Food News

Great British Menu 2015: Scotland Week Recap

So, after a fair old wait, it is back! Great British Menu – the fight to represent the best of British at a very British banquet to celebrate the more than worthy Women’s Institute and the hard graft they ‘ve put in over the years to revamp and revitalise the nation.

Week one kicked off with the tartan army in full focus as Jimmy Lee, Jak O’Donnell and Graham Campbell (the only one of the trio to have held a Michelin star) battled it out to win the honour of representing Scotland at the banquet. In their battle to do so, the formula had not changed, with four ‘heats’ to get through, consisting of starter, fish, main and dessert. These were judged by fellow chef Michael Smith, who had previously managed to get his main course dish to the banquet – no mean feat!

With Jimmy and Graham going up against last year’s Scottish winner (albeit a winner who was rather thrashed in the finals), it was not going to be an easy week for them!

At the start of the week, Graham sprung out of the blocks with a wonderful starter that sent the other two chefs scurrying away wondering what they needed to do to up their games. By the end of a rather dramatic week, it was clear that only Jak and Graham had it in them to get to the heat final. Sadly, while Jimmy worked hard and showed why he has won awards for his Asian style of cooking, it was rather clear from the early stages that his bid to marry Scottish and Chinese food wasn’t going to appeal to the judges this year. That said, his dessert was a high point and I hope that he comes back next year as he offered a real burst of energy in the kitchen.

That left the real battle to take place between Jak and Graham, who not only had to impress the real judges but also a lovely lady from the WI. Surely this could only go one way, with Jak offering unrefined food and Graham offering innovation and dishes that seemed to hit the brief?

Both chefs had some highlights to their dishes, including a wonderful looking picnic dish from Graham that really played on the WI creation of the Victoria sponge. As well as this, his posh nosh dish was a highlight and I particularly enjoyed his scallop diving stories (although the picture of him and his father did seem somewhat forced). All in all, this was an excellent set of dishes spoiled only by the delivery of his bee dessert where he suffered a mousse meltdown.

In contrast to this, Jak found herself having to revamp her soup and a sandwich dish from the heats, where she seemed to lose a part of herself as she ‘refined’ the dish.

Her pretty kettle of fish dish seemed to me to be far too wet to be a success (poached salmon with cucumber scales is surely an acquired taste) but it was loved by all who tasted it. With Jak’s main course bombing after a potato failure she did the easiest thing and got the judges hammered on a whisky infused pudding that also had enough custard inside to make anyone feel like they had eaten the greatest meal in the world regardless of what had happened previously!

Somehow, it was Jak who triumphed and she will now be going on to represent Scotland in the final!

Dishes for the banquet? No is the short answer. For me, I would say that while the judges heavily backed Jak’s fish course, I just think that it will be bettered by another chef!

Roll on week two and the South West chefs.

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