Great British Menu 2015 - Northern Ireland heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2015 contestants from Northern Ireland; Chris McGowan, Danielle Barry and Ben Arnold.

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.

Chris McGowan Great British Menu

Chris McGowan

Great British Menu 2015

Chris McGowan

Chris began his career as veg prep in a hotel. He was head chef of Richard Corrigan's, Corrigan's of Mayfair, until early last year.

From 2008 the restaurant has won 'The AA London Restaurant of the Year' and 'BMW's Best British Cuisine' award. Having previously headed Corrigan's Michelin-starred Lindsay House, the busy father of twins has spent almost half of his more than 20-year-long career with Great British Menu winner Richard Corrigan, and so has inherited his 'farm to fork' philosophy of carefully sourced, seasonal produce.

Chris used to run monthly cooking classes at Corrigan's where he aimed to inspire his students with the ingredients themselves and instill the importance of knowing where food comes from.

Danielle Barry, EIPIC

Danni Barry Great British Menu 2015

Danni Barry

Great British Menu 2015

Danni Barry's cooking career began in 2003 when she first worked for Michael Deanes.

Her culinary knowledge has been gained through her various travels across South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Mainland Europe. During her travels she worked in numerous high-end restaurants.

Danni worked at Simon Rogan's L'Enclume in Cumbria and was then appointed at Rogan & Co in Cartmel. Michael Deane persuaded Danni to comeback to Belfast to take the reins of EIPIC.

Danni is driven by her passion for only the freshest and most seasonal produce being cooked to perfection. Her is progressive, honest, flavoursome, light, visual, balanced and modern.

What made you want to take part?

I guess it's from watching the show in previous years. I just moved back to Northern Ireland this year and then I was approached and asked if I'd like to go on it. With the theme this year, being the WI that had an influence on my wanting to do it this year.

Are you a fan of the show?

Yes I have been. I think most chefs find themselves tuning in every year. As a chef watching it you like to see chefs from different regions, some you've heard of and maybe not heard of.

Danni Barry Great British Menu 2015You get a few unknowns every year and it uncovers a few gems in the industry every year so it's kind of a good way to learn about these chefs and who they are and see them in an environment that's not really theirs. I found that really daunting. It was a big challenge to go and do it but I guess I like a challenge.

Have you worked with Chris and Ben before?

No but I knew them because Northern Ireland's quite small and we all sort of knew who each other were and I've watched Chris previously on the show. But we didn't really know each other, no.

It was great though. That was probably one of the highlights of the week was getting to work alongside the two guys. Chris from his previous experience, he really helped us along because I found the whole thing quite overwhelming. We were all there for each other and we wanted Northern Ireland to get through. Everybody wanted everybody to do well so there was a really nice camaraderie.Danni Barry Great British Menu 2015

In terms of this year's theme, how easy did you find cooking to the brief?

It's not really what you do as a chef, thinking about a brief. So picking a theme and then coming up with a menu - it was really difficult. It was one of the reasons I was interested in doing it.

First you had to read lots of recipes and a little bit of history about the area and how they were connected to the WI where I'm from. I found that really interesting however it was difficult to match food to the information you found. The theme thing was the hardest part for me.

Ben Arnold Great British Menu 2015

Ben Arnold

Great British Menu 2015

Ben Arnold, Home Restaurant

Ben Arnold began cooking at the age of 16 in a local restaurant where her grew up, Holywood, Co. Down Northern Ireland. Whilst studying full time at Westminster Kingsway College, London from 2005 – 2008 he completed stages with Theo Randall at The Intercontinental and at Le Gavroche.

He has competed in numerous Craft Guild of Chefs organised competitions, in total winning eight gold, four best in class, two silver and one bronze award. He also won the Robbie Millar Scholarship, Young Irish Chef of the Year in 2007 and was placed runner up in the London Chef of the Year 2009.

After this he worked at the Palace of Westminster, House of Commons for two years before moving onto La Trompette in Chiswick then returning to Belfast in early 2011.

Home Restaurant was established later that year and he has been the head chef ever since. Starting as a pop-up restaurant in an off-the-beaten track location in Belfast City Centre, initially for three months, the pop-up venture was an instant hit and the restaurant extended its tenure for almost a year, before taking up a permanent home in its current location of Belfast's Wellington Place.

They have maintained a Michelin Bib Gourmand for almost three years, serving food that is vibrant and bold but comforting. Made fresh every day, free from preservatives and colourings, the team always try to source their foods locally from Northern Ireland or as close to home as they can.Ben Arnold Great British Menu 2015

Why did you want to take part?

I have always enjoyed watching the show over the past years and if the opportunity arose to participate then I would, and it did. I thought I could bring something to the show and was confident that I could do well.

What did you make of this year's theme?

Like most of the competitors I knew virtually nothing about the WI, nor did I have any relatives or close family friends who where members. It took a lot of research to gain an understanding of the WI. It was definitely a challenge to come up with the dishes, all the time thinking about what exactly the brief was asking.

>>> Read more about this year's Great British Menu here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2015 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st August 2015

Great British Menu 2015 - Northern Ireland heat