Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Tom Anglesea, North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2019

The Great British Menu 2019 North East heat is set to air on BBC 2 on Wednesday 27th March at 8pm, featuring three chefs from the North East: Michael Carr, Samira Effa and Tom Anglesea. 

We spoke to them to hear what it was like to take part in the competition, now in its fourteenth edition. 

Cep crackers, mushroom caramel, sour cream and thymeTom Anglesea is the head chef at Charlie Mellor's restaurant, The Laughing Heart, in London's East end. The well-travelled chef from Durham has worked in kitchens far, wide and prestigious. 

After a stage with Stuart Gillies at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Cafe, he went to Per Se in New York, took a break from backpacking in Australia to work under Neil Perry at Rockwood, and, after a month-turned a year and a half at The Spice Temple in Sydney, returned to England to work with Guy and Brittany Manning, earning a Michelin star for their work at The Red Lion pub in Wiltshire. 

His food is inspired both by his Northern roots and his travels - his menu at The Laughing Heart, which he says he changes as often as he sees fit,  is a perfect reflection of both: it features the best of British produce, cooked using Asian techniques.

Image: Cep crackers, mushroom caramel, sour cream and thyme @tomanglesea

What was it like to be on GBM 2019? Cornish cod, spinach, shoe string fries, confit garlic sauce and curry

Yeah it was great. I never put myself forward or anything like that. It all happened quite quickly, from being told that you were on the show to actually having all your menus and dishes submitted.

You were given the theme only three weeks before. We work on a very small team here so it was pretty stressful at the time to come up with the dishes and the theme and fit it to the brief and actually get the dishes together, I must've only done the dishes maybe two or three times before I went to the studio so I was shitting myself a bit before I went in.

But I guess nearly everyone is like that, no-one is really ready for it. I'd never done cooking competitions before or put myself in that kind of environment so it was really alien to me.

It took me a while to get used to being in front of the cameras, it was quite mentally straining as well because they want to speak to you all the time, you're in the spotlight from the get go. But it was great.

Image: Cornish cod, spinach, shoe string fries, confit garlic sauce and curry @tomanglesea

It's a brand new set up this year, brand new kitchen, all of the production team are new as well so it had a fresh feel to it. The week going into the regional they pretty much just throw you into the room with the other contestants so it was a bit of a journey but then I got my head in the game and I thought the dishes I came up with were pretty strong.

Terrine of chicken, leek and black truffle, bitter leaf and grape mustardWhat did you think of the brief?

I thought the brief was great compared to previous years. I definitely preferred this one to last year's. There was a lot of scope for being creative with it to figure out how to link it and I decided that I'd tell the journey of my career through the dishes.

I based my starter on when I first started cooking - one of the first things I learnt to cook was caviar and blinis - then through my travels I went to Australia.

The fish dish was based on travelling up the East coast of Australia and through the backpackers, and Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here.'

I dedicated it to my friend Graham who unfortunately, when he got back to England got cancer and when he was in the hospital contracted Leukaemia. It was really sudden and fast and so it was a tribute to Graham.

Image: Terrine of chicken, leek and black truffle, bitter leaf and grape mustard @tomanglesea

The flavours were Japanese inspired flavours. That was the fish course.

The main course was a reference to the three years I spent at a little country pub called the Red Lion with a few friends that I met in New York.

So it was a tribute to everything in Wiltshire - I used Wiltshire Guinea Fowl and truffles and shiitakes and all the ingredients.

It was based on the song from Sting, Fields of Gold. He wrote that song in Wiltshire overlooking all these lovely fields. I mean it's a bit sombre. 

Then the dessert tied it all together, I based it around Billy Elliott, the musical, it was obviously tied to the North East and kind of like the story of rags to riches kind of feel, so yeah I did it as a tribute to the coal mining industry - I did a charcoal macaroon, a yeast parfait, poached red flesh apple caramel and candy floss. And then a little shot of apple and shiso juice.

But yeah, it was a great experience, I was up against some very competent young chefs, their dishes were really solid and you could tell they executed it so well.

I was running around, you'll see I went down like a torrent of flames on the starter, it was horrible, I started sweating as well. One of them went like 'I think you've got a sweat problem' I was like, 'nope' - I'm not looking forward to seeing the first half hour, but yeah, it gets better after that.

Did you know of the other two contestants before? Untitled

I hadn't met them, I kind of thought that with three brand new chefs from the North East they'd have picked someone who'd already done it, with a bit more experience than me. But there was good camaraderie in the kitchen, we got on really well and helped each other out.

What was your favourite moment on the program?

I didn't have any expectations going in so it was good to be there, to prove to myself that I could do it.

Image: ‘Rocky Road’ choc brownie, banana miso caramel, peanut praline, marshmallow and violets @tomanglesea

And your least favourite moment?

Oh, my starter. That whole first day was just a nightmare. I decided to do a souffle, which was a fucking stupid idea to start with, I don't know why I decided to do that.

I was adamant on using this particular kind of potatoes, they were coming out fine when I cooked them before, but they obviously they do all the ordering for you, they source everything.

So I got there and I was using these potatoes and I just knew, because I was doing a potato crisp to go alongside this dish, I put them in the oven and I checked them after five minutes, and normally they'd just be starting to colour at that point but they were like nearly brown already, and then everything else started to fuck up as well, the souffles didn't work, I was like 'oh my god,' I was like right, going to have to do them again, so it was a bit of a mess to be honest. But yeah, that first day was just a nightmare.

Would you do it again?

I'd have said definitely not, haha. But I've changed my mind now, I've got over it. If they asked me it would depend if the restaurant was in a good place and if I was able to commit the time, a lot of work goes into it and it's quite a lot of stress. I'd like to do it again with the perspective instead of going in blindly when you don't really know what to expect or how to go about the competition, so I'd like to do it with insight as to how it all works and how it's all put together. It would be an honour to do it again to be honest.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Tom Anglesea, North East heat