Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Ryan Simpson, Central heat

The  Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2017 chefs from Central: Ryan Simpson

This year Nick Deverell-Smith takes on Ryan Simpson and Pip Lacey 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.

Ryan Simpson, head chef co-owner, Orwells at Shiplake, Great British Menu 2017
Ryan Simpson

With an extensive career behind him, Ryan is head chef and co-owner of Orwells with Liam Trotman. While working at The Goose in Britwell Salome, the pair earned a Michelin star and two AA rosettes, so it’s no wonder that in its seven year history, Orwells has four AA rosettes and is listed in the UK Michelin Guide. With all the accolades and strong cooking philosophy, Ryan’s debut on the Great British Menu will be fascinating.

Why did you want to be involved in Great British Menu?

Just because it’s such a great competition. It showcases all the talent the chefs have to offer. It looked like it was good fun so that was a selling point.

How tough was it to come up with dishes which fit the brief?

Actually, I think it was every chef’s dream in a way because for the taste of summer, there’s so much produce around. A lot of stuff that’s in season at that time is a great larder for a chef because the British summer has a lot to offer. The twist was obviously a 140 years of Wimbledon.

So it’s getting that balance right; that was quite tricky. It was difficult to get across that nod to Wimbledon because the food that we do at Orwells is not too gimmicky.

>>> Related: 10 minutes with: Ryan Simpson, Orwells

Did you feel under pressure to create theatrical dishes rather than well cooked dishes served simply on a plate?

Well, the most difficult thing to do is selling it to the judges right there, but you need to stand out from the crowd. You have one chance only, to impress the judges, so you do need some kind of interaction between your dishes and your judges. You do need to have some kind of prop to sell that dish for you. So sometimes your food is not just about the flavour, it’s also about the aesthetic of the dish and also how the dish comes across to the consumer.

Did you enjoy being pushed out of your comfort zone, and how difficult was it to cook in the Great British Menu kitchen alongside other chefs?great british menu 2017

It was real fun. It was difficult, being out of your comfort zone, because you are used to your every day kitchen at work. I think it was good to meet other chefs in the industry and connect with them; I really enjoyed that. We had a good laugh between us and we got on quite well, almost like helping each other out mentally. I think as the competition goes on it gets a little bit easier throughout the week.

Best and worst part of being on Great British Menu?

The best part is just taking part. You just have to love all the aspects from meeting the chefs, to the anticipation of who our mentor or judge chef was. The most difficult part is cooking outside of that comfort zone, cooking within time limits. It was quite challenging because things can go wrong rapidly. You practice the dishes all the time in your own environment but cooking in the GBM kitchen’s environment… Where you think putting something in the oven wasn’t going to take that long, well, it’s taking longer because the oven is not what you are used to. It’s too quick or something’s happened.

Would you do it again?

great british menu 2017 Yeah, one hundred percent. It was a really good experience, really good fun. I’d definitely would love to do it again.

If you were scoring your dishes would you agree with what your judge said or not? If not why not?

Yeah I think I’d agree. I think we were on the same level so that was quite good in a way. You have to be constant without being arrogant. You have to believe in your dishes because that’s a reflection on your personality and a reflection of what you do. But all will be revealed in the show.

How nerve-wracking was it to cook for your peers?

You do get nervous because chefs are generally critical anyway. They know exactly what you’re trying to achieve and what you are doing. Sometimes it is nice to get that feedback, but the most important judgement comes from the judge mentor so their feedback is more important than the level chefs, I suppose.

>>> Find out about all of the Great British Menu 2017 chefs here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th June 2017

Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Ryan Simpson, Central heat