Great British Menu 2014, London and South East Heat Final

Great British Menu 2014, London and South East Heat Final

by Monica Shaw 10 May 2014

Week five of Great British Menu 2014 finished with the London and South East finals, an episode which truly raised the bar for all Great British Menu chefs to come. On Thursday we said goodbye to Adam Byatt, leaving GBM veteran Adam Simmonds and newcomer Tom Sellers to compete for a chance to serve veterans at a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

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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, our judges, Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton, were joined by fourth guest judge, Joy Hunter MBE, who served as Secretary in the Cabinet War Rooms and typed up battle orders for D-Day.

Coming out of the heats, Adam and Tom were on even ground, both scoring an impressive 31. No doubt the finals would be a close match, or as Oliver called it, “a humdinger” of a battle.

Tom was up first with his “Dig for Victory” starter, made with goats yogurt, herb emulsion and malt soil, served with pickled, blanched and baked vegetables “planted” in the soil. Prue liked the presentation, calling it “an allotment for one.” Oliver was just as impressed with the flavours: “I think the chicken contrasts really well - I love this dish.” Prue was less impressed: “the chicken is too wet.” But our guest judge Joy enjoyed the “clever mix of vegetables."

Adam’s starter, “Your Share”, prompted less contention and accolades all around. The dish combined new school techniques with old school concepts: dehydrated celeriac, chicken liver parfait, chicken yolk, chicken wing, chicken “spam” served in tins, crispy chicken skin and consommé served in replica wartime flasks. Joy called it “great… very tasty… and good fun.” Oliver was equally impressed: "Loads of rich textures going on…this would definitely have helped with the war.” Matthew called it a "very sophisticated, very modern piece of cooking’ and Prue pointed out that “dehydration was a perfect wartime technique."

Up next was Tom’s turbot fish course, “Taste of Normandy”, using ingredients typical of the area: apples, samphire, black celeriac and oysters. “Doesn’t it smell so beautiful,” said Prue. “It is extraordinarily hard to cook fish this well,” said Oliver. Prue agreed, “it’s extraordinarily good.” Joy felt that Churchill would have liked this dish: “it’s elegant.”

Onto the fish courses, Adam’s “Silver Darlings” came first, depicting London during the war: herring paté in cucumber jelly, charcoal mayo, pickled herring, horseradish snow, herring powder and herbs. The judges were visibly delighted with this dish. “Absolutely magnificent,” said Joy, “I think it’s really yummy.” "The cucumber sets off the fish," said OP, “the taste is absolutely perfect.” Matthew was similarly impressed with the horseradish. “The only question mark is the charcoal mayo,” said Prue, but even so, she thought the rest of the dish was amazing.

Adam’s main course, one of his lowest scoring dishes during the week (while Tom’s scored a perfect 10), was up first. His dish, “The Bulldog”, was inspired by a visit to Churchill’s war rooms and consisted of walnut puree, walnut pieces, beetroot, venison sausage, mushrooms, venison loin, aerated pommel puree, finished with truffle, frozen blackberry, blackberry vinegar and venison sauce on the side.

Adam Simmonds' Great British Menu starter
Adam's starter was a hit with the judges
Tom Sellers' 'Dig for Victory' starter
Tom's 'Dig for Victory' starter

The judges were mixed on this dish. Oliver felt there was a missing element, something to balance the venison, but Prue argued that the beetroot did that. Joy approved. “This is a straightforward good eat that Churchill would have appreciated...I’d be delighted if presented with this at the banquet."

Tom’s "Homing Pigeon” followed, and Tom felt a lot of pressure to repeat his top score. The dish consisted of potato, cabbage, baby leeks, turnips and carrots, topped with fried ceps, then pigeon breast, pigeon hearts, pigeon consommé and a pigeon leg carrying a hidden message. The dish didn’t let the judges down, with audible mmm’s and aah’s as the judges bit into the crispy pigeon leg. "Perfectly cooked,” said Matthew of the entire dish. Joy, who’d never had pigeon, was impressed and agreed it was “very tasty”.

Finally, dessert. Adam was up first but was struggling with the same problems he had during the week: the kitchen was too warm, delaying his ice cream from setting. So Tom volunteered to go first giving Adam a bit more time.

Tom’s dessert, “Winston Churchill Treat Box”, consisted of foods he imagined would be Churchill’s favourite things: chocolate custard, chocolate soil, chocolate crisps, malted chocolate biscuit with whiskey caramel and beer ice cream, all served in cigar boxes. “A marvellous thought and typically British,” said Joy. “There is LOTS of booze in it,” said Prue, though not necessarily with disapproval. “This is my kind of pudding,” said Oliver. “I take my hat off to him,” said Matthew who pointed out how improved this dish must have been if it had scored only a 6 during the week. “I’m not really a pudding person but this is right up my street,” said Joy.

Adam’s dessert, “Logan’s Legacy” an homage to American allies, came next: chocolate orange bars, orange jellies, evaporated milk sorbet and milk and orange granita. The dish barely benefited from the extra time, with the sorbet cream floating off the sides of the plates. Still, the flavours were right. “The quality of the chocolate is quite terrific,” said Oliver. “It goes beautifully with the orange jellies,” said Matthew. The sorbet “sauce” was the only let-down. “Spillage is obviously a result of the kitchen,” said Oliver forgivingly. And although Prue found this evaporated milk element “horrible”, not all judges agreed. “I have to fundamentally disagree,” said Matthew, “I’m an evap man.”

Decision time and you could sense that both chefs were very close. Even with their shortcomings, all of the dishes were pretty incredible and the judges agreed, awarding amazingly high scores including four tens. In fact, it was so close that when the judges added up the scores, both chefs scored the same. This was the first time in Great British Menu history that the result was a draw, leaving it up to the judges to pick a winner, a task that proved impossible. In the end, the judges agreed that both chefs deserved a shot at the banquet, and so both would go through to the final round. Congratulations Tom and Adam! Here’s to raising the bar for the GBM National Final - see you there!

Tom Sellers and Adam Simmonds
Tom and Adam celebrate