Great British Menu 2015: London and South East heat preview

Great British Menu 2015: London and South East heat preview

by Food Urchin 21 September 2015

Working its way around the country, the Great British Menu now turns its attention to London and the South East. Food blogger Danny, aka 'Food Urchin', sets us up for the thrills and spills we can expect from the chefs this week.

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Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin.

Danny is a food adventurer, home grower, supper club host and writer of the entertaining and quirky epicurean blog, Food Urchin. When Danny is not busy digging holes to pit-roast lamb or hanging marrows in tights to make rum or foraging for snails in his garden to throw into paella, he is often left in charge of a pair of cheeky twins; with sometimes disastrous results in the kitchen. A former nominee for Best Food Writer at The YBFs Danny has decided that one day, he might just write a book about food.

After spending two weeks north of the Watford Gap, the Great British Menu is now heading down south for what looks to be a teary few days. Teary because the humble allium, the onion, is going to be the star of the show. Or so it seems, judging by a clip released by the good ol’ Beeb just this morning (and I do like it when they give us a sneak preview).

Yep, loads and loads and loads of onions will be diced and sliced for Daniel Clifford’s attention this week. The chef patron of two Michelin-starred Midsummer House is this week’s mentor and Daniel can look forward to his onions being prepared four ways in fact; namely jammed, puréed, consomméd and roasted. So I hope he remembered to bring his extra strong mints on set. I also hope that our contending chefs had a healthy supply of hankies on standby too. Not so much for the onion weeping but just in case there is a mishap along the way. One chef is going to be juggling eight elements for his starter no less, presenting a classic opportunity for something to go wrong.

I can picture it now actually. The wailing, Gazza-esque bubbling of despair, with throwing of beetroot and raw beef across the room. All witnessed by the other two, who no doubt be chopping onions with spoons in their mouths. Because we all know that trick, don’t we?

Anyway, onto the chefs.

First up is newcomer, Lee Westcott, Executive Chef at Typing Room and a bit of rising star in his neighbouring Bethnal Green in East London. Fay Maschler is certainly a fan, describing his style of cooking as a ‘triumph'. Working under former Great British Menu champion Tom Aikens has clearly rubbed off on Lee, not forgetting to mention his stints working for Jason Atherton in Hong Kong and at some of the world’s best restaurants including Noma in Copenhagen and Per Se in New York. Taking inspiration from classic Women’s Institute techniques to modern day campaigns, his menu promises to bold and exciting, with a quirky, innovative twist on modern European food.

Matt and Mark inspect Lee's handiwork
Judges at the ready

Essex boy and therefore a man after my own heart, Mark Froydenlund is next. Now Head Chef at Marcus Wareing’s eponymous two Michelin-starred restaurant, Marcus, Mark started his career working in a local restaurant in Leigh-on-Sea in his late teens and has obviously come a long way. On that journey, he has met and worked for various heavyweights, including Gordon Ramsay, under the wing of chef Jason Atherton but has been part of Marcus Wareing’s set up for nearly ten years now. However, this is his first time in the competition, so he will need to draw upon all that experience gained. A champion of London and the produce you find there, Mark’s menu promises to include family favourites and classic British grub.

Last but not least, is Matt Gillan, Head Chef at The Pass in the South Lodge Hotel in Surrey and entering the Great British Menu for the second time. Again, Matt is another chef with relatively humble beginnings, having started his career in a pub, straight out of school. But as all the best chefs do, he has worked his way up, doing time in some of the best restaurants in the country (I suspect it really is like ‘doing time’ with some of them). Intriguingly, Matt will be cast back in the spotlight and under the eye of his former employer Mr Clifford for this series. But given that he has a Michelin star of his own now tucked under his belt, I am sure that he will not wilt nor wither. With a style of cooking that has been described as ‘phenomenally dynamic’, Matt’s menu, based on the history of the Women’s Institute over the last 100 years, will no doubt be inventive, clever and full of flavour.