For the last eight weeks Monica Shaw has been covering Series Seven of Great British Menu, which culminated last on Friday 8th June 2012 in an epic four-course Olympic banquet featuring the winning chefs’ dishes. At Great British Chefs we asked her to give us highlights of the series and also some of the things she wouldn’t miss!
Daniel Clifford's slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg and chicken spray from BBC’s Great British Menu
Blog post by Monica Shaw
The lovely folks at Great British Chefs asked me to write a retrospective about my experience following the series and writing about it for this blog. I must say it feels like the end of an era. I’ve gotten used to my weekly Great British Menu ritual and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the programme.
Simon Hulstone's dessert from BBC2's Great British Menu
I’d never seen Great British Menu before and am not usually one to get hooked on a TV series (exceptions include The Wire, Firefly and Sex in the City). But Great British Menu surprised me.
It wasn’t so much the drama of the competition, or the pithy comments from judges Prue Leith, Oliver Peyton and Matthew Fort. Rather, it was the chefs themselves and their collective talent, honesty and respect that really sold the show.
Wishful Chicken by Paul Ainsworth from BBC2’s Great British Menu
Not to mention their array of personalities: Alan Murchison's sheer determination; Charlie Larkin's family values; Paul Ainsworth's youthful enthusiasm; Simon Rogan's humble genius; Phil Howard's uber self-confidence. It all came together for great television and a compelling array of characters.
The most amazing aspect, of course, was the camaraderie amongst the chefs. This being television, there were lots of high drama moments: plates too hot, meat too cold, foam too runny and so on. And the best bits were seeing the chefs pull together to help each other out of these inevitable ruts. It just makes you love these people even more and want to eat their food.
Poached pears, atsina cress snow, sweet cheese ice cream and rosehip syrup by Simon Rogan - from BBC’s Great British Menu
To that end, Great British Menu has given me an excellent overview of the amazing food developments happening in Britain right now, and it’s a relief to find that “boundary pushing” innovation isn’t limited to the confines of London. I’ve now got a bunch of new restaurants on my “hit list”, including Nathan Outlaw's restaurant at The St. Enodoc Hotel in Cornwall and Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cumbria. I was also glad to learn that Richard Davies’ restaurant at Manor House Hotel is just down the road from where I live.
Duck, barbecue monkfish, rosemary, samphire and asparagus by Nathan Outlaw from BBC2’s Great British Menu
Of course, I’d love to try all of their restaurants, and meet all of the chefs. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, many of the chefs are on Twitter, and I often found myself looking them up after each programme aired. That many of them are on Twitter and actually talk their fans adds further testament to their awesomeness.
In that way, Great British Menu may be gone but it’s certainly not forgotten, as it will be inspiring many restaurant visits and Twitter conversations for months and years to come. I think the only thing I won’t miss will be the litany of Olympic metaphors: “going for Gold”, “leaping culinary hurdles” and the most overused phrase of all, “pushing boundaries”. But hey, it’s not often the Olympics are hosted in London, so we’ll let them have the glory, puns and all.
Bring on Series Eight.
Blog post by Monica Shaw
Let us know your highlights of Great British Menu 2012. Which chefs’ restaurants would you most like to visit as a result of watching the series?