Announcing the chefs from BBC's Great British Menu 2020

Announcing the chefs from BBC's Great British Menu 2020

by Great British Chefs 04 March 2020

Find out everything you need to know about Great British Menu 2020, including which chefs are competing, what this year's theme is and how the competition differs from previous years.

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Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Once more into the kitchen! Great British Menu is back this year for its fifteenth series, with a new theme, new changes to how the competition works and a brigade of new chefs hoping to do their region proud. Take a look at when the series starts, find out what the theme is and how this year differs from the rest, before getting to know a little bit about each of the chefs competing.

When does Great British Menu start?

The fifteenth series of Great British Menu is underway! It runs for nine weeks in total (eight regional heats and then the final), with hour-long episodes every Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a half-hour regional final every Friday.

What’s the theme?

The theme for this series is children’s literature, as 2020 marks 150 years since the death of Charles Dickens, who wrote the first book to feature a child in the starring role with Oliver Twist. Every Friday the judges (Oliver Peyton, Andi Oliver and Matthew Fort) will be joined by children’s authors and novelists to help decide the best dish from each region. We’re expecting plenty of references to Harry Potter, The Hungry Caterpillar, Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl, but there's sure to be plenty more authors and books acting as inspiration for the dishes.

What’s changed?

The format has been shaken up a bit for 2020 in a bid to keep things from getting stale. Here are the major changes:

  • More chefs: there will be four chefs competing in each regional heat instead of the usual three

  • More drama: the chef with the lowest score after cooking their starter and fish course will be sent home, without a chance to show off their main and dessert

  • More courses: in addition to the starter, fish, main and desserts, each chef will also create an amuse bouche and pre-dessert palate cleanser, to give their menus a more contemporary tasting menu feel. Fish and main courses will be lighter as a result

  • A new presenter: Great British Menu has been without an on-screen presenter since its second season, but this year Susan Calman will be in the thick of it, talking to the chefs as they plate up and finding out what makes them tick

The chefs competing by region in Great British Menu 2020

Central

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Sally Abé, The Harwood Arms, London

Originally from Mansfield in Nottingham, Sally is head chef of the only Michelin-starred pub in London, The Harwood Arms. After studying Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts in Sheffield, Sally worked at The Savoy and then Claridges before she began a formative five years under Brett Graham at The Ledbury (two Michelin stars). In 2017 Sally took the reigns at The Harwood Arms in Fulham, where she has developed a loyal team.

Sally’s style of cooking is British and seasonal, with a touch of elegance and a fondness for game. Her personal menu celebrates local produce and champions some of our most beloved authors.

Niall Keating, Whatley Manor, Cotswolds

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Proudly representing Stoke-on-Trent, Niall is no stranger to competitions and already has a string of accolades to his name. As executive chef of The Dining Room at Whatley Manor (two Michelin stars) in the Cotswolds, Niall gained the restaurant its first Michelin star within his first year, followed up by an impressive second star in 2019. Niall also won the Michelin Guide’s 2018 European Young Chef of the Year Award.

Niall has trained in some of the best restaurants in the world including Benu (three Michelin stars) in San Francisco, Restaurant Sat Bains (two Michelin stars) and Kong Hans Kaelder (one Michelin star) in Copenhagen. Regionality is very important to Niall and his cuisine balances both contemporary and classic styles, heavily influenced by his travels featuring intriguing Asian influences. His menu celebrates some of Britain’s most famous children’s authors in his uniquely original style.

Alex Claridge, The Wilderness, Birmingham

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Proud Brummie Alex is the head chef and owner of The Wilderness in Birmingham, a restaurant renowned for its modern British food intended to excite, provoke and taste delicious. Self-taught Alex’s style is eclectic, drawing on the spices and influences of world cuisines and those represented in the melting pot of Birmingham. He uses local produce and sets out to deliver clear and intense flavours in playful, surprising ways. Alex’s personal menu celebrates the children’s literature theme in his trademark playful approach.

