Great British Menu 2014 – Central Heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet Great British Menu 2014 contestants from the Central heat; Jason Hodnett, Mark Poynton and Aktar Islam.  

Jason Hodnett

Great British Menu 2014 - Jason Hodnett
Jason Hodnett

Jason describes his earliest food memory as being on holiday in the South of France at a restaurant, and his father asking if he could sit and watch the chefs work. Bitten by the cooking bug at an early age, he found his progression into the kitchen very naturally, as both his father and grandfather were chefs.

After training at Shrewsbury Redbrook College, he continued learning everything he could by working in the countries top restaurants. He was head chef at the four star, double AA rosette Albrighton Hotel by the time he was 24.

From there he has retained his two AA rosettes and has headed The Lion Bar in 2010, and Saracens in 2012. He took over the kitchen at The Raven in Much Wenlock in 2013. He has also made TV appearances on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2009, and Iron Chef UK in 2010. Aside from the greats such as Pierre Koffman and Thomas Keller, Jason is inspired by a good team backing him up in the kitchen.  

Mark Poynton

Great British Menu 2014 - Mark Poynton
Mark Poynton

Mark began as a waiter at The Queens Hotel in Chester when he was 15 before beginning an apprenticeship under head chef Ian McDowall. McDowall then offered Mark the position of commis chef at his new venture, which he eagerly accepted. After two years under Ian he moved onto Paul Kitching’s Michelin-starred Juniper, of Altringham, were he says it switched from being about the lifestyle to the food.

He then set his sights on London where he had little luck in finding work due to lack of experience, so took to the kitchens of The Craxton Wood Hotel for a short spell. He then heard that the newly Michelin-starred Daniel Clifford was looking for chefs, so he and his pastry chef girlfriend applied and got the jobs.

After seven years at Clifford’s Midsummer House in Cambridge, in 2008 Mark became head chef of Alimentum, Cambridge, and then chef-patron in 2009. The restaurant now has a Michelin star, three AA rosettes and a 6/10 from Good Food Guide.

Mark himself also holds an RSPCA Good Business Award for his diligent attention to animal welfare and the effects of his business. Mark applies techniques from around the world to carefully sourced, seasonal British ingredients.  

Aktar Islam 

Aktar has been making waves on the culinary scene and changing how we see Indian food

Great British Menu 2014 - Aktar Islam
Aktar Islam

since twelve years ago when he was only 22. He opened Lasan, an authentic Indian restaurant in Birmingham, with his friend Jabbar Khan Aktar.

The duo felt the market lacked that Indian sub-continent authenticity and the market obviously agreed awarding the restaurant ladles of praise and accolades, including Gordon Ramsay’s Best Local Restaurant in 2009. This success then led Aktar to victory in the 2011 series of The Great British Menu.

The self-taught chef was born in Birmingham and considers his exposure to British food and the food of his cultural heritage have shaped his unique cooking style. Aktar and Jabbar are co-directors of the Lasan Group, the umbrella concept behind Lasan, their street café, Raja Monkey, and their latest venture – the Argentinian restaurant Fiesta del Asado.

By Harriet Knight

>>> Everything you need to know about Great British Menu here


>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2014 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 25th April 2014

Great British Menu 2014 – Central Heat