Great British Menu 2015 preview and schedule

Great British Menu 2015 preview and schedule

by Food Urchin 28 July 2015

Monday 3 August 2015 sees the start of the tenth series of Great British Menu, where some of the country’s top chefs compete to win a place cooking at a final banquet, this year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Women’s Institute (WI).

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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.

It’s hard to believe that the Great British Menu is now in its tenth year. For it only seems like yesterday that the likes of Bryn Williams and Marcus Wareing were serving up turbot, cockles and oxtail and custard tart with Garibaldi biscuits for Her Maj (sic) the Queen, to celebrate her birthday. Since then, the themes have been varied and many. The Olympics, Christmas, Comic Relief and last year’s D-Day celebrations have all served well as inspiration for the competing chefs. To help them get the ol’ creative juices flowing, so to speak.

And as the series has come along and developed, the recipes have become more and more intricate and complex. The chefs have even started employing carpenters, electricians and special effects experts, to help them build mini-sets to seat the food and boost the theatrical flair of their dishes. Which in the immortal words of John Torode, is a very good thing, as this shows the pushing of boundaries in food and plus, it’s all good fun to watch.

However, it does also highlight what a bunch of show-offs chefs can be and this I fear, will be their undoing, because the muse for our intrepid culinary artists this year is to be the formidable WI, or Women’s Institute, who are not to be messed with.

Formed to revitalise rural communities and encourage women to produce food for the nation during the First World War, this pioneering organisation has done much to promote home cooking, as well as equality and education. With a groundswell of membership heading towards the quarter million mark, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with; and seeing as the first WI meeting was held in the slightly unpronounceable Llanfairpwll on Anglesey, Wales, on 16th September 1915; well, there is one hell of a birthday bash coming up.

Which brings me back to the dilemma that our chefs have to face. You can be dripping with Michelin stars, know how to manipulate the four base elements of chocolate, chicken, chips and cheese; and be a dab hand at decorating a platter with tinsel and fairy lights from Poundland; but if that jam isn’t set, if that gravy is too thin, and if that crackling doesn’t crisp and snap, then all their efforts will be in vain, because the WI will pick up on that in an instant. Many hearts and minds have been crushed in church halls and at school fetes across the land, when the standard just hasn’t hit the mark. As I understand it, some of the WI top guns will be sat at the table with judges Matthew Fort, Prue Leith and Oliver Peyton. Namely Helen Carey OBE and Rosemary Bishton MBE; so chefs beware...

I am of course doing the WI a huge disservice here. Stirring up that stuffy, hard-nosed and humourless stereotype about a legion of women who are anything but. There is much to admire about an institution that campaigns about climate change, the plight of honeybees and equal pay, amongst many others; as well as raising money for charity. Their infamous nude calendar (and subsequent film) gave the society a much needed lift. That it inspired our three GBM judges to also strip for the camera is questionable but I am sure that this is a sign that the series will focus on the good-natured and important work the WI do. Along with the massive contribution and influence the WI has had on the diet of the nation.

In the words of Mr Fort: “All good cooking begins in the home. That's why the WI has been so important to food in this country. It has established and maintained the highest of standards for home cooking. But great home cooking won't be enough to get a dish to the Banquet at this year's GBM. Any dish must honour the standards of the WI, but also build on them with imagination and skill to create a masterpiece of modern gastronomy.”

I reckon the chefs might just have to pull out all the stops after all.

Header photography: BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Andrew Hayes-Watkins

2015 episode schedule

Scotland - w/c Monday 3rd August 2015

Graham Campbell, Glenesk Country House Hotel

Jak O’Donnell, The Sisters

Jimmy lee, Lychee Oriental

South West - w/c Monday 10th August 2015

Josh Eggleton, Pony and Trap

Dominic Chapman, The Beehive

Jude Kereama, Kota

Wales - w/c Monday 17th August 2015

Stephen Gomes, Moksh

Adam Bannister, Slice

Phil Carmichael, Berners Tavern

Northern Ireland - w/c Monday 31st August 2015

Chris McGowan, consultant chef

Danni Barry, Eipic

Ben Arnold, Home

North East - w/c Monday 7th September 2015

Michael O’Hare, The Man Behind the Curtain

Tim Allen, Launceston Place

Mini Patel, The Pointer

North West - w/c Monday 14th September 2015

Eve Townson, Eagle and Child

Matt Worswick, The Lawns Restaurant, Thornton Hall

Mark Ellis, 1851 Restaurant at Peckforton Castle

London and South East - w/c Monday 21st September 2015

Matt Gillan at The Pass, South Lodge Hotel

Lee Westcott, Typing Room

Mark Froydenlund, Marcus

Central - w/c Monday 28th September 2015

Pip Lacey, Murano

Richard Bainbridge, Benedict’s

Jason Hodnett, Raven Hotel

Finals Week and Banquet show - w/c Monday 5th October 2015

Guest chef judges for 2015

Sat Bains - Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham

Daniel Clifford - Midsummer House, Cambridge

Richard Corrigan - Corrigan’s Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, London

Phil Howard - The Square, London

Tom Kerridge - The Hand & Flowers, Marlow

Marcus Wareing - Marcus Wareing, Marcus, London

Michael Smith – The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye

Emily Watkins - The Kingham Plough