Dom Robinson, The Blackbird, Berkshire

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Originally from Derbyshire, Dom is the head chef and owner of Michelin-starred The Blackbird in Berkshire. Growing up, he was part of a family that loved to cook and bake which sparked a fascination with both the process of cooking and food. Whilst studying catering and hospitality at Buxton, he started work at the Michelin-starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall in the Peak District where he progressed under the tutelage of chef patron Max Fischer.

Dom then spent time working in Dubai where he picked up techniques and Asian influences that feature in some of his dishes, worked as a private chef in France and spent some time in Australia. He was also head chef at Tom Aikens’ flagship Chelsea restaurant for three years.

Dom is renowned for cooking food which is influenced by quality ingredients, his overseas travels and his classical French background. His personal menu celebrating this year’s theme is largely inspired by his own fondness for children’s books and those he reads to his daughters.

London & South East

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Steve Groves, Roux at Parliament Square, London

Essex-born Steve is a highly accomplished British chef inspired by classical French cooking, who was crowned the Craft Guild’s National Chef of the Year in 2019.

After studying for three years to become a classically trained chef, Steve went to the US briefly and then spent five years working at various restaurants in Bournemouth and Poole, becoming a head chef at the age of twenty-four. He then made the move to London working first at Launceston Place and then in 2013 he became head chef at Roux at Parliament Square, where he’s remained ever since. Steve’s style of cooking is based on French classics with a modern interpretation. Father-of-two Steve’s menu for the competition is inspired by childhood memories and his family.

Kerth Gumbs, Ormer Mayfair, London

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Originally from Anguilla in the Caribbean, Kerth was inspired to start cooking by his mother who was a chef. He has been head chef of Ormer Mayfair for three years, which was voted one of the top five restaurants in London by the Hardens Restaurant Guide in 2018.

Kerth has worked under a number of legendary chefs including Tom Aikens, Agnar Sverrisson and Joel Robuchon. Father-of-four Kerth is passionate about this year’s brief and is igniting his own inner child for his menu. His style of cooking is vibrant, colourful and fun with a love of local and high-quality produce.

Karl O’Dell, Texture, London

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Karl hails from Peterborough and is a chef who loves competing. Most recently he beat thirty-two other chefs to become a finalist in The Craft Guild of Chefs' National Chef of the Year 2020.

Having worked at some of the UK’s best restaurants including Pétrus, he is now head chef at Texture, which holds four AA rosettes and one Michelin star. Working closely with the chef-owner of Texture, Agnar Sverrisson, his style of cooking reflects the restaurant’s modern Scandinavian influences and champions local produce.

Ivan Tisdall-Downes, Native, London

Greenwich-born Ivan was initially self-taught and started his career in food markets and pop-ups. With minimal formal training he developed his individual cooking style at River Cottage HQ in Devon and Blue Hill Farm at Stone Barns in New York. This fine-tuned his skills and developed his passion for natural, foraged and seasonal produce as well as his belief in low-waste cookery.

Ivan started his restaurant Native in 2016 with co-founder Imogen Davis and has since created a name for himself by cooking with unique ingredients like squirrel, ants and hogweed. A newcomer to the competition, Ivan has a very personal take on the brief and is keen to bring his unique style to the Great British Menu kitchen.

Scotland

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Ross Bryans, Les 110 de Taillevent, London

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Irvine-born Ross Bryans is returning after a two-year gap, more determined than ever to get all the way to the Banquet.

Ross has worked in some of the most renowned Michelin-starred kitchens in the world including Restaurant Gordon Ramsay under Clare Smyth, Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Restaurant Martin Wishart in Scotland and as head chef in Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social, retaining the restaurant’s Michelin star in his first head chef role. Following this Ross went on to set up Jason’s first New York restaurant The Clocktower before returning to London.

Ross is currently head chef at Les 110 de Taillevent in Marylebone, London where he is making his mark with a modern French-style menu. For the competition his menu celebrates some of Scotland’s most renowned children’s authors and champions the finest Scottish produce.

Roberta Hall-McCarron, The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh

Edinburgh-born Roberta is a newcomer to the competition and determined to represent her home country. She started out aged sixteen doing work experience and hasn’t looked back since, working for one of Scotland’s best chefs Tom Kitchin, then moving to Castle Terrace with Dominic Jack.

