs, asking myself if I really wanted to do it.

But I pulled it together and it was amazing – I just thought, the only thing I can do is be myself and do what I do. You can’t hide, there’s nowhere to go especially with your veteran breathing down your neck.

What was it like to cook for Daniel Clifford? Were you pleased to find out he was your veteran?

He was one of the chefs I said I’d rather not have. I don’t know what I based that on because I didn’t follow his career until his book came out last year. It’s always quite interesting to hear peoples’ stories and how their careers developed.

I think it’s because this whole cheffy thing – without sounding… it’s a bit of a man’s world. It’s quite tough when you put yourself out there and are getting judged by someone who clearly knows what he’s doing. But he was really nice and we had some good chats.

At the end of the day it is TV, the whole yes chef thing has to be done, but he was really friendly.

17851737 low res great british menuHad you come across Lee or Joe before?

Not at all. I know Jersey a bit so it was quite exciting but it was interesting because they knew each other so it felt like they were head to head and it was quite nice for me because I’m someone that steps back so I just quietly got on with it.

I was very proud to represent Cornwall and the South West because I’ve been here since I was 23. It very much feels like home. I’m very passionate about providence and seasonality. I’m originally from Sussex; I married a fisherman and was in Port Isaac for 12 years and then we got divorced I stayed in Cornwall. I’m really pleased I did.

Image: From left to right,  celebrity judge Rev Richard Coles, Oliver Peyton,, Andi Oliver and Matthew Fort. Contestants who make it past the first heat with Daniel Clifford will on to be judged by the panel on Friday. Credit: BBC Pictures  

So was your menu an effort to showcase Cornish produce?

I have strong influence from France because my grandfather was French. My partner is a winemaker so we spend a lot of time in Bordeaux. I lived in Burgundy for three years when I was younger as well  so I have an affinity with France.

St Judy has a very similar feel to where I lived in Burgundy. It has that same rural feel. What I’m lucky with here is that we’re so close to the sea, it’s only six miles away so I have a real passion for fish cookery but I get to do both here because we’re in land.

I wear my heart on my sleeve so I got… authentic. I won’t say more. I didn’t swear though.

What did you think of the brief?

Loved it. Food for me is all about memories and a sense of place and I think music is very similar. I like to cook with the ebb and flow of the seasons and you play music if you’re sad, happy; it’s all very emotive. It was tough – it’s like being given a project in school, you have to come up with what you think and feel so it took me quite a long time to do it.

Did you create your dishes with the brief in mind?

It was all about my Desert Island dishes – I love listening to peoples’ lives, especially people you wouldn’t necessarily be interested in. In this day and age where everyone is rushing around I think it’s really interesting to stop and listen and hear peoples’ lives and how their careers have developed.

My idea was that play on words – obviously I couldn’t pick eight songs but Bowie was one of the most influential artists in British music history, and the heroes dish was all about the people involved in creating food at my restaurant that allow me to do my job.

Another song I chose was Staying Alive by the Beegees which is one of those songs which at the end of an evening people get up and dance to.

Growing up, my parents were from those days when they all seemed to be partying all the time and for me food is all about coming together. So my Desert Island disks is what I wanted to showcase. Ironically, Roger, who supplied the buck for my main course had all the vinyls, so I borrowed them to use as props. I also used a cast away bottle.

My dishes were taking me back to my desert island – I hope that transpires.

I’m not sure Daniel Clifford listens to desert island disks, he’s more of an Oasis guy. I think next time I would be more literal.

For me, Radiohead, Bowie, they’re some sea shanties on my list, it was songs that took me back to a place.

Which of your dishes would you’ve taken to the banquet?

My starter meant a lot to me because it was all about stripping things back,  using ingredients I love. That’s what I’ve based my career on and done really well with; less is more, keeping it simple and letting the ingredients talk but I got quite nervous with my starter so it wasn’t as good as my practice dishes. Ironically it was my most simple dish but as I say all the time, simplicity doesn’t always work, you have to get it right.

That was my favourite dish, but I loved my fish course, I was trying to be a little bit different. The duck dish I loved – I made wine with my partner. It made it really personal, I was involved in every part of the process in making the wine. Daniel Clifford went and got glasses and we all had a glass of wine – where you see the other chefs drinking coffee, we had my wine.

I think my pudding gave the boys a run for their money.

I don’t know why I left it until the last minute, but I had a fifteen minute ice cream maker so I literally started churning my ice cream with twenty minutes till plating, but it was beautiful.

And my ice cream maker has since not been working very well so luckily it performed on the day.

It used to be my mum’s and I have these lovely memories of her cooking batches of ice cream. It’s not very high tech, but for me it was all about trying to tie in the memories. It was a bit different, the boys were like: “what is that” and they were using all the high tech stuff.

I like to cook with fire, I’ve got a sous vide I don’t really use; I like pots and pans, I like processes, I like sifting flour, I like melting butter. It’s just the way I cook; I want fire, I don’t want to vacuum pack everything. And that’s quite intimidating when everyone is doing that.”

Overall, would you recommend GBM, and would you do it again?

I would. I met so many lovely people; it was intense, because you’re dropped into this warehouse with no idea where you are with people you don’t really know, you’re just suddenly thrown together, but it was brilliant.

I’m so glad to have done it. I know I work at a high level but I’ve just been doing what I do so when you start putting yourself out there there’s an expectation. But it was brilliant.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th April 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Emily Scott, South West heat