Great British Menu 2021 chefs: Ali Borer, Wales heat

The  Staff Canteen

Head chef at The Nutbourne, Ali Borer, is one of four chefs representing Wales on Great British Menu 2021.

Series 16 of the competition starts on Wednesday 24th March and will air on BBC Two at 8pm every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for eight weeks. The Wales heat will air on Wednesday 12th, Thursday 13th and Friday 14th April. It will also be available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Ali is competing against chef and owner of SY23, Nathan Davies; Michelin-starred head chef of Beach House Restaurant, Hywel Griffith and Michelin-starred chef owner of The Olive Tree in Bath, Chris Cleghorn.

As per the programme's new format, Chris Cleghorn was eliminated after the fish course, leaving Ali, Hywel and Nathan to cook their remaining two courses for veteran judge Tommy Banks. Ali failed to recoup enough points to catch up with Hywel and Nathan with his main course and dessert, leaving them both to cook for the judges on the third day of the Wales heat.

Biography

Raised in Anglesey in Wales, Ali describes his first foray into the world of hospitality as an accident, but says that he instantly fell in love with it - from the excitement of using knives and cooking over fire to the freedom of creation through food.

As well as working at Le Pont de la Tour, the French restaurant in Tower Bridge operated by D&D, he spent time learning from chef Anna Hansen at The Modern Pantry, and did a stint at Judy Joo's Korean Soho restaurant, Jinjuu.

Ali co-launched Smoking Goat Shoreditch with fellow chef and owner of Kiln, Ben Chapman, in May 2017, and is now the head chef at Nutbourne Bar & Restaurant on Ransomes Dock near Battersea Park.

The food at The Nutbourne features flame-grilled cuts of high-welfare meat including beef, lamb and pork from The co-owners' (Richard, Oliver and Gregory Gladwin) family farm in West Sussex, as well as seasonal game dishes including partridge, mallard and venison.

Ali names Black Axe Mangal's Lee Tiernan as one of his main influences for his playful attitude towards food, his ability to bring flavour together and his use of whole animal cuts when cooking. His food also evidently draws inspiration from his travels to Australia, South East Asia, and Malaysia.

Full name

Alastair borer

Nickname

Ali

Age/DOB

32

Place of birth / residence

Born in Switzerland, grew up in Wales, live in London

Relationship status / children

Girlfriend

Height

6’2

Type of chef (restaurant, hotel, development chef, etc.)

Restaurant

Favourite type of cuisine

South East Asian and French

Path to becoming a chef

Started at 16 because I loved food

Past and present place of work

Le Pont de la Tour, the Morden Pantry, Smoking Goat. Presently Nutbourne

Personal and professional mentors / role models

My mentor was Andrew Hales, he was my sous and head chef for over 3 years

Guilty pleasure dish

Double cheeseburger, extra mayo and pickles

Best / worst thing about being a chef

Best being able to travel and work at the same time

Feelings stepping onto the GBM set

Shit scared

Thoughts about the 'British Innovation' theme this year

I thought it was a great theme as chefs are also innovators

Plans for the future

Hopefully to create something special

Dishes

Starter

For his starter, Ali drew inspiration from Cardiff-born civil code breaker, Mair Russell-Jones. 

'Code Breaker' consisted of applewood and hickory smoked bone marrow, veal sweetbreads, both deep fried and served with a pea and lovage purée, a slow-cooked egg and topped with deep-fried lovage. Recommending that he make some changes to the presentation, portion size and balance of flavours, veteran judge Tommy Banks gave it a score of 5/10.

Fish course

Ali's fish course, 'Pont Menai' was a tribute to Scottish civil engineer Thomas Telford's construction of the Conwy suspension bridge, the world's first of its kind, which connects Anglesea to mainland Wales. 

He served his French-trimmed seabass with wet hay smoked mussels, an emulsion of poached oysters, lemon juice and rapeseed oil and dashi. Largely redeeming his previous score, Tommy Banks gave the dish an 8/10.

Main course

For his main course, 'A botanist's garden,' inspired by Eleanor Vachell, the first female president of Cardiff's naturalist society, Ali barbecued a red deer loin and served it with with a faggot from the same animal; brined blackcurrants, cep purée, pan-roasted ceps and shaved truffle. Tommy commended the chef for the dish but said it lacked refinement and scored it 7/10.

Dessert

Ali's 'Coffee Break' dessert paid tribute to Betty Campbell MBE, the first female black head teacher in Wales who was instrumental in the introduction of Black History Month. The sabayon millefeuille was made up of layers of milk parfait, speculoos-style spiced biscuit, coffee crème pâtissière, topped with chocolate and served with an espresso martini-inspired drink. Despite noting some good elements to the dish, Tommy gave it a score of 6/10.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th April 2021

Great British Menu 2021 chefs: Ali Borer, Wales heat