Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th October 2016

Meet the Great British Menu 2016 contestants from the North East; Tommy Banks, Chris Archer and Mini Patel.

Tommy Banks, who retained his star in the Michelin Guide UK 2017, Chris Archer and Mini Patel, 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.

Chris Archer Great British Menu 2016

Chris Archer

Great British Menu 2016

Chris Archer, The Cottage in the Wood, Cumbria

Chris archer was appointed head chef at The Cottage in the Wood in 2014, his first head chef position, after previously working at Midsummer House (under Daniel Clifford) , Winteringham fields (under Colin Mc Gurran / Germain Schwab) and the Yorke arms. His vast experience has positively impacted his cooking style and consequently food. He describes his food as eclectic and dishes can vary from oriental inspired to a version of a dish his mum cooked for him as a kid in Yorkshire.

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

There have been so many awesome chefs that have taken part in the show, I would have been stupid to turn it down. It was never something I really looked at doing so early on, however when I got asked to do a screen test I thought it was an opportunity I might never get again.

How was it creating the dishes for this year’s theme? Did it push you out of your comfort zone?

I think having watched GBM for so many years it’s easy to get sidetracked by props and the stories behind your dishes. It was definitely a distraction and something that I’m not used to thinking about when creating a dish, I just work on flavour. But i managed to come up with ideas for the dishes that weren’t a million miles away from things that I would have on my menu at The Cottage throughout the year.

>>> Related: Chris Archer, leaves the Cottage in the Wood

Had you worked with Tommy or Mini before?

Mini is a very good friend of mine. We worked together very briefly about 5 years ago and have stayed in touch since. Tommy I hadn’t met before the show but I’ve eaten at his restaurant a number of times, so I had an idea of what I’d be up against.

What did you enjoy most/least?

I think I enjoyed working in a kitchen with two top chefs and being able to see how they work and what they'd created the most. When you become a head chef you miss that a little bit, working with a head chef who has a different view of food, someone you can pick up ideas from.

I probably liked the filming part the least, as it’s a lot of stopping and starting and waiting for cameras to set up. As a chef you’re not used to stop start, you just like to get your head down and crack on. It’s not like that when you’re on a TV set.

Would you do it again?

GBM is certainly and experience I’ll never forget but if I’m being honest I wouldn’t do it again. (I don’t think they’d have me back anyway!)

At heart I’m a chef and I’m just focused on being the best chef I can be, and being on TV isn’t really going to make me a better cook. GBM is a platform for chefs who want to be famous and on TV, I just want to be famous for cooking good food.

Great British Menu 2016

Tommy Banks Great British Menu 2016

Tommy Banks

Great British Menu 2016

Tommy banks, The Black Swan at Oldstead, North Yorkshire

Yorkshire born and bred, Tommy started working at The Black Swan aged just sixteen, when his farming parents Anne and Tom bought the restaurant in 2006. He took over as head chef in June 2013 and managed to retain the restaurant’s Michelin star despite a battle with ulcerative colitis. He has taken ‘grow your own’ to the next level and with no formal training he has developed a cooking style based on his love of the land. All of his ingredients are grown in the restaurant’s two acre kitchen garden which is maintained by himself and his chefs; an important part of his need to feel connected to his food. 

Why did you decide to take part in Great British Menu this year?

I used to watch it a lot when I first started cooking, so having the opportunity to do it was a big honour. It was great to test myself against other chefs and be a part of a TV show I’d watched from being 17. I’ve obviously got my own business which I want to thrive and the show offers the publicity for it to do that. I found it a really difficult thing to do but at the same time it was incredibly satisfying.

How did you find the brief?

The brief I really liked because I felt it was something I kind of embrace anyway with my cooking every day. Celebrating the best of British food is absolutely what I do.

But I didn’t find it easy to come up with the menu, on a day to day basis when ingredients arrive we make dishes out of them, we don’t sit and force ourselves to create a menu, I’m quite spontaneous.

