Great British Menu 2016 - London/South East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th October 2016

Meet the Great British Menu 2016 contestants from London/South East; Russell Bateman, Mark Froydenlund and Ronnie Murray.

Russell Bateman, Mark Froydenlund and Ronnie Murray, will create dishes in a bid to get the chance to cook at a banquet celebrating the ordinary citizens who’ve been honoured by the Queen. Great British Menu makes history as the Palace of Westminster opens its doors for the first televised banquet to be held in the historic House of Commons Members’ Dining Room. And in a bid to cook at this ultimate banquet, the competition reaches new highs in the kitchen as past record scores are equalled then smashed.

Mark Froydenlund Great British Menu 2016

Mark Froydenlund

Great British Menu 2016

Mark Froydenlund, Marcus, The Berkeley Hotel, London

Mark started his career in a local restaurant in Essex, at the tender age of sixteen. This lead him to studying full-time at Westminster Kingsway College. Mark went on to gain experience at Gordon Ramsay’s Maze under multi-starred chef Jason Atherton before moving to Marcus and later becoming head chef.

It's your second GBM appearance - why did you want to do it again?

To be honest I didn’t really think I did my self-justice last year. I thought too much about fulfilling the brief and not about what is most important...the food and ultimately the guests enjoying the banquet. This year was my chance to really show what I am about.

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

Have you learnt anything from your first experience that helped this time around?

There is so much more the competition than you realise, the preparation, practising and of course the props. It takes up so much of your time. Second time around I had a much better idea of how to manage this. Also I think I had a better understanding of what would please the Judges.

What did you find most difficult?

The whole experience is draining but exciting at the same time.

Tasting your own food with the veteran judge is one of the hardest things to do. Of course you’re happy with your dish and proud to representing the region, but as soon as you’re in the tasting room with the Judge the doubts set in.

How did you find working with Russell (Bateman) and Ronnie (Murray)?

Russell and Ronnie are great guys. Russell also trained under Marcus so it was great to swap stories. Ronnie has a completely different background to me; one of the best things about GBM is having to the opportunity to work with chefs you might not normally meet.

Did the brief push you out of your comfort zone?

Cooking for a brief is completely alien to me. As chef I very rarely have to make a dish conform in this way, it’s all about works on a plate. To do this and also make the dish tell a story is incredibly hard.

Having done it twice now, would you do GBM again?

I’d have to think very carefully, it’s a big commitment. It’s tough but great fun and a real learning experience so, yes if the timing was right I would like to give it another go.

Great British Menu 2016

Ronnie Murray Great British Menu

Ronnie Murray

Great British Menu 

Ronnie Murray, Hix Restaurants (now Peckham Manor)

As a teenager with a shortened arm, Ronnie Murray was inspired to pursue a career as a chef after contacting and working with renowned chef Michael Caines, who lost his arm in a car accident. Ronnie was then a pastry chef for 17 years, working in many critically acclaimed restaurants, including J. Sheekey and Scott’s. In 2010, Ronnie was appointed Group Head Chef of Mark Hix’s restaurants where he demonstrated his love for British classics and simple, fine ingredients. This year, Ronnie is running Peckham Manor, an intimate supper club once a month at his home in Peckham.

>>> Read more about Michael Caines here

Why did you want to take part in this series?

I’ve watched it on and off since it started and it’s just a fantastic competition, isn’t it? It’s an opportunity to showcase the industry I think. I was quite honoured to be asked and to be in it. I’m really excited, it’s been a long wait – we filmed it almost a year ago! It will be great viewing because you don’t know what’s going to happen – the rest of us genuinely don’t know what’s going on in the other regions, we don’t know what people cooked so it’s going to be really fascinating viewing for us as well.

The week I’m going to be on telly is when I’m at so I won’t even be able to watch it live! I’m going to be in a marquee in Regent’s Park. Although it’s slightly better to be busy – at least I won’t be watching from behind the sofa.

How was it creating the dishes for this year’s theme?

