Two chefs, representing the North East are making their way to the kitchen studios, getting ready to film the judging segment for the Great British Menu. One is traveling down the motorway, in style and comfort, in a Jaguar, all sophisticated, tailored, with tie done up and with Terry Wogan whittling on in the background. The other is traveling by hot air balloon, shaped in the form of a pink elephant and having caught a brisk wind, is hurtling haphazardly across the sky. Ingredients keep falling out of the basket, Def Leppard blares from some ghetto blaster hidden inside, and a fair few chimneys get knocked down along the way.
Yes, if there were ever two chefs more disparate to each other, in the way they approach things, it would have to be Tim Allen, formerly of Launceston Place, and Michael O’Hare, who runs The Man Behind The Curtain.
Throughout the week, it was hard to call who was going to get through actually. With Marcus Wareing at the helm, who is a tough cookie to crack, all three chefs had their share of highs and lows. Ultimately, it came down to the wire between Michael and Mini Patel, head chef at The Pointer. Despite coming up with a risqué-sounding but delicious pheasant dish called ‘Showing you a bit of breast and a bit of leg’, Mini lost out to Michael’s avant-garde stream of consciousness. Which certainly mesmerised Mr Wareing at some points. But I did wonder how the hirsute chef from Middlesborough was going to get on with the judges. Especially conservative Prue and Matthew.
Would they get it? Would they understand his vision? Could they see past the hair? He had a possible ally in youthful Kirsty Bowen, who is president of the WI in Sheffield, the urban WI, no less. But still, it was all looking rather perilous last night and I have to admit, I had to partake in a large scotch to settle my nerves throughout the show. Lorks a lordy it was tense (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it).
Shaky Tim looked like he could have done with one too.
So to kick things off, we were treated to Michael’s ‘Everyone I ever ate with’, a nod to family dining and Tracy Emin. Now, I know his remit was to conjure a modern menu for a modern institute, but when I saw the waiting staff shuffle out these giant eggs that housed his dish, I couldn’t help but be transported back to that 70’s classic Mork and Mindy. However, his twist on a prawn and melon ball starter did win approval. A concoction of langoustine tartare, lavender purée, salted cucumber and ham fat went down well with the judges, but I suspect that they could have also been left slightly tipsy from the gin sour cocktail.