Great British Menu 2015 - London and South East heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2015 contestants from London and the South East; Matt Gillan, Lee Westcott and Mark Froydenlund.

The chefs will create British foods and must plate up perfection, as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet marking 100 years of the Women's Institute at London's historic Drapers Hall. The challenge is to produce 21st-century dishes that honour the custodians of first-class home cooking, and pay tribute to the generations of women who have helped make Britain the great culinary nation it is today.

Matt Gillan Great British Menu 2015

Matt Gillan

Great British Menu 2015

Matt Gillan, The Pass

Matt is head chef at the Michelin-starred The Pass, South Lodge Hotel, a five star country house hotel and part of Exclusive Hotels and Venues. A protégé of Daniel Clifford and John Campbell, Matt grew up in the town of Bordon in Hampshire and entered the catering industry at age 15 when he got a job at a local pub as kitchen porter and eventually became a chef when the role became available.

After leaving school, Matt followed his talent to Michelin star eateries including Midsummer House, The Vineyard at Stockcross and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Often stating he would have been a graphic designer had he not become a chef, Matt has an artistic eye for presentation; his plates are pretty but not overly fussy. In 2006 he joined South Lodge in West Sussex working as a sous chef under executive chef Lewis Hamblet at The Camellia Restaurant.

And, after a year, Matt was promoted to head chef. And after a year of working in South Lodge he joined The Pass when it opened in 2008. The Pass Restaurant seats only 26 guests and adopts the ‘Chef's table’ concept which allows guests to get intimately involved in the cooking experience as CCTV monitors show a live feed for those with their back to the action.

The restaurant serves modern British dishes, taking influences from countries all over the world. Matt often speaks of his love of taking a raw product and turning it into something different, saying this transformational philosophy drew him to the chef profession.

Why did you want to take part?

I have done GBM before but I didn’t make Matt Gillan Great British Menu 2015it as far as the judges last time. I didn’t think I’d get the opportunity to do it again, so when I was asked, I said yes straight away. I felt I had something to prove to myself. And to be asked to represent your region in this show is quite a privilege.

How easy/hard was it creating dishes for this year’s theme?

It’s always difficult trying to write a menu around a specific theme and getting those dishes to explain what you are trying to say through predominantly looks is particularly challenging. I quite enjoyed
doing the research for my menu, and learnt a huge amount on the WI and classical dishes, recipes and techniques. 

Do you think shows like this help a chef, is it a good way to get your name and restaurant out there?

Shows like GBM certainly help to get your name and restaurant out into the public domain. People nowadays seem to gravitate towards restaurants or chefs they see on TV. There isn’t a better way to get your name out there.

 Mark Froydenlund, Marcus

Mark Froydenlund Great British Menu 2015

Mark Froydenlund

Great British Menu 2015

Mark is head chef at Marcus, a restaurant that has been open for ten years with two Michelin-stars and five AA Rosettes, located in The Berkeley, Knightsbridge. During his teenage years Mark gained experience in the catering industry through work at local restaurants at Leigh-on-sea, his home town in Essex, and went on to study at Westminster Kingsway College in London.

During his time at college Mark managed to make connections with people in the business and was put in touch with Marcus Wareing, owner of Marcus and started his career at the restaurant virtually straight after leaving college. Mark started working at the restaurant in 2007 and became head chef two and a half years ago. Through his time at Marcus, Mark has quickly learned how to operate an intense kitchen and lead a team, as well as having the opportunity to enrich his knowledge of food and develop his cooking skills.

>>> Read: Mark Froydenlund, head chef, Marcus, The Berkeley

The kitchen team consists of 24 members and Mark is keen to ensure everyone is happy with their work and feel passionate about what they do. He looks up to Marcus as a role model and is keen to make sure the restaurant holds onto its status as being one of the best restaurants.

 For now he wants to support the on-going projects at Marcus to increase the restaurant’s recognition but would, one day, like to own his own place. The Marcus restaurant offers a fine dining experience serving French-style dishes using British ingredients. The restaurant features a lunch menu, taste menu, à la carte menu and wine list. Mark Froydenlund Great British Menu 2015

What made you want to take part in the show?

I wanted the chance to compete against some great chefs, I wanted to push myself and to learn along the way. It was a great experience.

How easy was it creating something for this year’s theme?

I took a very personal approach to the theme, I was lucky enough to have lots of food memories that I could draw on.

Had you worked with either Lee or Matt before?

No, I hadn’t met either of them before we started in the kitchen on day one. I knew of them and that they’d be producing some fantastic food, they are great guys and we have a lot of fun working together.

Do you think shows like this are a good platform for chefs to get their work seen?

For me the show is a great challenge and each year the chefs seem to be putting more effort and creating some real master pieces. The food doesn’t necessarily always reflect who you are as a chef because we have to follow the brief – which is key – but it does allow our personalities to shine through. The show really does push the chefs and the food to new levels, which can only be a good thing.

Lee Westcott, Typing Room

Lee Westcott Great British Menu 2015

Lee Westcott

Great British Menu 2015

Lee is the executive chef at the Typing Room at The Town Hall Hotel, in London. The restaurant is his first solo project and, since opening in 2014, it is already a nominee for London’s Best New Restaurant Award 2015. The 28-year-old entered the catering industry after taking a job as a kitchen porter at an English country pub near Stevenage, his hometown.

Since then he has worked with a number of innovative chefs including the Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens. Lee gained experience at some of the world’s most renowned restaurants, including Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York and René Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagan. He has also run a few of Jason Atherton’s kitchens in Hong Kong. In 2009 Lee undertook a stage for a day at the Michelin-starred restaurant Tom Aikens with a keen interest in Tom’s style of food.

>>> Read our feature with Lee Westcott here

He was working at Galvin’s at the time, and had been for a year and a half. But, after being offered a job Lee started work at the Tom Aikens restaurant. Lee managed progress in the kitchen to acquire the role of head chef after the restaurant had undergone an extensive refurbishment.
Now at the Typing Room Lee is keen to use only the best British and local produce.

The restaurant features British and European dishes and offers a five-course menu, seven-course menu and lunch menu. The name of the restaurant is taken from the room’s original purpose at the old town hall. The room once used as a typing room, and now called the Typing Room, has a stylish setting and warm atmosphere, seating 40 guests. With the staff wearing jeans and shirts, the casual service at the restaurant provides a perfect opportunity for a casually dressed fine dining experience.

Why did you want to take part in Great British Menu? Lee Westcott Great British Menu 2015

I wanted to be involved with GBM as I’ve seen many good chefs compete on the show and I felt it would be privilege to be involved with a show I’ve been a huge fan of since the beginning. It was also a way of me to think outside the box and have some fun at the same time.

Had you worked with Matt or Mark before?

I had never worked with Matt or Mark, I had obviously heard of them both before of course. It was an absolute pleasure to compete alongside them, as they are both talented guys. The show also creates a real friendly competitive vibe, so the three of us had a lot of fun teasing each other.

And what about the theme, did you find it hard?

The WI theme was a tough brief. But as I buried myself into the research, I found that there was a lot to play with in terms of ideas.

>>> Read about the chefs in previous heats here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2015 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st September 2015

Great British Menu 2015 - London and South East heat