Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Tom Parker, North West heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th May 2017

Meet the Great British Menu 2017 chefs from the North West: Tom Parker

This year Tom Parker takes on Paul Askew and Ellis Barrie 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. 

Tom Parker great British menu 2017
Tom Parker

Having worked for Nigel Haworth at Northcote Manor, holding a Michelin star and 4 rosettes from the AA Restaurant Guide, Tom has gone from apprentice to sous chef when he left after seven years. The former Craft Guild of Chefs Young National Chef of the Year in 2011, Tom now is head chef at The White Swan. This is Tom’s first time on the Great British Menu, but hopefully his nerves won’t affect him too much.

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

It’s mainly for the business. It’s just a massive rush for the business but it’s good for my personal career as well. It’s got that exposure for me and it’s good to push yourself to that level.

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

The ‘taste of summer’ is quite open. There are a lot of things people associate with summer so that bit of it was quite easy, but when you’re trying to link it to Wimbledon, that’s quite hard. There’s quite a lot of research that goes behind that, and it’s a lot of hard work. The Wimbledon part was the most challenging, I think. Those two to three weeks preparing were quite stressful.

Did the show push you out of your comfort zone?

Yes, I was absolutely all over the place. It’s my first time going to a studio. You watch TV, and you think it’s just like cooking for a couple the lads, and as soon as you get in there, it’s just heartless. I was really nervous about it. You obviously get an exposure to a million people who watch this programme, so you want to portray yourself well, don’t you? You don’t want to come across like an idiot or someone who’s really weird or aggressive, so there’s a lot of pressure not just with your cooking but with your personality as well. Trying to be good on camera, answering all those questions, is doing my nut in! I don’t want to watch myself on TV, actually, it’d be horrendous. But confidence-wise it’s great. It’s your own personal boost and a massive ego trip for any chef. I’m not really like that though; I’m not a great TV personality, let’s put it that way. It’s not really for me but it was a good experience.

How difficult is it to cook in the Great British Menu kitchen alongside other chefs?great british menu 2017

I think cooking in another kitchen is hard because you don’t know where everything is, how hot the hobs are, how the ovens work… You’re cooking outside your comfort zone. Everyone with me, it was their first time as well, so everyone was in the same boat. We all helped each other out.

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

It’s not just about the food, is it? It’s about the story behind, the way you present it. It’s more a work of art slash story, rather than just a piece of meat, a little sauce, and whatever on the plate. It’s probably more about the story behind, than just the plate of food. I did feel the pressure because it’s not really me. I’m not really about the whistles and smokes. It’s quite a weird thing to get your head around, and trying to come up with ways to do it is massively different to what we do here at The White Swan. It’s something I’ve never done, really.

Best and worst part of being on the Great British Menu?

The best part is getting into it. The worst part, going in on Thursday, thinking ‘shit’! Oh, I don’t know… It’s always a good experience; I do enjoy it all. The pressure is probably the worst part, but it’s hard constantly thinking ‘dishing, dishing, dishing…’ You have to push yourself more, to see how far you can get them, until you get something you’re really proud of. That’s really hard to get your head around, especially when you are really critical of yourself.

Would you do it again?

great british menu 2017Yeah, I’d do it again. I think it’d be easier, knowing what you walk into. You know about the way the kitchen is, you know what to expect form the people there, so that’d be easier the second time. There always will be pressure, naturally from the TV side of it, plus the top chefs in the country you’re cooking against. You have Michelin-starred chefs, head chefs, creme de la creme chefs… You’re like ‘whaaat’?!

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

Yes I would agree with him very fair and honest!

How nerve wracking is it to cook for your peers?

I think the worst is when they walk the judge into the room. You don’t meet before that – that’s genuine. You’re waiting for two minutes, then fifteen minutes, you start to get that look of panic in your face.

It’s a massive pressure. It is such a long period of time that you’re waiting, then you see the silhouette behind the door, and you can’t take it back, so you’re thinking ‘dammit’! It is just about meeting people with Michelin stars and stuff like that, so that part is phenomenal.

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

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 15th May 2017

Great British Menu 2017 chefs - Tom Parker, North West heat