Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Sabrina Gidda, Central heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Great British Menu 2019 Central heat is set to air on BBC 2 on Wednesday 3rd April at 8pm, featuring three chefs from the Midlands: Sabrina Gidda, Kray Treadwell and Ryan Simpson-Trotman. 

We spoke to them to hear what it was like to take part in the competition, now in its fourteenth edition. This week's contestants will be judged by No6 chef and industry veteran Paul Ainsworth. Two of them will make it to the judge's table on Friday, where Matthew Fort, Oliver Peyton and  Andi Oliver will be joined by UB40's Ali Campbell.

Sabrina Gidde never intended to become a chef; she was working part-time as a waitress in a café whilst studying Fashion Marketing and PR at university when she wound up covering a kitchen shift. It was a pivotal moment from which she has never looked back. 

After graduating Sabrina honed her skills in a London gastropub before joining Restaurant Associates, working at Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden followed by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for just over three years. The chef made the Roux Scholarship finals twice, in 2014 and 2015. 

She became the head chef at London Marylebone's Bernardi's in 2015, where her love for Italian food flourished. Finally, in September last year, Sabrina was asked to become the executive chef of AllBright, an all-women's exclusive social club in London's Fitzrovia.

17742430 low res great british menuCongratulations for making it onto GBM again. How was it?

I had such a great time. I think people don't realise how tough it actually is it. When people watch things on TV they think it's really easy.

Someone actually asked me if it was staged and if you actually cook in real time, and I was like 'of course we do, it's not a here's one I made earlier' kind of thing. That doesn't happen. So yep, I really enjoyed it. It was great.

It wasn't without mishaps, but that makes for good television doesn't it.

Image: (from left to right) Kray Treadwell, Sabrina Gidda, Ryan Simpson-Trotman. 

What did you think of this year's 50 years of British music brief? 

I thought it was a really great brief. I think they do a really good job of leaving it  quite open to interpretation, so it's just really interesting to watch how people have chosen to interpret the brief. It's quite varied again this year which I think makes it more fun. You're not just watching people dedicate track issues to the same songs and whatnot. It seems like a decent sort of mix really which makes it fun.

As compared to last year's brief, did you find it easier or harder to match your food to?

There were some restrictions in terms of the songs that you were allowed to choose, and the approach you were about to have. It was still difficult because there was some dead ends in terms of directions to pursue but it was it was great because it wasn't a serious brief. Last year was difficult because you were trying to find playful and fun ways or otherwise to celebrate what was effectively a very very serious subject matter, whereas this year it was quite playful - a bit of a giggle. I think it was it was lovely be able to just be a bit more fun with it really.

Tell me a little bit about your food. What was the inspiration behind your 'My Mixtape' starter?

It was basically just a collection of all of my favourite ingredients. I'm one of my favourite dishes so that was that was really the direction. What are all the things that I love the most and then let's compile them into that dish really. I had an Italian restaurant for three years and  for me a day without pasta is a day wasted (laughs). 

I heard you had a little bit of a pressure cooker incident, what happened?

If they invite me back I'm really going to have to think about the equipment that I end up using (laughs). I make it all the time and it's usually perfect -  and then obviously I get onto GBM and it was an absolute mess.

But it wasn't just you right, Ryan had some kind of incident?

We all had an equal sort of catastrophe in one way or another which again I think makes for great TV.

So, your fish course - Brimful of Asha - funnily enough I've been I've been humming that song for the past couple of days. You made it last year, right?

I love that song. I know it was a little bit questionable but I thought it was such a giggle and I really believed in
this last year I wanted to see if I could see it all the way through. 

Last year it was the idea of family sharing that happens with the nurses in the NHS where everybody brings a lunchbox, something relative to their culture. You put it on the table in your break and you share it. So the dish was called from me to you. So it was a little touch of my cultural background to be shared with people. And then this year I was just like 'God how can I try this together to bring it back' and I just love that track.

Asha Bhosle has a restaurant in Birmingham. It was the celebrated unsung heroes of the Bollywood music scenes - which again is one of the direct connections to the brief but it was such a fun way to bring the track back.

It was really a throw up between that song, because of the Indian element, and I guess it was for me where it marks the point where my culture reached the mainstream music industry. I mean it wasn't. I know now it's full of Panjabi MC and people sampling but growing up Punjabi music we listened to at home but wasn't about to make a cameo on top of the Pops.

The Sunday Jukebox main, that was that was the most personal of your dishes, right? It was a connection to your granddad's 45 collection?

Yes. He was the first Asian chef to have a pub in this country. One year for Christmas my parents bought me my first record player, and they gave me all of the vinyl that used to play in the jukeboxes in the pubs. And even now it is still the best gift I've ever been given really.

I play records at home every weekend; Bob Marley, UB40, Stevie Wonder, records from the 60s and these are all original vinyls. So it's really a super collection of vinyls. Yeah. It was just magical about knowing that the actual physical piece of record was spinning thirty years ago in the pub where he was pulling pints.

Lots of people say you can hear a song and it takes you back to a certain moment or a memory. It's that and some, because I have the actual physical, timeless magic - I still have the physical piece that plays itself to me like that.

How did you present that on a plate? 

I had 45 sleeves and little blurb with the picture of my grandad with the clients in the pub. It's the idea that our family Sunday lunch, even as a Punjabi family is a big deal and it was just a little dedication to that.

And then finally your dessert was a Stone Roses reference - ice cream, peanut sable and honeycomb, right?

It was a bit of a double approach because it was a funny take on the fact that Elvis's favourite sandwich was peanut butter and jelly. It's a flavour profile that I really love. And also it's just one of my all time favourite tracks. It's on my journey to work playlist when I've got a big day ahead. It's like one of those tracks that you put on.

What was it like being judged by Paul? 

He's really amazing. He's a great chef and a great mentor who I really look up to and I really loved his approach to food. We'd never met before but I had seen him on the show and it was really lovely to meet him. I was really pleased he was our judge.

And my last question is would you do it again?

I really would. I really want to but I'm not sure they won't just say two years is enough.  But I would love to do it again and I'd love to commit a lot more time doing it because it's such a great thing. 

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 3rd April 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Sabrina Gidda, Central heat