Last Friday the ninth season of Great British Menu culminated with the final banquet, held at St. Paul’s Cathedral and marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day. For the banquet, the four winning chefs - Adam Simmonds, Emily Watkins, James Durrant and Colin McGurran - would have to deliver their dishes to an expectant audience of wartime heroes, D-Day veterans, family members, and even Prime Minister David Cameron.
The banquet was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a bastion of wartime resilience and a symbol of the nation’s indomitable spirit during the blitz. But to pull it off, they’d need to build a kitchen, which the chefs only realised on the day before the dinner. But with help from Oliver Peyton and Matthew Fort, the chefs managed to work together to get the kitchen ready in time to conquer the task of assembling their dishes in banquet-sized proportions.
To prepare themselves mentally for the the challenge, the winning chefs took time ahead of the banquet to research life during World War II. Emily went to visit Molly Rose to talk to her about what life was like for D-Day veterans. James visited David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, going up to the roof of the Treasury to see where Churchill used to observe London during the Blitz. Adam went to Sword Beach in Normandy to meet D-Day veteran Ken Sturdy, who helped paint a picture of the chaos of the beach on D-Day.
Back at the banquet, the pressure was on all of the chefs to deliver a menu worthy of the wartime heroes attending the banquet.
Up first was Adam’s ration pack starter consisting of dehydrated celeriac, chicken liver parfait, chicken yolk, crispy chicken skin and consommé served in replica wartime flasks. It was a fitting start, with attendants praising the presentation: “Really is fantastic and huge fun working out how to eat it.” “We were given 24 hour packs, but nothing like this - this is marvellous.” “If the rest of the food is like that, we’re in for a phenomenal evening and we’ll stay for breakfast tomorrow.”
Indeed, Emily’s Normandy Beach Scene fish course of fried scallops, cockles and sea veg, inspired by her maternal grandfather who served in the Navy during WWII, was met with high praises. “Beautiful… the food is very good, absolutely no resemblance to the food we ate during the war.” David Cameron said the cockles in particular were “amazing”.