With the return of the Great British Menu, what does this years series have in store?
Again it is pitching some of the best chefs in the country from all different backgrounds, trying to get their dishes onto a banquet for WI. Following that theme, dishes are being created that are hitting the brief visually and flavour wise.
Can you tell us a bit about what you will be doing as judge on the programme?
The main priority for me is what things taste like, as from a viewers point of view, everything looks amazing, but when the lower scores come out, it is due to flavour. If they hit the brief and get the flavours right, that is when they get the high scores.
What are you most looking forward to in the series?
I really quite like the atmosphere in the kitchen between the 3 chefs and how they interact. It starts as a competition but by the end they become true friends andhave great respect.
Describe your culinary style…
Robust British produce, trying to make everything taste of what it is, but more. Cooked with a deep understanding of French gastronomy, i.e dairy products, stocks, sauces, braising, etc.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
All forms of dairy, they are for richness and they can add seasoning, they help thicken and with the right ones, add acidity.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
Undoubtably The Hand and Flowers receiving 2 michelin stars in 2011. So proud of the whole team, its a massive joint effort for which we are all delighted and take very responsibly.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
I whole heartedly would not change a single thing, even the spaces they feel like they were mistakes at the time, have helped build my understanding of the industry right now. I suppose my only regret is that in the wary 90s I didn’t work for Marco Pierre White or Nico Ladenis, so I would have liked to have worked at The Oak Room or Ninety Park Lane. But I may well have come across Andre Garett (head chef at Cliveden) in his prime on the pastry in Nico’s kitchen where apparently he was an animal. We are really good friends now, but maybe we wouldn’t have been when we were 22, haha!
What’s next for you?
The continuation of more of the same. I’m very fortunate that I’m surrounded by a great team and have two pubs on the same road. We all work very hard and try to get a little bit better each day. I have found myself to be ring leader, team motivator, and chief idiot, the last one is a role that I relish! For example, early next year, we are going to be blowing up a chocolate hand grenade and covering 50 people with its contents, watch this space!
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
I’m very fortunate that I have eaten in so many amazing places around the world, but I’m desperately trying to find a space in the diary to get to Leon to eat at the great Paul Bocuse 3 star restaurant that has held 3 stars for longer than I have been alive, since 1965!
Find out more about the Great British Menu here