Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Paul Walsh, London and South East heat

The Staff Canteen

Ahead of tonight’s screening of Great British Menu on BBC 2, The Staff Canteen is introducing the competition’s first wave of contestants

Paul Walsh is the executive chef at Jason Atherton's City Social in London. 

In his first job at The Savoy Hotel, aged 18, Paul worked as a commis for Anton Edelmann. He went on to work for Marcus Wareing at the Savoy Grill and Gordon Ramsay at the chef’s eponymous restaurant, alongside the likes of Clare Smyth, Mark Askew and Simone Zanoni.

He became the executive chef at Xavier Rousset’s 28/50 Wine Workshop & Kitchens in 2010.

At Michelin-starred City Social, located on level 24 of London’s Tower 42, Paul is responsible for the entire menu, receiving only feedback from chef patron Jason.

Over the years, the chefs have up built the menu’s complexity. Lavish ingredients feature heavily on the a la carte offering – from caviar on the beef confit to truffle tortellini – alongside a selection of seasonal ingredients and high-quality steaks and cote de boeuf.

The theme for this year's Great British Menu was a celebration of the 50 years since The Beatles last played, and half a century of British music. What, if anything, do The Beatles mean to you? 

It's iconic. It's British. One of my dishes I chose 'Let It Be' as a theme. Who doesn't like 'Let It Be'? 

How did you cope with translating music into food?

I found it quite difficult at first. I was a bit stuck for ideas but then I just thought 'when you hear different songs, it brings up memories doesn't it.' So I wanted to do things that are memories for me. 

My first dish was remembering where the journey started for me. It was
a dedication to London, to where I work, to where my career is. Something like that I used by the Kinks, because they're a London band. 

And then I did one I linked with my kids, so again it's nostalgic things - I did Tears in Heaven was my dessert, it's a song about Eric Clapton's son and that brings to life the feelings you have about your own children.

Is that not something that you'd usually do, summoning feelings to design your dishes?

No definitely not. It's a different way of designing it. You had to design it to fit the brief - normally we design dishes around what's in season, what's good, how we make different flavours work together and there we started making things in a different way. Here you started with an idea of how you link that to a song, to a brief and then start creating a dish.

So you start creating it with an idea in your head already rather than starting from an ingredient.

How was your overall experience of taking part in GBM? 

Yeah it went brilliantly. I really enjoyed it. It's good that you go in there with the other guys, we really got on
well together, we helped each other out.

I think the days of like trying to stitch people up are well gone. We were all just trying to help each other make sure we all got our food out in time,  and we had a good laugh.

Did you know the other guys before?

I knew the boys personally before but I didn't know who I was doing it with. It was funny because Luke told me afterwards he knew he was doing it with me because the cab driver to come pick him up had just dropped me off. He went, 'I knew it was you.' I went 'How did you know it was me? He said: 'Because the cabbie told me.'

But I think the best thing is that it  shows how this industry is now. Everyone's food - I mean the boys on there with me they cooked out of their skin. It was at a super high level. You really have to do it all. I remember the guy who started it, in. the first round he went 'clock's started, off you go' so we all started running round and grabbing pans and stuff. There's no messing around.

Is there anything you'd say you didn't enjoy about the competition?

No, not really. The only thing the only thing I moaned about is where you've got you've got the three sections in the kitchen, on each side both have a nice bench to work on and the person on the back section - which was me, obviously -  you work on the edge of the stove.

So they've got a whole bench with all their stuff laid, where mine was just piled up on the edge of the stove so I was like, 'how is that fair?' 

But to be honest the whole show - the cast, the crew, the cameramen, everything is a really good experience. To pick something out that was bad would literally be clutching at straws. It's a good event. The people are a great laugh.

Would you do it again?

(Laughs)  Yeah. I'd do it maybe one more time and then I'll have done it then. You can't keep going on there, everyone'll get bored of ye.

In 2016, we spoke to Paul about his partnership with Jason at City Social:

Watch Paul Walsh make three recipes with rabbit, halibut and rhubarb: 

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th March 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Paul Walsh, London and South East heat