Great British Menu 2015 - North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th September 2015

Meet the Great British Menu 2015 contestants from the North East: Mini Patel, Michael O'Hare and Tim Allen.

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.

Mini Patel Great British Menu 2015

Mini Patel

Great British Menu 2015

Mini Patel, The Pointer

Originally from Wakefield, Mini Patel attended Art College but it wasn’t for him so he left. Inspired by Ready, Steady, Cook’s Ainsley Harriet he decided to pursue a career in the kitchen. His first job while at college was in Leeds at the Hilton, he moved on to Rascasse and then Teatro which was a venture by Gordon Ramsay and Lee Chapman in Soho, London.

He headed back up north to Manchester where he did the opening for The Lowry hotel’s The River Room Restaurant; Marco Pierre White was the overseeing chef at the time. He has not just cooked in the UK, he spent some time in Australia before heading back to England and he is now head chef at The Pointer in Brill, Buckinghamshire. In his current role he brings his ‘natural and unfussy’ style to the restaurant’s dishes.

He says he’s very precise and he tries to source the best ingredients he can so he can ‘put it on the plate as it is’.

What made you want to take part in Great British Menu?

I didn’t! They just kept badgering me until I said yes! (laughs) Why did I do it? I think it’s on most chefs bucket list, you want to be asked to go on GBM. I watched it when I was still a sous chef and I enjoyed watching up and coming chefs at the time like Glynn Purnell when they were on it. I thought it would be great to do that one day and it’s always been in the back of my mind. So, I think I did it because I didn’t want to regret not doing it.

Now you’ve done it, would you do it again and recommend it to other chefs?Mini Patel Great British Menu 2015

Absolutely! We all had a really good time, I knew Michael a little bit as I went to the opening of his restaurant and myself, Mikey and Tim we all just had a great laugh. It was great to experience it because you always doubt yourself and whether you can handle the pressure. I know people who have done it in the past who have said ‘it’s going to be intense’. So, you wonder if you can handle it.

You had Marcus Wareing as a judge, did that increase the pressure?

They asked us who we wouldn’t want, I think we all said we’d take anybody really but we all looked at each other and said ‘Marcus Wareing’. Five minutes later he walked in the door! But he was really great, he’s one of the top chefs in the country and he tries to keep that stern persona all the way through but I still managed to get him to crack a smile! In the end I would have swapped scores but not judges!

How did you find the theme?

The WI as a subject is quite difficult, I have never lived with my mum so there’s not that inherent female connection within the family. But their values and the things they stand for I found really easy because they are the same things I stand for - like using local produce.

Tim Allen Great British Menu 2015

Tim Allen

Great British Menu 2015

Tim Allen, Launceston Place soon to be at The Wild Rabbit

Tim Allen is currently Chef Patron at Launceston Place but he is due to become executive chef at The Wild Rabbit in in Kingham, Oxfordshire from the beginning of October. Before joining Launceston Place he was senior sous chef at the two-Michelin-starred Whatley Manor in the Cotswolds, where he spent seven years under head chef Martin Burge.

He previously spent four years with John Burton-Race, first at L’Ortolan and then at The Landmark. Tim studied physical geography and environmental science for A-levels, he had a keen interest in use of the land and soils from an early age as well as cooking - working in a kitchen while studying. With no formal training he says he learned to cook with John Burton Race and now his cooking style involves buying the best quality products, doing as little to them as possible and putting them on a plate.

What made you want to do Great British Menu?

It’s always fascinated me as a show and some of my best friends have won it so it’s something that I wanted to do but I’m not a competitive person. For me it’s what is on the plate that speaks and GBM isn’t really about that – there’s a lot of other things that go into it. It’s a hard process and it was a huge challenge – at the time I hated it but now looking back I really enjoyed it. When it’s your first time you don’t have a clue what’s going on but I would encourage chefs to give it a go. It’s an amazing experience and fantastic exposure.

Have you worked with Michael or Mini before?Tim Allen Great British Menu 2015

Michael I worked with for about six months at John Burton-Race at The Landmark, and I’d not seen him since but Michael is a top bloke, he’s got a good pedigree and background and the guy can cook. Mini I met on the show but he’s a nice lad as well.

How did you find this year’s theme?

The brief was quite hard, I just absorbed myself in the WI and what they do and why. It’s a really mental process and they want to see you on the edge. They are not trying to make you look like an idiot but they do want to see some pressure and action. You should be cooking at your best but it doesn’t always pan out like that!

Michael O'Hare Great British Menu 2015

Michael O'Hare

Great British Menu 2015

Michael O’Hare,  The Man Behind The Curtain

Michael O’Hare is chef patron at The Man Behind The Curtain in Leeds. The 34-year-old from Middlesbrough, studied aeronautical engineering at university, but decided to make a career out of being a chef, creating innovative and contemporary dishes.

He has worked under John Burton-Race at the Landmark in London and at Seaham Hall in County Durham. He opened The Blind Swine in York, famous for its carrot plant pots and potatoes buried in ash before heading to Leeds in 2014.

>>> Read: Michael O’Hare, chef-patron, The Man Behind The Curtain

The Man Behind the Curtain is a pioneering fine dining restaurant found on the top of Flannel’s department store in Leeds. The restaurant seats up to 40 and has a very small kitchen team, which is made up of just four chefs – including Michael. Michael and his team serve dishes that are modern and experimental, the tasting menu includes oysters, hake, sweetbread, cod loin, lamb and cascara.

The name ‘The Man Behind the Curtain’ is a reference to Wizard of Oz: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” and should be visited with an open mind and a willingness to taste new things. His food was described by The Guarian’s Marina O'Loughlin as ‘Bonkers. Engagingly bonkers. Much of it defies logic: smoked mackerel parfait dusted with chocolatey roasted coffee powder, shaped into bonbons and served in a decorative cup full of coffee beans’. As Michael himself declares: “It’s an ultra-modern fine dining restaurant pitching itself at the top of haute cuisine in Leeds focusing on comfort, innovation and enjoyment.”

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

They approached me, I wanted to do it because a few of my friends had done it and I wanted to infiltrate that circle. The first morning of filming I had no real expectations but it was a strange environment to be in as I wasn't in a team and I don't do any kind of competitive cooking.

Your cooking style is very different to most chefs so how did you find the brief?Michael O'Hare Great British Menu 2015

I didn't like the brief, it wasn't something I believed in. I felt a women only organisation was quite a sexist brief and it's difficult to support something I can't be a part of because of my gender. I didn't adapt the brief for the sake of being weird, I just don't feel you should compromise yourself.

You had Marcus Wareing as a judge, did he react to you and your food as you expected?

He's a nice guy and you don't actually interact with the judges much until they are judging you. But if you are going to be judged it should be by the strictest!

You got 4 out of 10 for your starter, were you surprised?

I was totally expecting it. I genuinely didn't go on the show to win it, I just wanted to make a point and get myself and my restaurant out there. Any success from that is a by-product.

>>> Read about the chefs in previous heats here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2015 here

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 7th September 2015

Great British Menu 2015 - North East heat