Roberta is now chef-owner of The Little Chartroom in Edinburgh, which she runs with her husband who manages front of house. Roberta’s style of cooking is traditionally Scottish but influenced by French techniques. Her menu for the competition is inspired by Scotland’s rich larder, wild game and some of her favourite homegrown children’s authors.

Amy Elles, The Harbour Café, Fife

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London-born Amy has made her home on Scotland’s east coast and runs her restaurant The Harbour Café in Fife with her family.

Amy started her career at Harrods where she fell in love with the kitchen. She has also worked at The Fat Duck where she honed her skills in the pastry section and at Moro in London. Along with her husband Jack, she owns The Harbour Café in Fife and Stocks Events private event catering. Amy prides herself on only using local Scottish ingredients and having a light, elegant touch without over garnishing. As a mum of three, Amy has been inspired by bedtime reading with her children in her creative menu for the competition.

Gordon Jones, Menu Gordon Jones, Bath

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Maverick chef Gordon is returning for another crack at the competition after he was runner-up at the regional finals last year. Originally from Birmingham, Gordon moved to Buckie in Scotland at just seven years old where he grew up. His journey began at an Indian restaurant aged fourteen.

Gordon has an individual and experimental approach to all the food he serves. He’s passionate about trying new flavour combinations and developing new recipes, so much so that his restaurant, Menu Gordon Jones, changes its menu every week, sometimes daily, and only serves a surprise tasting menu. Gordon previously trained under renowned chefs Martin Wishart and Martin Blunos.

Northern Ireland

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Alex Greene, Deanes EIPIC, Belfast

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After narrowly missing out last year, Alex is returning for his second time in the competition. Born and bred in Dundrum, Northern Ireland, Alex grew up on a farm where he drew culinary inspiration from his granny who used to cook for the workers. Starting his career at the Bucks Head in Dundrum, Alex then moved on to Deanes Brasserie in Belfast, where he was part of the team that won the restaurant a Michelin star. He moved to work with Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s followed by a stage at Pétrus (both in London), then had a spell in New Zealand before moving closer to home to the Cliff House Hotel in Waterford. He then returned to work alongside Danni Barry at the Michelin-starred Deanes EIPIC restaurant, where he was subsequently appointed head chef and where he remains today.

Alex is inspired by classic cooking with a modern twist; he loves his dishes to look stylish, but taste is the most important thing. He is also passionate about the provenance of his ingredients and typically sources ninety percent of his restaurant’s ingredients from local suppliers. This year, Alex’s menu champions some of Northern Ireland’s greatest children’s authors and illustrators.

Shauna Froydenlund, Marcus, London

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After reaching the regional final two years ago, Shauna is back to compete for a second time. Originally from Londonderry in Northern Ireland, Shauna hails from a family of restaurateurs and was always keen to go into the industry, but her father insisted that before she did, she needed to learn the business side of hospitality.

She moved to England to study culinary arts, then landed on her feet taking a job at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Pétrus which was run by Marcus Wareing. Shauna has loyally stayed with Marcus her entire career, and was made demi chef de partie on the pastry section when Marcus opened his self-named restaurant at London’s Berkeley Hotel. Marcus is also where she met her husband and 2016 Great British Menu banquet main course champion Mark Froydenlund. In 2017 Shauna and Mark became joint chef patrons and business partners of the Knightsbridge-based restaurant.

Shauna’s very personal menu celebrates her passion for children’s literature and her love of reading to her young daughter.

Paul Cunningham, Brunel's, County Down

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Paul is a newcomer to the competition and hails from Newcastle in Northern Ireland. He was inspired from a very early age by his grandfather who always took him foraging and it’s this passion for local, seasonal, fresh produce which informs his ingredient-led cuisine today.

Self-taught Paul is head chef and director at Brunel's, an award-winning restaurant in Newcastle, Northern Ireland. Local ingredients are the most important thing to Paul who sources about eighty percent of his produce from within a thirty-mile radius of his restaurant. His cooking style is led by local and foraged ingredients; he champions strong, wild flavours underpinned by modern cookery techniques. His personal menu reflects this locality and his energetic personality.

