Great British Menu 2016 - South West heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th September 2016

Meet the Great British Menu 2016 contestants from the South West; Josh Eggleton, Jude Kereama and Chris Wheeler.

The chefs 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.

Josh Eggleton Great British Menu 2016
Josh Eggleton

Josh Eggleton, The Pony and Trap, Chew Magna

Josh Eggleton is head chef at The Pony and Trap, one of the best restaurants in Bristol. He got his first job in the industry at 15, working at the local chip shop. By 2003 the young chef had triumphed in the Gordon Ramsay College Scholar competition. Following this, Josh moved to fill the head chef role at Bristol’s Harbourside restaurant, the Olive Shed for two years, before heading to Sicily’s il Mulinazzo, New York’s Chanterelle and the three Michelin-starred French Laundry in California to gain experience.

This experience gave Josh the skills and drive that, with the backing of his family, allowed him to become one of the youngest pub and restaurant proprietors in the country. Taking the Pony and Trap from strength to strength, Josh was awarded his first Michelin star in 2011 making him one of the youngest chefs to hold this accolade. Recognised as one of the most exciting places to eat in the South West, the pub was voted second in the Publican Morning Advertiser’s Top 50 UK Gastropubs.

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

I wanted to have another crack at it to see if I could win after a couple of years of getting to know the format and meeting some great chefs along the way. It’s a pretty intense environment but I’ve met some great people the last two years so maybe I thought third time lucky!

Have you learnt anything from your previous experiences that helped this time around?

Great British Menu is as much about knowing the format and what the judges are looking for as it is about your own style of cooking. So I learnt to tailor what I like to do, to the theme and style of cooking that the judges are looking for you to demonstrate. Sticking to the brief was the biggest thing I took from the first two years.

What did you find most difficult?

Josh Eggleton Great British Menu 2016

It’s a really intense experience cooking on Great British Menu, with very long days so it takes you out of your normal working environment and your own business completely which is hard. Also interpreting the brief in a style the judges understand and like is a talent, plus listening to them on the first round and making changes to suit in line with your original vision so it still works as a dish.

How did you find working with Jude and Chris?

I know Jude from the previous year and love cooking with him. He’s got a great style which is completely different to mine so I’ve learnt from him and his influences and I’ve also done other things outside of the event with him to champion South West food. Chris is a great chef having cooked at some of the best places in the UK. It’s always a privilege to cook with people who I have respected as my peers and inspiration over the years.

 Did the brief push you out of your comfort zone?

The brief was quite similar to last year’s celebrating British icons and characters so in that context it was a familiar subject. The most challenging thing in Great British Menu is the presentation element as we have a short timeframe to decide on the dishes and then get suppliers and friends to make the elements you need to plate and serve the dishes. All while doing the day job in the pub too.

Having done it three times, would you do GBM again?

I think that’s it for me now. I’ve learnt loads and it’s such a privilege to cook alongside the chefs. I also got to meet so many brilliant people but I think it’s time to make room for some other great chefs from the South West.

Jude Kereama Great British Menu 2016
Jude Kereama

Jude Kereama, Kota, Cornwall

Having trained under the acclaimed chef Simon Gault, Jude moved to the UK from New Zealand in 1996. He spent many years working in London at a variety of top restaurants before making the move to Cornwall. Kota earned its recognition in the form of 2AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand, due to Jude’s take on classic seafood with a twist. the restaurant has also been named in the Top 50 Summer Restaurants in Britain.

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

The first experience, I knew it was going to be tough but I didn’t realise how tough it was going to be until I got into the kitchen. They rang me to do it again as much as I knew how painful and how tough it is, I thought, there’s nothing like a challenge and so I thought I’d give it another go and see how I could do!

Have you learnt anything from your previous experiences that helped this time around?

