Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Michael Carr, North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

Born and raised in Harrogate, Michael Carr started off as a potwasher at his parents’ restaurant, The Square and Compass, in North Rigton.

Michael moved to Cornwall to train under Neil Martyn and Chris Eden at The Driftwood, and finally went to London, where he worked at Pied a Terre, Texture, Alyn Williams at The Westbury and then at Gordon Ramsay’s Claridges.

He launched his restaurant on Harrogate’s Station Parade in 2015 when he was just 23; it was with great regret that the chef was forced to close Restaurant 92 in January when the financial burden of running an independent restaurant in the area became unsustainable.

First of all, congratulations for making it onto the Great British Menu 2019. What was it like to take part?

It was a brilliant experience, very humbling. I loved every second of it.

Were you surprised when you got the call from the production team?

Yeah, I was really, really surprised. We had some things in the pipeline,  but I was just super excited to get that call. It was just a really cool, cool phone call to have, like kind of being sussed out, I guess.

Had you taken part in any competitions like it before?

 Not on this level. I did Yorkshire Young Chef of the Year, Chef of the year in Harrogate  and did quite well. I felt quite confident going into it and just relishing in the fact of being a part of something that I'd watched my whole career. I've always wanted to be on there and have some fun doing it so yeah, really cool. 

What did you think of the theme this year? Was it was it fun translating musical language into food?

Yeah, it was brilliant. It wasn't as difficult as some of the other briefs. I would have hated to have the NHS [theme]. In my head that's quite difficult to relate food to, hospitals are quite a tragic thing and a depressing place for quite a lot of people. To bring food as an uplifting thing down to that level I would find quite difficult, but with music it was such good fun.

People love music and it brings out different emotions in different people with songs meaning things to people. So, to have British music as a platform to work - ideas were just pounding into my head as soon as I got told about it. I found a lot of joy in creating my dishes. 

Are you a musician yourself?

I had a go at playing the guitar when I was a teenager, but I wouldn't say I was a musician. To be honest I think if I tried to pick up the guitar now, it be pretty horrendous.

Can you tell us a bit more about the food you cooked in the competition?

I based one of my dishes on an Oasis song - I think a lot of the guys did, one of the lads last week did.

I tried to keep away from Beatles because I thought it'd be quite generic, I thought a lot of people would go for that. And I did a dish based on British rock and roll and then my dessert, I tried to think a bit more outside the box instead of just like bands and groups and different things and my dessert was based on Glastonbury. 

That was something that was really cool and I had a lot of fun trying to make this dish up and it was quite theatrical. A lot of people really loved it which was brilliant. 

Is that something that you typically do when you cook, going from like a concept or an idea rather than starting with an ingredient or your idea of a dish?

Yeah, I think obviously ingredients play a massive part but I like to try and think of what a customer would read on a plate. 

I find the whole basis of building a dish really exciting when I've got an idea in my head, and that could stem from, I don't know, what plate I'm going to use or what's cool to use at a time of year, or what people think of when they think about going out for a meal.

What I try to think of when I go out for a meal is what I would like to eat, what's put in front of me, sometimes instead of just thinking about the ingredients. 

What was your favourite moment in the competition? 

My favourite moment was just getting in there and seeing the kitchen and just feeling thorough excitement to get kick started.

What was it like meeting the other contestants, Samira (Effa) and Tom (Anglesea)? 

I got on with Tom instantly. Tom was really cool and same with Samira, but I had a cool connection with Tom because he knew about me and worked with some of the guys I worked with before.

So at the time you still had your restaurant. What would that have meant if it had been cast now? Could you take part as an independent or do you have to represent a restaurant to get on?

I think you do yeah. I've already had initial chats about being on it, hopefully this year, but I've got things in the pipeline anyway. 

Last year obviously meant quite a lot to me because I was representing my baby, my restaurant. So it was wonderful. But that's fine. It's just part of life's rich tapestry. Things happen, things change, things move on. 

How are things, two and a half months down the line after the restaurant closing?

It's obviously been very hard, emotionally and hard on people around me that love me and who I love. It's been very difficult, but we're back on the way up now down and contemplating the next steps and moving on and moving forward and seeing what happens.

Are you thinking of relaunching something of your own?

I can't really discuss anything just yet, but there are things happening below the surface, I'm hoping that in the next couple of weeks I'll have some things cemented and put in place and I can start to share the news. And you'll be the first guys to hear about it.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Michael Carr, North East heat