Leigh Ferguson, Clenaghans, Moira

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First-timer Leigh is new to Great British Menu and is representing his home town of Lisburn in Northern Ireland. He first set foot in a professional kitchen aged twelve and hasn’t looked back since. After working for ten years at the Square Bistro, Leigh took up the helm of Clenaghans restaurant in Moira where his cooking has earned him a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide

Leigh’s cooking is inspired by quality local ingredients which he makes his own by using exotic seasonings for original new dishes. For the competition, his menu celebrates Northern Irish authors and local produce.

North West

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Hrishikesh Desai, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House, Cumbria

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Hrishikesh is determined to give the competition another go after achieving very high points in the regional final last year. Initially embarking on a front of house profession, Hrishikesh spent three years studying for a hotel management diploma. His career took a turn when he was advised to learn French and won a scholarship to the Institut Paul Bocuse in Ecully near Lyon in France. After witnessing a crème brûlée being caramelised, he made the life-changing decision to retrain as a chef.

Hrishikesh trained under the guidance of Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park, Wiltshire for ten years and Thomas Keller at the three Michelin-starred French Laundry in Napa Valley, California. He won the Roux Scholarship in 2009 followed by Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year in 2010. Within a year-and-a-half of being executive chef at The Gilpin Hotel and Lake House, Hrishikesh won a Michelin star and later four AA rosettes for his modern British cuisine with a twist. For the competition, Hrishikesh is celebrating some of the finest children’s authors from the Lake District and the region’s produce in exciting ways.

Tom Barnes, Rogan & Co, Cumbria

Cumbrian-born Tom from Barrow is a newcomer to Great British Menu who thrives in a competition, having won the Roux Scholarship in 2014. He’s been working as a chef since the age of fifteen and has fine-tuned his skills in Michelin-starred restaurants including L’Enclume (two stars) in the Lake District and Geranium (three stars) in Copenhagen.

Tom is now the executive chef for Simon Rogan at his Cartmel-based restaurants Rogan & Co and L’Enclume. His style is contemporary, inventive and British, with a passion for local seasonal produce delivered with precision. His celebration of the theme pays tribute to some of our great children’s authors from the Lake District.

George Farrugia, Fenchurch Restaurant at Sky Garden, London

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Manchester born and bred George decided he wanted to be a chef aged twenty-one after studying Law at university. He started out getting a job with a family friend in their restaurant where he stayed for six months, before moving to London to for legendary French chef Pierre Koffmann at his eponymous restaurant in The Berkeley Hotel. After this, he worked for several years under Eric Chavot at Brasserie Chavot (where the restaurant won a star) and then as head chef at Bob Bob Ricard.

Although George is head chef of Fenchurch Restaurant at Sky Garden in London, he is very passionate about competing to represent the North West. George’s style of cooking is classically French with Mediterranean influences from his Italian and Cypriot heritage. This year’s brief couldn’t be better for George as his favourite subject at school was English Literature, so he’s taking inspiration from the books he loved reading growing up.

Sam Buckley, Where The Light Gets In, Stockport

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Mancunian Sam is a newcomer to the competition and has been in the kitchen since his teenage years. While at college he got a job in a kitchen with Gary Rhodes and that’s where he fell in love with cooking.

Sam’s parents were against him being a chef and thought he was throwing his education away. Undeterred, he went on to work for what was at the time Manchester’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, Juniper, with Paul Kitching. He has worked for Simon Rogan at L'Enclume and his travels with his band took him across Europe where he met a chef called Tanja Grandits, from whom he learnt a lot.

Chef-patron of Stockport’s Where the Light Gets In, Sam’s dishes have a big emphasis on sustainability, zero waste, the North West and fresh produce from his own farm. A big reader as a child, his menu is personal and reflects his cookery ethos.

South West

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Joe Baker, Number 10, Jersey

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Returner Joe from Jersey narrowly missed getting to the finals last year and this time he is determined to go all the way to the banquet. Joe took an unconventional path to becoming a chef – first he studied English at Durham University and then gained a Master's degree in finance in London before giving it all up to cook professionally.

