The Great British Menu 2014 - North West Heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th April 2014

Meet the Great British Menu 2014 North West contestants; Mary-Ellen McTague, Mark Ellis and James Durrant.   

Mary-Ellen McTague

Mary-Ellen McTague
Mary-Ellen McTague

Mary-Ellen found cooking at the age of 21 whilst studying languages at University. She worked part-time in a bar where she started helping out in the kitchen. She was hooked, and began applying to restaurants in the Good Food Guide, one of which was Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck, Bray.

Without experience, the best she was offered was housekeeping at the Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay, until a commis chef position came up and she became the first female to grace their kitchen.

>>> Read more about Mary-Ellen McTague here

She then moved up to chef de partie where she met her husband Laurence, with whom she has two young children. The couple then worked in America for a year at the Big Cedar Lodge, Missouri.

They moved back to England and Mary-Ellen got back in touch with Heston and found a job at The Fat Duck. Heston then made her his historical researcher for the development of The Hinds Head, which Mary sites as a great influence in her and Laurence’s Aumbry, Prestwich, which they opened in 2009. The restaurant has earned many awards including Chef of the Year 2013 at Manchester Food and Drink Festival.  

Mark Ellis
Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis

The 1851 Restaurant at The Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, where Mark Ellis has been head chef since 2008, is a holder of three AA rosettes and a Taste Cheshire Award. Mark became interested in cooking while still at school and went on to study cooking at college.

>>> Read more about Mark Ellis here 

Upon leaving school be began as commis chef and worked his way up to become Sous Chef at the five-star The Chester Grosvenor and Spa under Simon Radley,  from 2001-2005. He then spent some years in and out of London gaining as much experience as possible in as many kitchens as possible, before returning to Chesire and taking to the stoves of 1851 Restaurant.

The restaurant reflects its regal surroundings, where Mark and his team serve up satiating dishes with tongue-in-cheek humour.  

James Durrant

A veritable Michelin Star and AA rosette magnet, James boasts and impressive CV spanning almost two decades. From his native Chester he went on to spend three years at the triple starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay of Chelsea. He then worked at Paul Kitching’s starred Juniper, Altrincham, before returning to London as senior sous chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges Restaurant.

There he spent two years before becoming Head Chef of Jason Atherton’s opening Maze, Mayfair, which won a Michelin Star in its first year.  The success of Maze lead James to oversee the openings of both Maze NYC and Maze Doha, and become Executive Chef of both Maze and the new Maze Grill which opened in 2008. James is now Managing Director of Durrant Restaurants Ltd. which offers catering, private chefs, consultancy, and houses James's own restaurant The Plough Inn, of Longparish, which he took over in 2012.

The pub has already won the Bib Gourmand Award by the Michelin Guides 2013 and 2014, and won the Good Food Guide UK Pub of the Year in 2013 – only five months after opening. James himself is a recipient of the Caterer and Hotel Keepers Acorn Award for young achievers.

By Harriet Knight

>>> Everything you need to know about Great British Menu here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2014 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th April 2014

The Great British Menu 2014 - North West Heat