Great British Menu 2021: Dan McGeorge on his winning dessert

Great British Menu 2021: Dan McGeorge on his winning dessert

by Henry Coldstream 20 May 2021

Liverpool’s Dan McGeorge talks to Henry Coldstream about making it to the banquet at his first time of trying with his dessert ‘Give a Dog a Bone’.

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Henry is a food writer at Great British Chefs.

Henry is a food writer at Great British Chefs.

In a cooking competition as famously tricky as Great British Menu, it’s understandable why even some of the country’s top chefs wouldn’t set their expectations too high. The North West’s Dan McGeorge certainly wasn’t taking anything for granted when competing. ‘I just did it to take part and give it a go really. I've watched it for years now and the calibre of chefs competing is amazing. Having the chance to cook against some of those chefs was the main reason for me to go on the show.’ Deciding to take part in the competition ended up being a very good decision for the Rothay Manor chef who, after winning his region, has now taken his dessert all the way through to the banquet. ‘It’s still a bit of a shock,’ he explains. ‘It was a surprise to even be cooking in the finals, so to get a dish through to the banquet was incredible.’

Dan did have some experience with competitions prior to taking part, having made it to the semi-finals of National Chef of the Year two years running, but that didn’t make the process any easier for the newbie (‘it’s very different to National Chef of the Year, where you just have to do three dishes in two hours’). On Great British Menu there are plenty of distractions for the chefs, who have to regularly talk to camera and help plate up each other’s dishes on top of cooking their own. ‘It was great fun, but it’s not as plain and simple as just cooking,’ he explains. ‘The first time I had to do an interview segment, it just felt so weird being in front of a camera.’

The chef wasn’t given the easiest of paths through to the final either, with the notoriously strict Tom Aikens judging the North West heats. ‘He’s a tough judge but I’d say he’s fair,’ says Dan. ‘He sets a standard and doesn’t give extra points to anyone randomly. Personally, I think that sevens and eights should be regarded as very good scores, and nine and tens ought to be for close to perfection.’ After scoring an eight for his dessert in the heats, it proved even more popular in the judging chamber, and again in the finals.

When it came to this year’s brief, based around British innovation, Dan felt it was key to begin with the inspiration behind the dish and then start to build it from there. ‘I think that’s the best way to do it because then it’s easier to make the link to the brief clear. If you create a dish first and then just adapt it, you risk missing the connection entirely. You end up relying on a prop, which does all the talking instead of the food.’

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His approach of putting the brief first was clear for all to see in his winning dessert Give a Dog a Bone. Inspired by the original four guide dogs and Merseyside pioneers Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, the dish featured a bone-shaped milk chocolate mousse filled with miso caramel and served with salted caramel ice cream and a yuzu gel. ‘They trained the first guide dogs in Wallasey, which is near where I grew up,’ explains Dan. ‘I read a lot about the original dogs and found it really inspiring. The dish is as much of a nod to them as it is to Rosamund Bond and Muriel Crooke, because they were pioneers too. That’s why I wanted to make it in the shape of a bone – something which is iconic to dogs – whilst creating something delicious for humans at the same time.’

Even though his dessert went all the way in the end, Dan still found himself having to make some changes after the heats to get the balance of flavours right. This included removing the pieces of honeycomb that were originally on the plate and introducing a set miso caramel element to make the dish even more indulgent. ‘I think you’d be stupid not to listen to people’s criticism and advice,’ he says. ‘Sometimes things just taste different in there compared to when you’re eating them in your own kitchen. I’m really glad that I did make the adjustments as it obviously made the difference.’

Such a successful debut performance in the competition has understandably made Dan hungry for more, and it sounds like we may be seeing him on our screens again in future years. ‘I was probably very lucky to get to the banquet on my first go but I’d definitely do it again. I think I now have a much better understanding of what to expect and how to prepare the dishes in the best way possible.’

With all four courses now decided, tune in tomorrow night to see how Dan and his fellow chefs got on at this year’s banquet.