Great British Menu is back, for what seems like its 200th series and like a warm old friend, who likes to swear, sweat and generally cause an almighty mess in the kitchen, it looks like it will be business as usual for the show. That is, there will be peril. There will be pressure. There will be moments of glory, most certainly. And good ol’ Matthew Fort will get to say ‘well, we’re in for a blaady good treat and make no mistake’. At least three times, per show.
In keeping with the inherent themes of Britishness, Britannia and Blighty, the inspiration for our competing chefs are the Great Britons of this nation. The quiet overachievers, the humble chislers at the coal surface, the do-gooders who selflessly raise money, help others and improve our lives. You won’t have heard of any of them but still, it’s a lovely proposition. Moreover, these people will have all been awarded an MBE or OBE or whatevs; by her Royal Maj, the Queen! Who was ninety this year, don’t you know. So basically, in this series, the brief for the chefs has to encapsulate the rise and development of British food; throughout the second Elizabethan era; in honor of the ordinary and extraordinary folk; who make this country so great.
I’ll be honest, it’s all slightly tenuous but like the Gallagher brothers once said, you’ve gotta roll with it.
To kick off the competition, we had three chefs from north of the border enter the kitchen, namely Adam Handling, Michael Bremner and Ally McGrath. Actually, Ally is the only one who still cooks in his Scotland but no matter, judging by their broad brogues the other two still qualify. Although speaking of judging, I was surprised that there was no mention of Adam’s foray on MasterChef: The Professionals. He is a steely chap though, that Adam. I can imagine him saying prior to signing up, ‘I will do this programme but for God sakes don’t mention Masterchef!’
All are first timers on GBM and before discovering who was going to mentor and score them on their dishes throughout the week, there was a nervous kerfuffle amongst our three as to who it was going to be. Then, when Daniel Clifford walked through the door, it was like their worst fears were realised. Which perplexed me a bit as the chef-patron of Midsummer House and Flitch of Bacon, always comes across as decent sort of bloke really. But maybe the chefs know different though. Maybe Daniel is…..eeeeeevil. Mwahahahahaha.
Starting on Monday with the starters, the chefs had to line up, present in nifty wooden boxes and explain to teacher what their dishes were going to be. Adam went first with his ‘Boarding Passes Ready’, a take on a packed lunch that went beyond soggy tomato and cheese sandwiches. Consisting of potted ham, truffled cheese pies, chicken butter and curried mussels, his aim was to incorporate the best ingredients of the four home nations and introduce a little bit of fun; with little bags and little blob of wax. It tickled Daniel immensely, who awarded the dish an 8 but he also felt that some homemade lemonade wouldn’t go amiss.