Although he was constantly cooking and working in kitchens he finally made the leap to become a chef full-time at May The Fifteenth in south London and various other restaurants around the world. Largely self-taught, he moved back to Jersey in 2016 to open his own restaurant, Number 10 in St Helier, serving modern British and European cuisine. This year his personal menu reflects his passion for reading as a child.

Guy Owen, St Enodoc Hotel, Cornwall

Newcomer to the competition Guy is the steely executive chef of The St Enodoc Hotel overlooking the Camel Estuary in Rock, Cornwall. Prior to this he spent four-and-a-half years as head chef of the Idle Rocks. Although originally from Hampshire, Cornwall has been his home for the majority of his life.

Guy has worked in many Michelin-starred restaurants including cutting his teeth at The Driftwood with Chris Eden and under Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park. His style of cooking celebrates the Cornish coast’s finest produce; he is also fond of telling stories in his dishes and reading to his young son which plays to his strength for the children’s literature theme this year.

Harriet Mansell, Robin Wylde, Lyme Regis

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Newcomer Harriet grew up in Sidmouth, Devon and took an unconventional route into the industry. After studying Politics and History at university, she retrained to be a chef.

She took her first 'proper' kitchen job with fellow South West chef Mark Hix in London before going to culinary school and interning at the prestigious Noma in Denmark, followed by a couple of Michelin-starred kitchens in London and then into the super yacht industry where she worked as a private chef for high profile clients. Harriet has now opened a pop-up restaurant called Robin Wylde in Lyme Regis, where her cuisine is based around the seasons, local produce and foraging. Harriet is out to showcase the South West’s finest produce in her own unique style and bring out her passion for reading as a child in her dishes.

Thomas Carr, Thomas Carr at The Olive Room, Devon

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New to the competition is Birmingham-born Thomas, who was adopted and grew up in Woolacombe, North Devon. Thomas originally wanted to become a social worker but he ended up falling for cooking instead after growing up in cafes and cooking meals as a teenager.

Thomas went to catering college and, although spending more time surfing than learning, by 2002 he was head chef at a local café. By 2009 he found himself under the tutorage of Nathan Outlaw, moving to Cornwall to work at his eponymous restaurant. Thomas was head chef when it gained its second Michelin star.

Today, Thomas is the owner and head chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant Thomas Carr at The Olive Room in Ilfracombe. With a teenage son and a new baby, he is no stranger to bedtime stories and will be putting his personal spin on much loved picture book favourites.

Wales

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Georgia Sommerin, Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth

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Twenty-year-old Georgia from Penarth, Wales, is the youngest competitor ever on Great British Menu. Not to be underestimated, she’s been working in a professional kitchen since the age of thirteen and full-time since 2016 under the watchful eye of her father, Michelin-starred chef James Sommerin. Initially Georgia wanted to make some pocket money but she soon fell in love with cooking as a career and is now senior sous chef at Restaurant James Sommerin.

Georgia is out to prove herself on her own terms with her classic cooking inspired by local Welsh produce. Her menu draws on some of her favourite books from her childhood.

Hywel Griffith, Beach House, Gower

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New to the competition is patriotic Welsh speaker Hywel, who grew up in north Wales and has been a chef since he was seventeen. Hywel honed his craft at Coleg Menai in Bangor before graduating to the Lanesborough Hotel in London and The Chester Grosvenor before returning to Wales as sous chef at Ynyshir. During his time there the restaurant achieved three AA rosettes and a Michelin star. He then opened his own restaurant Beach House in Oxwich Bay in 2016, which won its own Michelin star a few years later.

Hywel’s cooking style is modern Welsh and champions all Welsh produce. For his menu, he draws on regional children’s authors and Welsh folklore for inspiration.

Tom Phillips, Restaurant Story, London

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Originally from Newport, Wales, proud Welshman Tom started his career in London. His first job was at The Ritz before moving abroad to Per Se under Thomas Keller in New York, Epicure in Paris, and then heading back to the UK to L’Enclume with Simon Rogan in the Lake District. He is currently head chef at Michelin-starred Restaurant Story in London.

