Great British Menu 2021: Tom Spenceley, North East Heat

The  Staff Canteen

Head chef of two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table at Bubbledogs Tom Spenceley is one of four chefs representing the North East 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. All episodes are available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

Tom is competing against chef and owner of Michelin-starred Alchemilla, Alex Bond; head chef at The Princess of Shoreditch Ruth Hansom and head chef at one Michelin star restaurant Winteringham Fields, Gareth Bartram.

This is Tom's first appearance on Great British Menu. 

​​​As per the programme's new format which starts each heat with four chefs (as opposed to three in previous years), Ruth was eliminated after the fish course. Gareth was second to exit the GBM kitchen, leaving Tom and Alex to cook for the judges on the third day of their heat.

Finally, although his dishes did impress judges Matthew Fort, Oliver Peyton, Rachel Khoo and guest judge Sophie Conran - celebrated designer, innovator and daughter of much-revered Sir Terence Conran - Tom fell short of taking his dishes to the national finals. 



First-timer Tom drew inspiration from civil engineer Robert Stephenson’s design of the North East railways for his starter, ‘The Glamour of Steam.’ 

Replicating steam train crews' practice of cooking on shovels and coal, Tom made a slow-cooked duck egg which he cracked into near-smoking point bacon fat and served it alongside burnt onion puree, English truffles, truffle emulsion, crispy potatoes and Yorkshire bacon on a shovel. Simon Rogan gave it a score of 8/10.

Fish Course

Next, Tom roasted a turbot on the bone for his fish course inspired by William Wouldhave, the inventor of the rescue boat. 

As its name suggests, ‘Rescue vessel, mussels and cockles’ saw the turbot served with mussels and cockles, as well as elder capers, pickled shellfish dashi and seaweed sauce. 

Simon Rogan found it to be flawless and gave it 10/10 points.

Main Course

For his main course, Tom created a dish to celebrate Percy Shaw of Halifax, who saved many lives with his invention of the retroreflective safety device known as cats eyes. 

It consisted of fallow deer barbecued on the pone then smoked over foraged juniper, heather and pine, served with a potato and Jerusalem artichoke terrine, black garlic ketchup, smoked bone marrow, potato tuiles, pickled Jerusalem artichokes, and the star of the show, caramelised cream. Simon Rogan gave the chef a second 10/10 score in a row.


The execution of Tom’s dessert, ‘The intoxicated honey bee,’ a nod to Professor Geraldine Wright’s experiments in the field of bee nutrition, was something of a disaster. 

Had it come to fruition as planned, it would have presented a bee’s body made of honey parfait, with markings drawn on with a chocolate, honey, stout and beer vinegar gel; wings made from tuiles of reduced chocolate stout, fondate and glucose; the whole thing served with a sabayon made with chocolate stout. 

Issues with the blast freezer and liquid nitrogen made the chef very late to the pass and meant that he was only able to serve one dessert as opposed to the usual four. 

Although Simon Rogan found many positive points to say about the dish, the above meant that he had to dock some marks from the chef and was only able to award him 6/10 points.


Full name

Thomas Spenceley




31, born 12/3/1990

Place of birth / residence

Born in Tadcaster, live in London

Relationship status / children

In a relationship



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


Favourite type of cuisine


Path to becoming a chef

College course/ work

Past and present place of work

Swinton park, Sat Bains, Typing Room. I currently work at Kitchen Table.

Personal and professional mentors / role models 

Sat Bains, James Knappett

Guilty pleasure dish

Fish and chips and gravy

Best / worst thing about being a chef

The best thing is the freedom to create things that puts a smile on people faces, the worst is the lack of sleep.

Feelings  stepping onto the GBM set

Having watched the show from age of 16, felt honoured and a privilege to be asked to take part.

Thoughts about the 'British Innovation' theme this year

Really challenging/ exciting trying to tie the inventions in with the food/ props etc.

Plans for the future

Push myself and Take my career as far as possible.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th April 2021

Great British Menu 2021: Tom Spenceley, North East Heat