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Great British Menu 2015: Scotland heat final

Great British Menu 2015: Scotland heat final

by Izzy Burton 08 August 2015

A run down of the final of the Scottish heats in the current series of Great British Menu, where Graham Campbell and Jak O'Donnell are competing for the honour of representing their region at the final banquet.

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Izzy writes for Great British Chefs where she combines a lifetime love of food and tricolons.

It's been a stressful week for the Scottish chefs, with so much technical preparation and innovative presentation to be getting on with that Jak, Jimmy and Graham have barely had the chance to ask each other if they're worried more than ten or eleven times per episode.

It's fair to say that by Thursday two chefs in particular were very worried indeed, with Jimmy and Graham on equal points ahead of the final dessert course. Jimmy's bamboo basket of flowers and prettily presented pudding pots (this stuff writes itself!) looked fantastic, but unfortunately for the self-taught chef it just wasn't enough to see him through. Graham's All About the Beesness, a nod to the WI's active interest in the plight of British bees, was deemed more impressive, with the dish demonstrating several technical elements - particularly his beetroot honeycomb, which at one point threatened to do a Vesuvius on the GBM studios.

With Jimmy out it left Jak and Graham in the final, each hoping to impress the judging panel. This year series stalwarts Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton were joined by guest judge Angela Baker, a refreshingly optimistic woman who was not afraid to admit to liking something, even when the others didn't.

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'Are you worried?': Jimmy lets his face do the talking
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Not content with mastering Michelin cooking, Graham Campbell's All About the Beesness demonstrated his punning skills too

Graham Campbell's Nic Pic starter - a savoury brioche masquerading as a Victoria sponge, served with smoked rabbit on a miniature picnic bench - won points for presentation, but the judges were less impressed by the execution. 'It's too dense, too bread-like' said Matthew Fort, archly. Prue Leith responded simply by sticking her nose into the jam jar of rabbit and inhaling deeply: 'oh, that smells so good!'

Jak's Soup and a Sandwich starter bore even less resemblance to a sandwich after she made tweaks to the original 'unrefined' version of the dish. This didn't seem to bother the judges much, who loved everything from the bowls it was served in to the heady aroma coming from the broth - although Oliver Peyton did complain that the muttony flavour was slightly overwhelming.

 
 
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Jak's elegant fish course scored her a couple of perfect tens from the judges
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Graham's Posh Nosh with cooked and raw scallop, vegetables and velouté

Graham's fish course Posh Nosh had also been spruced up, with the chef adding some personal touches to better relate his scallop dish to the brief. Whether it was the hand-written notes, the creaminess of the velouté or the presence of Tuesday's conspicuously missing asparagus, Posh Nosh came together perfectly and was unanimously loved by the judges. 'I think it's really, really good' said Oliver Peyton. 'To me, that's really in the upper echelons' added Matthew Fort.

Jak's Pretty Kettle of Fish was exactly that, a very attractively presented salmon dish with the perfectly poached fish enhanced by striking cucumber 'scales'. The judges were in raptures, with Angela Baker declaring the dish had 'the wow factor' required for banquet.

Both chefs chose to use venison for their main course, although this was the only similarity. Jak's traditional dish of loin, leg and liver - Herd at the Gathering - scored an impressive 9 points earlier in the week, but seemed to miss the mark slightly in the final. Prue Leith commended the 'rustic concept' and Matthew Fort liked the sharing aspect of the dish, but felt the vegetables were undercooked and the dish would need significant changes to it to be suitable for a banquet.

Graham's main, Not Quite Afternoon Tea, previously scored just six points despite its superb visual impact. In a similar fashion to his Nic Pic, the dish subverted expectations and repackaged rich, savoury flavours to look like a dainty afternoon tea. This time, along with the venison meatloaf 'carrot cakes' and mashed potato cream he chose to include a sandwich made from succulent venison loin. Matthew Fort loved the 'playful spirit' of the dish, while Oliver Peyton delighted in the creaminess of the mash: 'that is the sort of mash that I like - 95% butter.' It was left to Prue Leith to bring the judging panel back to reality, grimacing and declaring that the dish 'doesn't work'. It appeared Graham's tea somewhat split the vote.

 
 
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The presentation was there for Jak's main course, but the judges found some components disappointing
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Graham Campbell stuck with the fake-cake theme for his main, updating the dish in the final to include more quality cuts

As the chefs put the finishing touches to their desserts there was palpable tension in the kitchen. Jak, aware that her clootie dumplings were not up to scratch the previous day, had tweaked the dish to add a little refinement and could only hope that it would be better received. Graham, meanwhile, had enjoyed praise for his honey-heavy dessert, and was keen to maintain his lead.

Once plated, Jak's Ladies Bake With an Angel's Share did look vastly improved, with the addition of raisin tuile hearts and SWRI tartan. As a banquet dessert these dumplings still looked on the heavy side, but she got round this with the help of Scotch whisky as a distraction. Not only were the judges given a wee dram of the stuff on the side, but she even pumped whisky fumes into the air - the 'Angel's share' referred to in the title. Matthew Fort in particular looked like he'd quite happily be hooked up to an oxygen tank of the stuff.

Unfortunately, things seem to go the other way for Graham, and after a disaster in the kitchen his chocolate mousse beehives looked more like culinary cowpats. While he was still praised for his commitment to the brief - along with the various technical components of the dessert - the overwhelming honey flavour didn't go down very well with the panel, who felt its cloying favour would be too polarising for a banquet.

It was a well fought battle between Jak and Graham, with the fish courses in particular standing out for both chefs as being exceptional examples of their skill. In the end, the judges opted for Jak's heartfelt, rustic fare over Graham's playful innovations, and the reigning champion was once again told she had made it through.

There's no time for her to rest on her laurels, though - with serious concerns from the judges about her main course in particular, there are likely to be some significant alterations to her dishes before the final cook off. No doubt she'll have plenty of support along the way; as Graham Campbell said, 'between us we don’t care who wins as long as one of us from Scotland gets to the banquet.'

 
 
 

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