No stranger to competitions, Tom was part of the team that represented the UK in the 2019 Bocuse d’Or where they placed tenth in the world. This time he wants to win with his innovative cookery full of modern techniques and elegance which champions Welsh ingredients. As head chef at Restaurant Story, he enjoys using dishes to tell a story and has high hopes for his personal menu that makes a virtue out of growing up with dyslexia.

John Chantarasak, AngloThai, London

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Brought up in the Wye Valley, John is proud to be competing to represent Wales. His cooking style is influenced by his Thai heritage – his father is originally from Bangkok – and his training at Le Cordon Bleu in Bangkok where he mastered traditional French cookery and worked with David Thompson at Nahm, at the time rated the best restaurant in Asia.

His personal cooking project AngloThai which he runs with his wife is making waves with dishes that bring together British produce and Thai flavours, and he will head up a new Thai restaurant opening towards the end of 2020. For Great British Menu, John creates imaginative dishes inspired by his favourite children’s books linked to the region.

North East

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Samira Effa, TRUEfoods, Yorkshire

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Huddersfield-born Samira is back to compete for a second time after narrowly missing out last year to Tom Anglesea. Starting her career in Yorkshire at Bradley’s Restaurant in Huddersfield, she has a wealth of experience at high-end Michelin-starred restaurants, having worked at Bohemia in Jersey and 21212 in Edinburgh.

Samira is currently working as a senior production chef for TRUEfoods which develops premium products for the food and restaurant industry. She is also involved in creating innovative dining experiences and tasting menus for the weekly TRUEfoods CHEFStable.

Samira’s cooking draws upon her heritage – she has a Nigerian father and Iranian mother – which means she’s confident using bold flavours in her cooking. Her menu celebrates some of the region’s classic children’s authors, combined with a passion for Yorkshire’s produce.

Alex Bond, Alchemilla, Nottingham

Proud Yorkshireman Alex has been a chef for over twenty years and has worked at many prestigious restaurants such as Restaurant Sat Bains, Auberge du Lac, Turners and The Wild Rabbit. In 2019 Alex was awarded a Michelin star for his restaurant Alchemilla, in Nottingham, a place that prides itself on unique, imaginative, plant-based fine dining.

Alex believes in using the best produce available and puts plant-based ingredients at the heart of the plate, whilst meat and fish play supporting roles. He has been inspired by this year’s children’s literature theme from reading with his young daughters.

Josh Angus, Hide Ground, London

Hailing from Sheffield, Josh is proud to be competing to represent the North East in the first cookery competition he’s ever entered. He’s worked at some of the UK’s top restaurants with leading chefs including Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Phil Howard’s Elystan Street. Josh has also travelled abroad and worked as a private chef for the American ambassador which involved cooking for famous guests such as Ed Sheeran, Donald Trump and Michelle Obama.

For the last three years Josh has been head chef at Michelin-starred Hide in London, working under Ollie Dabbous and running a team of up to fifty chefs. Josh’s menu celebrates British children’s literature and draws on his personal roots and childhood memories.

Ruth Hansom, Pomona's, London

Darlington-born twenty-four-year-old Ruth is the youngest chef competing for the North East. She has won a plethora of awards and as the first woman to win the Young Chef of the Year Award in 2017, she prides herself on staying calm under pressure.

Ruth moved to London to pursue her love of cooking aged just fifteen and has been unwavering in her pursuit of success. She trained at Westminster College Kingsway and was mentored by Master of the Culinary Arts Frederick Forster. She then worked at the Boundary Restaurant for a year before securing a position at The Ritz where she remained for five years and rose to chef de partie. Whilst working at The Ritz and winning the Young Chef of the Year award, The Ritz won its first Michelin star in its 110-year history.

Now head chef at Pomona’s in London, Ruth’s style is modern British underpinned by a classical French training and draws heavily on history. Her creative menu for the competition celebrates some of the North East’s most famous children’s authors, with a nostalgic nod to her childhood.