For GBM you have an allotted time to create a menu of great, tasty dishes, which fit the brief and they have to be dramatic and interesting to wow people. It’s not really my style to force it.

How did you find being in front of the cameras?

When you cook normally, in your own kitchen, you know exactly what is going to happen. But it’s a fear of the unknown with Great British Menu, you know they have a formula and you wonder how they will do it plus the questions they ask you I found quite stressful but that’s because I think about things too much. Actually being on camera I didn’t find too bad because it’s not live so it’s not as intense as it appears sometimes. But they are definitely fans of the dramatic pause! Just too really put you on edge.

>>> Related: James Banks, Manager/Owner, The Black Swan at Oldstead

Your judge was Tom Aikens, was it a first for you cooking for a chef like him?

Well up here in the middle of nowhere you don’t get many celebrity or Michelin-starred chefs walking in every day! So it was fun, I was quite nervous wondering who the veteran would be and I was hoping it would be someone on my wavelength who liked my food. It was a massive worry for me because I’m not a classical chef at all.

>>> Read more about Tommy Banks here 

And how do you find judging the other chefs’ food?

I’m not being funny but you don’t give people low marks because you don’t want to look like a bad person. I think generally when the chefs judge each other they are quite generous.

Do you think you would do it again?

Yes, it’s incredibly stressful, it’s hard work and it takes over your whole life for a long time but by the end of that week of filming you want a bit more. Maybe I’m a sucker for the limelight!

Great British Menu 2016

Mini Patel Great British Menu 2016

Mini Patel

Great British Menu 2016 

Mini Patel, The Pointer, Buckinghamshire

Originally from Leeds, Mini ventured into food after deciding his college art course was not for him. After gathering some experience at catering college, Mini went on to further his knowledge by going to learn from a succession of legendary chefs, including Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.

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

The truth is I thought I’d do it for work to get The Pointer out there. I did say no originally, and then the manager was like “you should do it, it’ll be good for the pub” so I agreed. It’s sod’s law that every time I want to do it, there seems to be an absolute legend that I’ve got to compete against. Some chefs get it easy don’t they? They have two chefs who can’t cook or get it up on time and I prayed that that would be me this year but it wasn’t.

How did you find working with Tommy and Chris?

I know Chris,Tommy I’d just heard of; I didn’t really know too much about him but obviously The Black Swan at Oldstead held a star so you kind of knew your pecking order. I knew Tommy would do well, I just had to do better than Chris!

Did the brief push you out of your comfort zone?

I thought it was easier this year than the WI. This year, you knew you’d have to push the boat out a bit and try and do stuff that people haven’t done. It’s got harder and harder because trying to do dishes that you’ve not seen before in the twelve years, it’s so hard.

>>> Related: Great British Menu 2015 - North East heat

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

I did but I didn’t follow it through all the way through. I knew that I had to simplify my food – I’d done too much for first year. They’re quite clever, the producers because they’re like “what do you mean you’re not making your own bread? Can you not add more to it?” and then you start adding more and more but they want you to bloody mess it all up! To be fair, a couple of the dishes that I did this year, I had a good practice at because I put them on here (The Pointer) which I didn’t get to do last year.

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

I think I’m done. You are competing against some very talented chefs who have practiced and rehearsed and taken it all very seriously but the preparation time prior to that when you’re supposed to be writing and trying the recipes, I don’t have time for. The same as last year, I know where I’m going wrong but when you go in to that kitchen, you need to be one hundred percent sure of each component on each recipe and keep it simple and again this year, it all just went to pot!

Does it help get your name out there?

It’s comparative to how successful you are in the competition isn’t it? I mean, I watched Mike (Michael O’Hare) and Matt Worswick’s Twitter accounts just balloon overnight, but they did well and they were into the finals. Last year, The Pointer was nothing. We got ourselves on the map. When I started filming, I’d only been there eighteen days! Since then we have got three rosettes and I hope at this level, people will take us a little bit more seriously and if people on GBM know you have three rosettes, that should get people to book a bit more hopefully.

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






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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 10th October 2016

Great British Menu 2016 - North East heat