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Great British Menu 2015: Scotland heat preview

Great British Menu 2015: Scotland heat preview

by Izzy Burton Monday, August 3, 2015

Great British Menu 2015 kicks off this week with a brand new theme - dishes to celebrate 100 years of the Women's Institute. Starting with Scotland, we welcome Great British Chefs' very own Graham Campbell, returning contestant Jak O'Donnell and newcomer Jimmy Lee, all fighting it out for a place in the final banquet with their W.I.-inspired dishes.

More from this series:

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

Great British Menu starts tonight on BBC2, marking the beginning of an intensive few weeks of cooking, arched eyebrows and increasingly elaborate props; this year with added jam (possibly). Series 10 begins with Scotland, and with Glasgow being my alma mater it seemed appropriate to take a closer look at the culinary contestants - and attempt to tease some spoilers out of Graham Campbell.

First up is Jak O’Donnell, who runs The Sister restaurant in rapidly-gentrifying Finnieston, Glasgow and its sister restaurant (sorry) in well-to-do Jordanhill. She is the only competing Scot with previous GBM form and last year demonstrated that she was certainly not to be underestimated, beating Stevie McLaughlin (of two Michelin star Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles) in the final of the Scottish heats. Donning her pink apron once again, Jak’s no nonsense approach, traditional Scottish food and strong family values should prove useful attributes in tackling this year’s brief.

In his first year competing is Jimmy Lee of Lychee Oriental. Growing up in the Scottish town of Hamilton, Jimmy Lee now works in Glasgow’s city centre at his Cantonese fine dining restaurant, which won the award for Best Asian Restaurant in Scotland just a year after it opened in 2012. Combining influences from his family (who have roots in Hong Kong) with a passion for Scottish produce, the chef promises to bring something fresh to the competition.

Also new to the Great British Menu studios is Great British Chefs’ own Graham Campbell, who became the youngest Scottish chef ever to be awarded a Michelin star at the age of 25. Graham Campbell, who is set to take over a new restaurant in Dundee later this year, is known for his innovative use of flavour combinations but claims he took influence from his mum's 'grounded approach to cooking' when planning his banquet dishes.

Jak and Jimmy
GBM judges

Interview with Graham Campbell

On the eve of the Scottish heats I caught up with Graham Campbell and quizzed him on his inspiration, cooking for the cameras and what we can expect from his dishes.

How would you compare a double shift in the kitchen to a day in the Great British Menu studios?

I don’t do double shifts, but the studios were a lot more intense, I think because you’re out of your comfort zone. In the kitchen it’s not really work, it’s just life but when things are being recorded...you’ll be halfway through a job and the producers’ll drag you away to something else. It’s frustrating, but I had a lot of fun. We all got on really well in our heat, with the producers and with each other - there was a lot of banter in the kitchen. I really think between us we don’t care who wins as long as one of us from Scotland gets to the banquet.

 
 
I really think between us we don’t care who wins as long as one of us from Scotland gets to the banquet.

Did you find yourself living up to the stereotype of a shouty chef in those sort of conditions?

I’ve never shouted at a producer - I swear a lot though!

What were your first thoughts when you got the brief?

First thoughts? ‘What the f*** am I going to do?’! To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the WI so I did a lot of reading. I only had two months to research and submit my ideas, so it was a very busy time.

How did you approach the theme?

I looked at what they’re about and went quite personal with it, my experiences of family and that sort of thing. It’s tricky, too because although all your dishes should cover the brief you also need to think about them as banquet dishes, and think about them working well together.

Who was the most influential woman when it comes to your cooking?

I have to say my mum, don’t I? - or else she’ll kill me! [laughs] My mum was a good cook, but obviously she didn’t do the sort of stuff I do in the restaurant. She’d do more your classics, your tatties, that sort of thing - and a lot of baking. I did think about my mum’s cooking when I was planning it, trying to incorporate my own wackiness with Mum’s more grounded approach to cooking.

How much did you draw on your Scottish roots when coming up with your menu?

Everything! We’ve got the best produce in the world up here. I even brought some ingredients with me on the plane down to the studios.

Can you give us any hint as to what we can expect?

My dishes are weird, really quite weird, but I think they do represent what the WI are about. My main course is completely different to what a main course should be… I can’t say much more than that, just that there are a lot of twists - dishes aren’t what they seem!

Great British Menu is on BBC2 Monday to Friday every week from now until September. Keep up with our coverage of the series here.

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