Great British Menu 2012, Final Banquet

Great British Menu 2012, Final Banquet

by Monica Shaw 08 June 2012

This week marked the bitter-sweet end to the seventh series of The Great British Menu, in which the eight chefs who won the regional heats competed to represent their region in the Olympic Banquet at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich which aired Friday 8th June 2012. Great British Chefs blogger Monica Shaw watched the banquet and gives her round up of the week leading up to it.

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Monica Shaw's mission is to enable people to feel awesome, through food, life, work and play.

Monica Shaw's mission is to enable people to feel awesome, through food, life, work and play.

This week (starting 4th June 2012) we will finally get to see who will go through to cook at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich. Here's a round up of the chefs in the final. Nathan Outlaw who won the South West round. Joining Alan Murchison who won the Scottish round, Daniel Clifford who won the Central round, Colin McGurran who won the North East round, Chris Fearon who won the Northern Ireland round, Simon Rogan who won the North West round, Phil Howard who won the London and South East round and Stephen Terry who won the Wales round.

Judging them were our diamond trio Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton, plus a bonus judge on each evening for each of the four courses. This year, the judging panel threw in a hitch: in each round, they eliminated a chef right off the bat if their original dish wasn't up to scratch and if they hadn't made any changes to the dish for the finals. This saw a lot of sad faces throughout the week, as some chefs' dishes were immediately eliminated, forcing the chefs to take the day off and stand by the sidelines.

Monday's show featured the starters, in which Richard Corrigan joined the judging panel to settle on the top three dishes, which came down to: Alan's duck and pineapple, Simon's grilled vegetable salad and Colin's 'quail in the woods'. Colin's original dish was one which the judge's considered eliminating, but Colin was given a second chance for his tweaks to the dish. It was good fortune, too, because the judges chose his dish for the Olympic banquet starter, with Richard calling it "utter deliciousness in its eating".

You would have thought two Michelin star chef and seafood extraordinaire Nathan Outlaw would have been a contender in the fish course, but you would be mistaken. In fact, the judges narrowed it down to Phil's mackerel taster, Alan's mackerel and beetroot and Simon's lobster dish. Phil was "dead chuffed" to be announced the winner for his treatment of Cornish mackerel, served with oysters, mussels, winkles and samphire. According to Matthew Fort, Phil's dish "elevated the humble mackerel to royal status - an astounding achievement."

It was the main course where Nathan pulled through with his duck and monkfish dish, up against Daniel's chicken and sweetcorn, Colin's pork and apple and Simon's suckling pig (yes there were four contenders for the main as there were simply so many incredible dishes that the judges couldn't whittle down their choices to three). The winner went to the creator of "the dish that epitomised most the spirit of the competition," said Oliver Peyton. And that was an almost tearful Daniel, whose slow-poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon and peas was called a "virtuoso display of controlled cooking technique" by Matthew Fort.

Dessert came down to Phil's rhubarb custard, Simon's poached pears and Stephen's 'bronze, silver and gold'. Simon, who'd been a contender for all of the courses and whom Matthew Fort called "Mr. Consistency" throughout, finally pulled through with his impeccable dish of poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice-cream and rosehip syrup. Guest judge Angela Harnett called for seconds and thirds of this dish, and Oliver Peyton "almost wanted to cry" it was so good.

It was a dramatic, emotional finish to eight weeks of high competition and incredible cooking. In the end, the Great British Olympic Menu read as follows:

Colin McGurran's 'Quail in the woods'

Phil Howard's Cornish mackerel with oysters, mussels, winkles and samphire

Daniel Clifford's Slow-poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon and peas

Simon Rogan's poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice-cream and rosehip syrup

Earlier in the series, Oliver Peyton said "I want the chefs to demonstrate to the world the greatness of Britain." And reading over the final menu I can't help but reflect on that. Indeed, the menu reflects each chef's unique cooking style, but with ingredients that exemplify both Britain and the Olympic spirit of, dare I say, "boundary-pushing" innovation.

Job well done to Colin, Phil, Daniel and Simon, and to all of the chefs who participated in Great British Menu, all of whom did a smashing job of rising to the Olympic Challenge.