Colin McGurran speaks about Great British Menu 2014

The Staff Canteen

Colin McGurran got his dessert on to the D-Day banquet for Great British Menu 2014 last week.

As it’s his third Great British Menu and his third time making it to the finals, The Staff Canteen thought we’d ask the chef-patron of Winteringham Fields in Lincolnshire to tell us about his Great British Menu journey.  


Colin Mcgurran Great British Menu 2014

Colin Mcgurran

Great British Menu 2014

You’re quite a regular on Great British Menu now; how did this year’s compare to the other two? Did it feel as good to get your dish onto the banquet menu?

Yes it did; the more times you do it, the more afraid you are that you’re going to be sent home. All the chefs that were on it this year that had watched it previously were like, “oh it’s the Colin McGurran,” show because I knew what was happening and what was coming next.

I didn’t have so much of the stress in the kitchen; it was more about me enjoying the competition and delivering my food the way I wanted it to be delivered; whereas the first two years I was bricking it, where I was so worried about the stress of the cameras looking at you in the face and if you drop something, you know they’re going to be on it like a fly. So for me this year was a lot more relaxed; I felt a lot more confident and just at ease cooking my own food.  

Your ‘Quail in the Woods’ dish on GBM 2012 was quite a turning point in your career, wasn’t it?

Yes there were some huge chefs on that year like Phil Howard and Nathan Outlaw and I really felt out of my depth. That dish came from a year before when we started growing our own quails. I went down to the pens one summer’s morning; the mist was incredible; you couldn’t see your feet through the forest floor but you could hear the quails and you could see all the foliage. I thought, imagine if you could take a picture of this and transport it onto a plate – what would be the mist? What would be the foliage? Where’s the quail and how would it be presented?

I had the idea of taking the bark off the tree and putting the moss on and making it into a forest floor and then using dry ice and the scented aroma of bark stock for the smell of the forest; so I had all the senses going then I put the quail down and had it with its own liver and the foie gras, and when I looked at it I thought, yes ok people have done that kind of thing before – Heston with his sea bed – but it was my interpretation of it and my interpretation of what was real to me. It was my quails, my forest floor. It actually gave me a lot of confidence to say actually I can go and cook with the best.  

Had you lacked that confidence before?

I remember saying to my dad that I wanted to go on the competition and my dad’s quite a pessimistic person; he’ll say things like, “Don’t spend your money; don’t buy any hotels; just go and work for somebody and earn your money and go home.” So when I said I wanted to do Great British Menu, he said, “Don’t do that; you’re gonna put your cock on the block there.” But I said, “No, I want to see how good I am; I want to see what I’m like.”

I’d been buried away in my kitchen for six years and I thought that I’d worked my bollocks off trying to get recipes and making sure everything was really consistent and the food tasting really good and getting the culture into the kitchen, making sure that everything was really consistent. Colin Mcgurran Great British Menu 2014 My kitchen was very much like a laboratory in that everything was so precise it was unreal, because I was scared of change; I was scared of putting too much salt in something; I’d worked too hard for someone just to say, “Yeah just throw a pinch in.”

We had a risk analysis for everything which made it very stress free in the kitchen and service just a piece of cake. So I thought, yeah I’m just gonna do this and see what happens, and when it tuned out in my favour it was great for business; the phone was ringing; more customers came; we could afford more chefs which gave me time to do more research and development.

Then I did Great British Menu again and got to the finals again and did my tomato gazpacho which turned out really well and we just got busier. The busier you get the more you can invest and we’ve been very lucky to be able to do that.

>>> Read more about Great British Menu here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2014 here

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2014

Colin McGurran speaks about Great British Menu 2014