Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Glen Wheeler, 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.

Glen Wheeler is the chef patron of the recently-launched 28 Darling Street in in County Fermanagh's Enniskillen. 

This year was the first time the chef's county was featured on Great British Menu.

How was GBM?17852075 low res great british menu

It was amazing, a massive honour because it is a competition that you have to be asked to do, you can’t apply for it.

I opened the restaurant 17 months ago after working for Neven Maguire for 14 years. It was hard enough opening my own restaurant, I was only open for ten months when I had to go over to England to compete.

Amongst everything it was very very tough but also very enjoyable. I have two young girls as well – one is 17 months, the other wee one that’ll be four on July 1st, so it’s pretty hectic at the minute.

Image: From left to right, Chris McClurg, veteran judge Tommy Banks, Glen Wheeler, Alex Greene. Credit: BBC Pictures

What did you think of the brief?

It couldn’t have suited me any better. I love most types of music, I was an Oasis fan throughout my teenage years, I was a massive hip hop fan which was the idea behind my starter. Obviously hip hop isn’t British but it’s had a massive influence on the likes of Rudimental, Plan B, Professor Green.

The first day or two of Great British Menu, it was so overwhelming. I’ve been watching it since I left college.

The new kitchen is amazing, probably the best kitchen I’ve ever worked in and the chefs I was competing with were as good of chefs as I’ve ever worked with in the kitchen. The standard was very high but it was a lot of fun. 

What was it like to cook for Tommy Banks?

I have so much admiration for him and I relate to him in a way because when he was on GBM, he was young, he’d just launched his own restaurant, so in a way – not that I clicked with him but I could relate to him in a way. He seems like a really cool guy. Obviously I was dreading the big dogs like Tom Aikens or Phil Howard. I was quite glad when Tommy Banks walked in.

I watched last week’s heat and I was actually really scared for the chefs. At the same time I would have loved to cook for the likes of Daniel Clifford or Angela Hartnett. Michael O’Hare would’ve been brilliant.

I was so happy just being there, I would’ve cooked for anybody. That’s my approach on the GBM; I was just happy to be there, as long as I didn’t make a fool of myself I was fully content.

First day, bit of nerves but after that it was great, probably the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever had.

I’m actually really nervous now just to see how we’re going to come across. Obviously the first day you’re pretty aware of all the cameras but once you get the first dish out, it really is a competition then.

17852114 low res great british menuWhat do you think the benefits of taking part in competitions like GBM are?

It’s very good. It’s probably the most respected show in the industry as far as chefs are concerned because it’s the who’s who of cooking in Great Britain at the time. I’ve watched it for years, I’ve loved watching it, it’s had some of the best chefs in the country on it – which makes it even more daunting. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.

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

I suppose it’s good for getting your name out there, getting your restaurant on the map. I felt a bit like the underdog because I was representing myself for a start. The others come from Michelin star establishments, so they have a fair bit of support.

Even from a financial point of view, I was running my own business, I still had to make time and put in my best effort into GBM. I’m very happy with how it went, I’m very proud.

Would you go again?

For sure, yeah, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t consider myself a competition chef, but it was an experience of a lifetime. And even to get a phone call from The Staff Canteen, it’s brilliant. I’m not a chef that creates limelight or fame or stardom. I like cooking good food and I want a busy restaurant,  but it’s been a whirlwind over the past week.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 8th May 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Glen Wheeler, Northern Ireland heat