Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Danny Parker, North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2017 chefs from North East: Danny Parker

This year Danny Parker takes on Josh Overington and Tommy Banks in a bid to make it through to the Great British Menu 2017 banquet which celebrates 140 years of Wimbledon. This year’s brief is to create dishes that capture ‘a taste of summer’ paying tribute to the history and prestige of the Wimbledon Championships.

Danny Parker, Great British Menu 2017
Danny Parker

Originally from the small market village of Stockton-on-Tees, Danny Parker knew from the age of 14 he wanted to work in the industry after securing his first job as a kitchen porter at a local pub. Danny now heads up the team at the Michelin-starred House of Tides in Newcastle under owner and chef, Kenny Atkinson. Danny is no stranger to TV having made the final five of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2014 and was also a finalist for National Chef of the Year 2017.

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

It’s a show I have watched since the beginning and I was approached to take part in this year’s Great British Menu. I’ve followed a lot of the chefs that have been on it, either since before or after seeing them on the show, and to be honest it’s something that, when you become a chef, and start training you never think about. That being said, when you get asked to do it, it is a fantastic opportunity, and is also great exposure for myself appearing on a National television programme. Chefs live by their reputation, and it’s a good place for people to see your food, people who may otherwise have not seen it. Add to that the fact that I am extremely competitive in everything I do. I couldn’t really think of a reason not to want to take part!

How did you find the brief? Was it tough to come up with dishes for Wimbledon (a taste of summer)?

I thought this year’s brief was amazing. As soon as I read it I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and then you start thinking and imagining everything about Wimbledon and the Great British summertime and there are so many possibilities. You have to then decide which ideas you think are the best, and that’s a fantastic position to be in, I would much rather have too many ideas than not enough!

Did the brief/show push you out of your comfort zone?

The brief definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. My personal style of food is quite laid back in its approach and presentation, and you kind of want to try and turn the brief on its head a little. You want to make sure the dishes are banquet worthy. Let’s be honest - we’ve all been to functions and banquets where the food is nice but you just haven’t been blown away, and GBM is about blowing people away with both flavour and presentation. You have to be able to get the brief across to them rather than just your own personality.great british menu 2017

How difficult is it to cook in the Great British Menu kitchen alongside other chefs?

Cooking alongside the other guys in the kitchen can be quite tough. Firstly, you get to see exactly what they are doing, and that can cast doubt in your mind on what you’re doing, like, does yours match theirs? No matter how confident you are in your own food, when you see one of the other guys cook something perfectly you start to worry a little bit. The flip side is it’s exactly the same for them! There’s also a lot of banter between you, and that can also ease any nerves you have – it’s a double edged sword, but it’s all good fun!

Do you feel under pressure having to create theatrical dishes rather than well-cooked dishes, served simply?

I don’t think there is any pressure whatsoever to create ‘theatrical dishes’. I think as long as you follow the brief and cook nice food, that’s what it’s about. The theatre comes second to the rest of the plate. If the theatre can add to the dish then fantastic, if you can’t think of anything ‘theatrical’ then don’t worry. It’s the plate that counts, does that plate of food represent Wimbledon and the great British summer? That’s the question I asked myself, time and time again!

Best and worst part of being on Great British Menu?

Genuinely I don’t think I had a bad part of being on GBM, it is an amazing experience! The best part was cooking with Josh and Tommy - they’re both great cooks. But best of all they’re a good laugh and are genuinely nice people!

If you could, would you do it again?

I’d sign on the dotted line right now if I could!

Great British Menu 2017If you would be the one scoring your own dishes, would you agree with what your judge said or not? If not why not?

I think you have to agree with the Judge. You can’t disagree with a referee in football, aside from that, they’re not a veteran judge for no reason, are they? They know their stuff!

I know you can’t tell us who your veteran judge was, but how nerve-wracking is it to cook for them and your peers?

Cooking for any of your peers is tough, but it’s exhilarating, it’s exciting and it is a very, very fortunate position to be in. You have to relish the opportunity and you have to enjoy it. You just have to put the nerves behind you, and remember that not everyone gets opportunities like this.

Take away the Great British Menu situation, having someone like a veteran judge walk into the restaurant for dinner is exactly the same - not everyone will have that opportunity! The feedback from the veteran is excellent, and it’s something you have to take on board.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd May 2017

Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Danny Parker, North East heat