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Great British Menu 2013, South West Heat Final

Great British Menu 2013, South West Heat Final

by Monica Shaw Friday, March 1, 2013

Week five of Great British Menu and chefs from the South West were going head to head. Would Peter Sanchez-Iglesias or Emily Watkins make it through the tough judging panel to represent their region?

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Week five of Great British Menu was not only the battle of the South West chefs, it was also the battle of the newcomers, and an extremely close battle at that. Having said goodbye to Chris Eden on Thursday, it was left to Peter Sanchez-Iglesias and Emily Watkins to duke it out under the not-so-easily amused eyes of Matthew Fort, Prue Leith, Oliver Peyton and guest judge Simon Day. But amused they’d need to be for whichever chef would be chosen for the finals. This is all about Comic Relief, after all, and both Emily and Peter had some serious new kid jitters to overcome in order to successful plate up the laughs - and the good food - to the judges.

Emily was first to the pass with her “eggs and ham” starter featuring a fried egg with green yolk. Simon approved of the Dr. Suess reference, but unfortunately the judges didn’t approve of the gastronomy. “This is a fair old disaster,” said Prue. Simon agreed, “it takes a lot more than a green egg to make me laugh.” Only Oliver seemed to find some merit in it: “it’s fun.”

Peter’s “picnic” was slightly more successful, featuring potato & truffle salad, scotch eggs, quiche lorraine mousse and coronation chicken terrines served in a picnic basket with fake turf and outdoorsy sound effects. The judges seemed to enjoy the initial presentation of the turf and picnic basket, but upon opening the basket, Mathew said, ”I feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment” and argued that all of the components were “bog standard”. But not all judges agreed. “It’s performance on a plate,” said Prue, “It’s gastronomy…it’s got everything.”

Onto the fish course, Emily’s “high tea” with cured brown trout, potato toast and deconstructed hollandaise was underwhelming to the judges. They liked the dish, but it wasn’t special. “It’s nice, good, plain cooking,” said Matthew. “Do you mean airplane food?” asked Oliver.

Peter’s “fish & chips” was slightly more successful, and may have been more so if he had served it with the correct puree. Unfortunately, the pea puree he thought he’d put on the plate was actually the broccoli puree for his main course (those pesky shades of green), and the flavour didn’t fit, leaving the judges perplexed. Still, the fish itself was “beautifully cooked” according to Oliver and Simon liked the vinegar spray.

Peter’s main course was a “roast dinner” inspired by memories from his childhood, served with all the fixings including lamb, potato, heritage carrots and the infamous broccoli puree. The comic effect was in the presentation, with plenty of nods to the 1950’s, from chinaware to music. But at the end of the day, was it anything more than a roast lunch? ”If this came in front of us and there wasn’t the decor, we’d say this is Sunday lunch - so what?” said Prue. Simon agreed, “it’s more for a Jubilee than Comic Relief.”

Peter's 'Picnic'
Peter's 'Picnic'
Emily Watkins and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias
Emily Watkins and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias

Emily’s “shoot lunch” fared much better: beetroot risotto, red kale and venison in sloe gin and beetroot jelly, served with shot cartridges filled with popped beetroot barley and a hip flask of venison gravy. The judges found it a treat, describing it as “clever”, “rampant” and “beautiful”. ”She’s balanced everything absolutely beautifully”, said Prue. ”The most autumnal dish I’ve ever had,” said Simon, following his comment with a big swig from the gravy flask.

Peter ended on a high with his dessert course, his take on “apple pie” with custard and cubes of vanilla ice cream, using liquid nitrogen for both visual and aromatic effect. ”I’m always in favour of a bit of custard and sorcery,” said Matthew, and the flavours didn’t let him or the other judges down. ”It’s not often you hear us go quiet”, said Oliver, “this is one of the best puddings we’ve ever had.” Prue summed it up: “it tastes like bliss.”

Emily’s “lolly & sweets” proved worthy competition to Peter’s dessert. The rhubarb jell-coloured lollies with shortbread went down famously with the judges. “It’s a good pud,” said Matthew. ”The shortbread is absolutely delicious,” said Prue.

With judgement on the horizon, there was a real sense that these were two very young, very talented and very nervous chefs. But their mutual newness to the whole scene seemed to replace the usual stress of competition with a real supportive camaraderie. Still, someone had to win, and that someone was Peter whose pudding (which Prue gave a 10) really stole the show.

Emily took the loss in her stride, saying that someone had to represent the South West in the finals, and she was really glad that someone was Peter.

 
 
 

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