Great British Menu 2023: Northern Ireland heat preview

The seventh week of heats in Great British Menu 2023 will see four top chefs from Northern Ireland competing for a place in finals week.

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 as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Gemma Austin

Gemma is hoping three is the magic number, as she returns for her third consecutive year in the GBM kitchen. Having impressed with her dessert last year, she is more determined than ever to represent Northern Ireland at the Banquet.

Gemma followed in the footsteps of her mother, who worked as a chef in a local Belfast restaurant and helped mould her love of cooking. She worked full time at a variety of great establishments, working her way through kitchens, including commis chef to sous chef of a two-rosette kitchen. She worked at the Fitzwilliam Hotel in Belfast (5* hotel) where she rose to head pastry chef, before moving to luxury hotel The Old Inn, Crawfordsburn (4* hotel) where she worked all the sections, eventually becoming sous chef.

Gemma opened her own restaurant, A Peculiar Tea, serving themed dinners and afternoon teas in Belfast. She hopes it celebrates everything that is playful and fun, and a temporary escape from ‘the real world.’ To make sure her dishes are memorable, she often engages all five of the senses, and will send dishes out with music and aromas of things that relate to the plating.

Gemma’s menu celebrates animations by Northern Irish Tomm Moore ‘Songs of the Sea’ and ‘Wolfwalkers’.


Kerry Roper

Newcomer Kerry was born in London, but couldn’t imagine representing any other region. Having lived and loved Northern Ireland for the past twelve years, she sees it as the only place she calls home. She has had the privilege to work with, and learn a lot from, Michelin-starred chef Danni Barry. Now being Head Chef and Development chef at Stix and Stones in Belfast, she enjoys using her creativity to create not only delicious food, but visually pleasing plates that pack a punch of flavour.

Kerry describes her style as evolving. Though she may have more to learn than some seasoned chefs, she’s prepared to showcase her skills, and challenge herself to outwork others. She prides herself on using good produce and food that is cooked well - she will always cook to the best of her ability.

Her dishes takes inspiration from Northern Irish illustrator Oliver Jeffers and his illustrations in 'The Day the Crayons Quit.'

John Hollywood

Newcomer John started his career in Graffitti Cafe, burning toast and making omelettes - but he loved every minute of it, and has been in kitchens ever since. Eighteen years later, John has worked in some of the finest restaurants in Northern Ireland. He was part of the original brigade at The Muddlers Club which attained a Michelin star. He then decided to branch out into Asian cuisine and techniques in Yugo, and helped open up its sister restaurant - Yugo East - during the pandemic.

John left Belfast and moved to Bangor where he became Head Chef in The Boat House. This is where he developed his own style, always using local Irish ingredients. He has a local forager working with him who sometimes delivers unusual ingredients – he likes the challenge of using these to develop new dishes. Now John has decided to go out on his own, developing products for suppliers he has met, and possibly private dining in people homes in the future.

His menu takes inspiration from Irish animation like 'The Secret of Kells,' celebrating Irish folklore and mystique.

Matt Jordan

Newcomer Matt is determined to show off his skills in the GBM competition, having worked in some of Northern Ireland’s most famous kitchens.

Matt worked at The Ledbury for just under two years. He has been working at SHU on and off for eight years and is now heading up the kitchen. SHU kitchen has a very high turnover of food - he can do up to 200 covers on some services.

A self-confessed control freak, Matt wants every plate that leaves the kitchen to be at a high standard. His food is seasonal, clean on the plate, and packed with as much flavour as possible. He is not a fan of foams and gels that have no reason for being there. Everything on the plate must taste amazing, and work together.

Matt is ultra-competitive and hopes his menu is a winning one. He is playing homage to the Irish video game industry that produced games such as Earthworm Jim.

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