It’s really hard because the brief was really wide. Watching it in the past it’s been quite specific and I think this year they’ve done it specifically because we all remember the W.I. one where everyone went along similar routes. That was interesting in itself because of how people interpreted it but I guess it needed to be wider from a viewing point of view. I think they went to the extreme opposite this year – the brief was so wide and it can be interpreted in so many different ways. It was really quite difficult to scale it down – sometimes when you’re given too much to work with, it’s harder. It was an interesting experience coming up with dishes.

Is that what you found most challenging, coming up with the dishes?

It’s definitely the most challenging thing, to write the menu. It’s also challenging from a chef’s point of view because you have to submit all the recipes quite a long way in advance and you don’t get very long between submitting the menu and the recipes – it’s a couple of weeks’ window. So you’ve got to do your testing and you can tweak a little bit but you’re conscious that they might go out on the BBC website and then somebody’s going to try and cook your dish so the last thing you want is the public cooking a recipe that doesn’t work! There’s quite a bit of pressure to get that nailed as well. We all know that chefs are notorious for adding a bit of this and changing a bit of that but you’ve got to be quite focused on it.

Had you worked with Russel or Mark before?

No, we’d never met actually which is amazing because it should come across when you watch it that we got on like a house on fire! We’re all completely different – Mark and Russell come from similar-ish backgrounds but I come from a completely different world to that and we got on really well. Mark’s obviously Marcus’ boy and very Michelin star driven, very precise, which is not my style at all. My style is a bit more minimal, homely food, you know? So it was quite interesting just to kick stuff around. They’re top lads, they’re hilariously funny so we all had a really good craic, there was a lot of laughing about going on which was good.

Russell Bateman

Russell Bateman, Colette’s at The Grove

Appointed head chef at The Grove in 2007, Russell has previously worked in  Michelin star restaurants including Pétrus and Auberge de L'Eridan, The Capital Hotel and Restaurant and Midsummer House. Throughout his career he has had the chance to work alongside many notable chefs, such as Marcus Wareing, Marc Veyrat and Gordon Ramsay who have helped him shape his own unique style along side the influence of different ethic groups he was aware of at a young age. These experiences have enabled Bateman to develop innovative, cosmopolitan dishes that embrace diverse food cultures.

Why did you want to take part in this series?

 When you’re first phoned up, obviously it’s a huge honour to be asked whether you’d be interested or not. The brief was something that really appealed to me this year because I’m a very proud Englishman and a particularly proud Londoner. For me, it was a no-brainer. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do; I absolutely love it so as soon as I got the opportunity I jumped at it really.

How was it creating the dishes for this year’s theme?

It’s the hardest thing ever! Simply because you read the brief and you have a view of it and then all of a sudden you’re doubting whether or not you read it the right way. You don’t know whether you’re reading it the same way that they want you to read it, or the same way that the other competitors are reading it. You don’t know and you never ever know whether you’ve got it right or wrong. It’s absolutely open to interpretation and you’ve sometimes got to read between the lines.

>>> Read more about Russell Bateman here

What did you find the most difficult about being on the show?

The most difficult thing is probably the timings. Obviously we’re all used to cooking under a certain amount of pressure but throwing the timings of the television into the mix, stopping and starting, do this again, do that again, that was pretty tough. A different kind of challenge, I guess.

Was it quite different having the cameras around?

You try and take no notice of them really. I don’t think you can use it as a reason to get anything wrong because in fairness, they’re very professional, they don’t really get in your way. They do ask questions sometimes but to be honest it’s no more than you get asked by someone you’re working with anyway, FOH or one of your chefs popping in the kitchen. It was just business as usual I think.

Had you worked with Ronnie or Mark before?

Obviously I worked for Marcus Wareing, who Mark’s the head chef for but I’d never met him. I’d never met either of them before but we got on well. There’s no egos amongst any of us, there’s no animosity – that’s how we all like to cook anyway. We were all there for the same reason – we all wanted to enjoy it and do as well as we can and get our story across and get our brief across as best we could. I think it was a real team effort to be honest, getting the job done to the best you can and if you can help one another then you help one another.

>>> Read about the other chefs taking part in Great British Menu this year

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2016 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th October 2016

Great British Menu 2016 - London/South East heat