Absolutely! Obviously second time around is supposed to be a bit easier but realistically it’s not until you get into that kitchen and that pressure is on you and you’ve got all your timing issues… Although it did help second time around knowing how tough it was, nothing prepares you for when you’re there competing. I guess a felt a bit more comfortable with the cameras poking in your face whereas the first time I was very conscious of that and I was really nervous! You have to learn to block them out and concentrate on what you’re doing. 

What did you find most difficult on this series?

The most difficult thing is cooking against your peers, being judged because you’re not used to being judged and you’ve got these top chefs from around the UK picking holes in your food and it is so intimidating. But at the same time it’s a challenge you want to try to rise to. But nothing prepares you for being in that kitchen, nothing does!

How did you find working with Josh and Chris?

They’re lovely. Very competitive guys - we’re all in the same kind of boat, we’re head chefs, owners of restaurants and to get there, you’ve got to have a competitive nature so we’re all similar characters in that sense. We all got on really well.

Did the brief push you out of your comfort zone?

The brief comes across as quite difficult at times because you have to decipher it and you want to make sure you’re hitting that brief because if you don’t, the judges will tell you that they don’t get it. I think it was great, the type of people that we were celebrating were fantastic. I got to meet a couple of people that are being commemorated by the Queen and they’re inspiring people so I thought it was a great brief to celebrate them. Any brief though, it’s always a tough ask to cook for what they want. It doesn’t matter how you interpret it as long as the judges get your food as well.

Having done it twice, would you do GBM again?

As painful as it is, there’s something quite exciting about it. I think that although you’re under immense pressure, there is something that wants you to try and do it again and get through to the banquet so definitely, I’d love to do it again!

Jude Kereama Great British Menu 2016
Jude Kereama, Great British Menu 2016
Chris Wheeler Great British Menu 2016
Chris Wheeler

Chris Wheeler, Humphry’s at Stoke Park

Originally from Swanage in Dorset, Chris began his career at the Domaine De Bassible Hotel and Michelin starred restaurant located in the French town of Ségos. Chef Jean Christophe - Novelli spotted Wheelers talent early, hiring him making Chris the youngest Sous Chef at the time to be working 7 days a week in a Michelin star winning restaurant. Chris dos through the ranks to become Novelli’s right hand man, winning Michelin stars and 5 Red stars  throughout the Novelli empire in including Four Seasons Park Lane and Maison Novelli.

Chris Wheeler joined Stoke Park in 2003. In the twelve years he has worked there he has made Humphry’s into “an experience you want to relive again and again” (At Home with Marco Pierre White) while winning 3 AA Rosettes. Wheeler was a finalist for ‘ Chef of the Year’ at the Hotel Cateys and featured in Tatler’s Restaurant Guide 2013 and again in 2014, he also won ‘Best Local Menu’ for his use of local produce at the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire Life Food and Drink Awards.

Why did you want to take part in this series?

Firstly, I was honoured to be asked to represent the South West. I’m originally from Swanage in Dorset so it was nice to go back to my roots. Secondly, it was about the Queen and Great Britain and I thought it was important as a British person. Stoke Park is a very British club so it was a good series to take part in. Having done Sunday Brunch and Saturday Kitchen, I thought TV is good so I wanted to be a part of it! I think it’s a great show and I was honoured to be asked to take part and to get to show everybody my style of food.

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

I really enjoyed doing it! I’m a great fan of the Royal Family so we themed one of our dishes around them and it was great to represent people who have done good jobs and received MBEs/OBEs. It was a very open brief so we really played around with it. You’ll see on the show; I’ve gone a little bit over the top with my dishes, they’re quite flamboyant!

Had you worked with Josh or Jude before?

No I hadn’t but they’re really good guys. We got on really well. Obviously the first day, we were checking each other out but then by the second day, we were good friends and having a laugh. We bonded really well.

Chris Wheeler and Josh Eggleton Great British Menu 2016
Chris Wheeler and Josh Eggleton, Great British Menu 2016

>>> Read more about Great British Menu here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2016 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 5th September 2016

Great British Menu 2016 - South West heat