Great British Menu 2015: Northern Ireland heat preview

Great British Menu 2015: Northern Ireland heat preview

by Food Urchin 28 August 2015

After a break for athletics, it’s the return of Great British Menu. Week four will see chefs from Northern Ireland battle it out for prized place at the final banquet. Once again food blogger Danny, aka Food Urchin, lets us know what to expect for the coming week and we also caught up with “chef’s chef” Phil Howard to chat about judging this week’s shows.

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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.

A watched clock never moves. Or at least that is the usual experience when sat in doctor’s surgeries, on station platforms and for keeping your beady eye on the second hand, waiting to hoist out a perfectly soft boiled egg.

However, add a soupçon of pressure to the mix and that clock will fast forward with alarming speed. Time in the kitchen can melt away faster than butter on a scorching hot skillet. Leaving you stranded and all alone; on a small, wee island called ‘Panic’. I know, I’ve been there. And judging by the latest clip from the Great British Menu, introducing our contestants from Northern Ireland, Ben Arnold, head chef of Home in Belfast, pays a visit to that desolate place too.

But I don’t want to harp on about Ben and his tardy fish dish. Ten long, late and tortuous minutes under the withering glare of Phil Howard, chef and co-owner of The Square, must have been enough for him and we really need to find out who else is on board for the forthcoming week.

Well, Chris McGowan, chef director at Corrigan’s Mayfair, is back and looks ready to improve on his performance from last year’s GBM. Having won his heat last time, he is certainly the favourite to get through. I just hope that Chris gets the naming of his dishes spot on this time around. His ‘We are Captains of Our Soles’ really did deliver the most unfortunate of puns in the last series.

Completing the trio is newbie Danni Barry, head chef at Deanes Eipic, which is probably the correct pronunciation of “Epic” in that part of the world. Don’t hold me to that though. The good news is that we have another female chef competing to get a dish into the banquet. Of course, Jak O’Donnell is already in there with a chance for Scotland but it would be good to get another woman on board. Especially when you consider that this year’s theme is the celebration of the WI and all.

There is also the issue of time-keeping and multitasking. As this series has already proven, some of us guys are sometimes, just sometimes, not very good at that sort of thing.

(Sorry Ben)


Interview with Phil Howard

On the eve of the Northern Irish heats, the team at Great British Chefs caught up with chefs’ chef - Phil Howard who will be veteran judge for the contestants for the week. From prep to props to common pitfalls, discover the Great British Menu experience from the eyes of a judge.

We know the days are long for the competitors, but how much of the preparation do you get to see?

As much as you want to really - filming clearly interferes with all aspects of the competition but that aside it’s access all areas.

How much has the competition environment changed since you were behind the stoves for GBM?

From what I can see very little indeed. One of the things that makes it a genuine challenge is that it is a basic set-up and structure. You’re on your own - and that’s the crack.

It used to be all and only about the final dishes. Why have props become so important on GBM?

It’s a sign of insecurity!!! We should all have the confidence to let the food talk loud and clear - but when the competition ultimately requires you to outshine your rivals then the armoury is likely to expand. Cue the props…….

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a chef preparing to go into GBM’s kitchen?

Ensure everything you cook is utterly delicious but above all else respect the brief.

What’s one of the most common errors the chefs make during the filming?

They forget that the food is actually going to be eaten and over rely on their adherence to the brief and any other wow factor they may have introduced. All food must be delicious.