Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Samira Effa, North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

Great British Menu North East heat is hitting the screens on BBC 2 on March 27th at 8pm. The Staff Canteen spoke to this year’s contestants to find out more.

When the show was filmed late last year, 28 year-old Samira Effa was the head chef at Alimentum. She went on to work at Simon Gueller’s Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, but has since resigned the position, and is biding her time for the right opportunity.

Samira began her career in Huddersfield, at Bradley’s Restaurant, after which she went to 21212 in Edinburgh and Bohemia in Jersey.

She joined Cambridgeshire’s once Michelin-starred restaurant Alimentum in January last year, having worked there previously, but was made redundant in October when it closed due to financial struggles.

Of Iranian and Nigerian descent, Samira loves to cook big, bold flavours, with plenty of spices and aromatics. 

Samira Effa duckFind out how to make Samira's duck breast and leg with turnip, onion, honey, soy and black garlic

What was it like taking part in GBM, did you enjoy it?

Yeah I really enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun. It was a little bit stressful leading up to it, having to do all the dishes and practice  but the the actual filming of it was a lot of fun. Obviously the first day was pretty nerve racking.

What’s the admission process for GBM, did you nominate yourself or did they pick you?

One of the producers approached me and there were a few telephone interviews and they came in and filmed me in the kitchen at Alimentum when I was there. A couple of weeks after that they gave me a ring and said that I'd got through.

Do you enjoy taking part in competitions?

To be honest I've always watched GBM but I've always said I've not ever been interested in any other cooking competition apart from this one and I always said that if I ever got approached to do GBM, it would be the only one that I'd do. 

And having done it, have you changed your mind?

No probably not. I'm not really that much into competitions but GBM is a pretty big one in the industry.

This year's theme was centred around 50 years of British music. Did that mean anything to you, was that something that you found easy to work into your food and how do you cook?

When I got the brief I listed loads of British artists and British songs and people that I listened to and people that my family used to listen to when they were younger and things that. It was... I wouldn't say it was easy. It wasn't easy to link it to a dish because it was weird to think about 'okay, I've got to somehow link this dish to a song title or a song or a theme or something like that, so it wasn't easy but once I'd come up with one, it got easier to come up with the rest of them.

Is this something that you usually do when you cook food, is your basis ingredients or do you like to cook things based on a concept or an idea?

I kind of do both. Sometimes I'll think of a classic dish and maybe change it to make it more modern, or because I'm half Iranian half Nigerian so I like to use spices and quite fragrant ingredients.

Can you talk me through your food and what you like to cook?

I like a lot of things. I'm pretty easily pleasing when it comes to food. I like loads of different types of food. I love Thai food. I like Indian food. I like French food. I like to experiment with flavours I haven't tried before. To be honest when I create menus, I base it on what I like to eat because I think what I like to eat is quite open so it should be able to fit a lot of different people.

What has most influenced what you cook?

I learnt quite a bit at home with my mum and dad, but when I got into professional cooking I obviously grew a lot,

What was it like sharing the set with Mike (Carr) and Tom (Anglesea)?

They were really supportive and I felt I was supportive to them. It was a really nice atmosphere and it was just a lot of fun. It was really good.

Would you do it again given the chance?

I would yeah, I think I would.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 26th March 2019

Great British Menu 2019 chefs: Samira Effa, North East heat