Great British Menu 2015: North West heat preview

Great British Menu 2015: North West heat preview

by Food Urchin 14 September 2015

It's week six of Great British Menu, and this time it's chefs from the North West who are competing for a place in the banquet. Food blogger Danny, aka Food Urchin, previews what’s in the store for the week ahead and we also caught up with contestant Matt Worswick ahead of his debut on the show.

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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.

So we move from east to west this week for yet another culinary tug of war, for the hearts, minds and stomachs of the nation. And at this point I did want to put in a witty comparison to the War of the Roses. Move over you House of York, with your pure white blooms and all that. For here comes the mighty House of Lancaster, ready to scatter their red rose petals upon our judges’ plates. But I fear this sort of introduction doesn’t really make much sense and some historians out there will already be snorting with anger and disdain, at my very deliberate mistake

Best I move on then and tell you who is on board!

First up is Eve Townson who is Executive Chef at The Eagle and Child, a much lauded pub in Ramsbottom, Lancashire, that is not only making waves with its food but one that is also taking great steps with regards to social enterprise. Opened in October 2011, in a bid to tackle youth employment and foster a new generation of professionals within the industry,The Eagle and Child has trained 35 disadvantaged young people and turned them into chefs. Eve herself has plenty of experience, having worked for Michelin-starred Paul Heathcote and will be drawing inspiration for her menu from the many strong women in her life.

Next up is Matt Worswick, Head Chef at The Lawns, Thornton Hall and judging by his cheeky demeanor on Twitter, he will be bringing a touch of humour into the kitchen. The Liverpudlian has already expressed his surprise at being let loose in the GBM kitchen, so perhaps sparks will fly. But given his pedigree, he has worked for David Everitt-Matthias at La Champignon Sauvage and for Simon Hulstone at The Elephant, he will no doubt bring some flair to proceedings. Matt’s grandmother was also a member of the Women’s Institute, which may or may not give him the proverbial leg-up, we shall see.

Finally we see the return of Mark Ellis, Head Chef at 1851 Restaurant at Peckforton Castle, and I just wonder if the director has instructed a cue of ‘Return of The Mack’ by Mark Morrisson on the soundtrack, for when he appears on the screen. Because that would be brilliant, but I doubt it will happen. No matter, whatever does happen, I am sure that Mark will be looking to redeem himself after an early exit in the last series. Bringing a modern twist on some British dishes, including favourites of both the WI and his grandmother, it will certainly be interesting to see what he brings to the table this time around.

Matt seemed to enjoy his debut on the show
The judges looked happy enough before tasting began...

We caught up with Matt Worswick ahead of his debut on Great British Menu to chat about his experience

Who was the most inspirational woman in your life, when it comes to cooking?

Well my grandmother was in the WI for ten years. My first exposure to decent homemade food came through her. She used to make sorbet with her freezer, which is a very old-school way of doing it. Because you just didn’t have the ice-cream machines and things like that. But it was an explosion of flavours and I can still remember it now. My grandmother has a recipe book at home that she used to cook from. I used that book as a reference for each of the dishes to try and draw from its information. The recipe book she made epitomises the whole brief. So I didn’t really have to look too far for inspiration. She made it, it was her book. It was her housewife’s recipe book.

How would you compare a double shift in the kitchen to a day in the GBM studios?

It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. But, I really, really enjoyed it. I’ve done a few competitions before, but I loved this whole process and planning. I loved trying to push myself and see how far I could really go. That was the thing that I liked the best. It’s not a Mickey Mouse competition, plus you’re cooking in front of one point eight million people. That makes it even more interesting. It’s certainly very exciting and nerve-racking. Hopefully we came across quite well because you're also at the mercy of the editor of the show.

How often did you watch the show before appearing on it?

Well, I’ve watched it since the show started. That brought me through my career. I used to watch even before I started at St Martins. And Kenny (Atkinson) watched it and then went on to go on it. So I had a bit of a personal relationship with the show, right through my career. I was sort of in-awe when I walked in, I couldn’t believe I was actually there, and doing it. So yes, I loved it to be honest, I love everything about it. It was a great feeling to be on it. And such an achievement in my career.

What was it like working in the GBM kitchen?

Well the kitchen I’m in now, I’ve got twenty-two chefs. So a little bit different to cooking on your own. And especially if you’ve got big personalities as well. There's three chefs and two stoves, which creates a bit of atmosphere - of course it is a TV show at the end of the day. I had all the equipment that I needed but when you’re in your own kitchen and own environment you are more relaxed. You know where everything is, how everyone works, the systems and the service times - everything. I think chefs forget that you're in their environment, not the other way around.

You go to the Great British Menu kitchen and it’s completely foreign. New ovens, different staff and TV producers who aren’t chefs telling you what to do. It’s not in accordance with the chef, it’s in accordance with the producer and the director. And that’s the thing, I think, which throws everyone off. You can practice your food until the cows come home but you forget basic things, it’s difficult because of the pressure that you’re under with all the cameras and stuff. But even so, I really enjoyed it, I thought the whole experience was fantastic.