Great British Menu 2015 - Scotland Heat

The Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2015 contestants starting with the chefs competing in the Scottish heat; Graham Campbell, Jak O'Donnell and Jimmy Lee.

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 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.

Graham Campbell Great British Menu 2015

Graham Campbell

Great British Menu 2015

Graham Campbell, Glenesk Country House Hotel

Graham Campbell specializes in Scottish dishes to which he gives his own contemporary touch. He began his culinary journey at The Caledonian Hotel in Oban but has gained experience at various restaurants and hotels across Scotland, Yorkshire and Manchester. Graham's signature dishes include wild Scottish rabbit with poached pears, chocolate fondant with liquorice ice-cream and black olive syrup. After working at The Caledonian, Graham headed to Rochdale and worked under Andrew Nutter.

In 2008, at the age of 25, he gained his first Michelin star while working at The Ballachulish Hotel. After his time at Ballachulish Hotel, Graham moved to the Lake of Menteith Hotel and then The Monastery. He headed a team of six chefs with an aim to transfer the elements of fine-dining in restaurants into banqueting. In August 2013, Graham headed to the Pittodrie House Hotel and helped them win AA 2 Rosettes. He currently works as the executive head chef at the Glenesk Country House Hotel in Angus.

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

They approached me. A lass called Rose said: "I'm here regarding GBM and would you be interested in being on it?" And I said: "Yeah definitely!"
 She explained they needed to do a quick interview and they interviewed and filmed me to see what I was like on camera and I thought 'this is brilliant'.

I was proper interested in being on it. To actually be approached to do Graham Campbell scallops Great British Menu 2015something that's so high profile was an honour, especially to do it for my country, for Scotland. To be part of something you represent your country for and to be one of three chefs in the whole of Scotland to get on it, it was a proud thing to do.

Are you a fan of the show?

Yeah - definitely. It's interesting. You see all these other TV cooking shows and GBM is something different, especially when you've got to design a theme. Way back it wasn't really a themed thing, it was just four dishes chefs would do. Then they started doing themes and doing something a bit different. For one thing, it's a high profile show to be on. It's interesting to watch, rather than your normal cooking show, it's something a bit fun as well.

Have you worked with Jak or Jimmy before?

No never.

Jak O’Donnell Great British Menu 2015

Jak O’Donnell

Great British Menu 2015

Jak O’Donnell, The Sisters

Jak O’Donnell is chef director at The Sisters in Glasgow where she has been running the restaurant for 17 years, she was also in charge of Short and Sweet, her own pastry company from 1992 to 1998 where she supplied hotels and restaurants in the Glasgow area. From an early age Jak knew her calling was towards the culinary industry as a young girl she was sent out to her 'grannies garden to pull rhubarb or turn the soil for tatties or pick up any apples'.

She said: "I thought this was all pretty hard work... I was 4 at the time!! My reward/payment for this hard earned labour was a stick of this crisp tart rhubarb.” Prior to The Sisters, Jak had worked as a pastry chef before trying her hand at private dining. She started her journey by working as an apprentice at a small restaurant for four years which was situated in Glasgow’s west end. Jak has worked for the likes of Shirley Spears, Nick Narin, Raymond Blanc and Tom Kitchin.

>>> Watch Marco Pierre White cook for Raymond Blanc

In May 1998, Jak along with her sister Pauline O’Donnell opened the doors of The Sisters. The Sisters promised to share the Scottish larder with their customers in the heartland of Glasgow. The Sisters provides its patrons the feeling of a home-cooked Scottish fare in the ambience of a restaurant. Jak’s recipes are simple, classic and traditionally Scottish.

Jak says: “Scotland's produce is going from strength to strength I intend to keep using the best produce and looking after my customers, at the end of the day I love producing great food and through the years I have managed to receive several awards from various competitions and awarding bodies however it's the customers that make me go to the work every day. 

Jak is also a popular face on television as she has made countless appearance on various television shows where she has showcased her simple Scottish cooking.  Jak will be participating in this year’s Great British Menu, competing against Graham Campbell and Jimmy Lee in the heats.

Watch our video where she talks about last year’s Great British Menu:

What made you want to take part in the show?

I felt it was such an honour to be asked to cook in such a well-respected show within the industry.

How easy was it deciding on what to cook for this year’s theme?

My style of cooking is very traditional any way so coming up with dishes based on WI Centenary was ok as you know it's the strive for perfection in the competition that was more difficult.

Do you think shows like this are a good platform for chefs?

I think GBM is a particularly good platform for chefs, the competition element is a great motivator for yourself and it's brilliant for business.

Jimmy Lee, Lychee Oriental

Jimmy Lee Great British Menu 2015

Jimmy Lee

Great British Menu 2015

Jimmy Lee started working in his father’s restaurant at an early age where he gained all his experience and spent 20 years in the family business. His cooking style is Cantonese with Sichuan influences which comes from his family who are both in Hong Kong and Southwest China.

Being born and raised in Scotland has seen Jimmy gaining further cooking ideas and since his father’s retirement a few years ago Jimmy went on to become the head chef of Lychee Oriental were he has created traditional Cantonese cooking with fresh Scottish ingredients. He loves experimenting with different flavours in his food. 

He cooks from the heart and ensures also his food is full of intense flavours. Since opening Lychee Oriental the restaurant has been awarded many accolades including Best Newcomer 2012, Best Asian Restaurant 2013, Best in Service 2014 and Best Oriental 2015.

Jimmy is a regular on Scottish television, cooking many dishes on the Riverside Show.  He is currently working on his latest TV cooking project.

Why did you want to get involved with GBM?

I wanted to get involved in the show to produce dishes and showcase my cooking techniques which have not been shown on the Great British Menu before.

Chilli, salt tiger king prawns with red chilli puree low resAre you a fan of the show?

I love the show and was a huge fan before coming on the show.

Have you worked with Graham or Jac before?

I haven't worked with Graham or Jak before but they were great fun to work with and we all still keep in contact.

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2015 here

By Rob Whitson and Aimee Davis

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Editor 3rd August 2015

Great British Menu 2015 - Scotland Heat