Food News

Great British Menu 2015: The South West

Week Two of Great British Menu has packed a punch, with my favourite contestant from last year, Emily Watkins, handed the position of judge and tasked with presiding over the dishes from the three South West hopefuls (two of whom had been beaten last year).

Last year’s South West winner Watkins managed to get on to the banquet with her exceptional fish dish and this year Jude Kereama (a Great British Menu virgin) took on previous competitors Josh Eggleton and Dominic Chapman for the right to represent the South West.

After an enjoyable Scottish week, exceptations were raised for me this week as we had a judge who is all about the scenario and the context in terms of this year’s brief.

The heats this week showed us again that experience in the competition really can be vital. Jude really seemed to struggle with the balance between bringing a connection to the banquet whilst producing a four course menu that actually tastes good. In truth, whilst I have to say his marriage of his love of Porthleven and his wonderful mixed heritage blends his New Zealand, Chinese and Malaysian backgrounds into a fabulous mixed style of cooking, it was clear very early on that it would be Dom and Josh who would be fighting it out in the judging chamber. In the end, it came down to desserts, where Dom was thoroughly beaten by a stunning milk-focused dish, meaning that the prize of winning the heats went to Josh!

Dom offered a menu that was essentially based around the WI anthem Jerusalem. He did well to get in at least one line of the wonderful anthem into each course title. Josh, meanwhile, paid homage to some famous creations from the WI.

In the battle of the starters, Dom managed to bounce back from his heats failure to produce a nice, if not spectacular, picnic dish that went down well with the judges. Compared to this, Josh put into play his ‘mack Victoria sandwich’, which was basically a brioche bun filled with mackerel. Already criticised in the heats by Emily for the bun being too big, Josh (who holds a Michelin Star) had failed to heed her advice and didn’t downsize his bun, meaning that while the dish scored averagely, it failed to hit the mark as a starter dish.

Moving onto the fish course, we had one fish dish and one chicken dish that had some fish in it! Dom made a rather boring ‘mountain streams’ dish that had done alright in the heats. He wisely ditched a trout pie that had been unnecessary but instead of jazzing up the rest of his salmon focused dish he instead played it safe and focused on well cooked salmon and samphire. Sure, it looked good and would have tasted nice, but it wasn’t a banquet worthy dish.

Josh decided to stick with his rather teasing mock pie but he had made no effort to really embrace the concept of the fish course. Making a chicken pie and throwing some cod in it certainly is an ‘interesting’ concept and would have probably tasted rather good but this seemed to be a case of the course being one Josh had decided to write off!

On to the mains and the battle was fairly even, with both chefs having done well to start with then falling away with their fish dishes. Josh created a stunning dish where mutton was the star and kidneys were made to be palatable for the masses! His shepherds pie looked wonderful and the dish seemed to be one that would have fitted in quite well with the banquet and I feel really embodied the spirit of the WI.

Competing with this was Dom’s ‘Bring me chariots of fire’ dish, which was based on a hot pot and veg. Sounding simple, it really was even more simple looking in appearance despite the fact he had jazzed up the dish by including a wheelbarrow for the vegetables. I think that the hot pot would have been lovely, especially as it looked to have really utilised lamb breasts and sweetbreads in a way that the WI would surely have been proud of. Despite this, it was a meat and two veg dish and I just couldn’t see this dish being at the banquet.

With it all to play for, the dessert battle was surely the highlight of the series so far. Sure, Scotland had produced some magic but this round featured a dish that I would gobble up in seconds and which really hit the brief with its message: Mission milk. Created by Josh, this was a winning dish that scored well on every level. Offering great taste, a variety of textures and perhaps most importantly supporting the WI cause of championing dairy farmers, this was a dish that not only showed the great skill of the chef but also smashed the brief.

In contrast to this (it should simply be said that Josh got a top score of 10 by all four of the judges!) Dom was really up against it. His ‘Clotted creams and pastures green’ afternoon tea style dessert was a nice idea (and one that had been downsized after he produced a ridiculous seven elements in the heats) but it just wasn’t in the same league as Josh’s dessert.

Despite my write up seemingly making it sound clear cut, the end result was in fact a tie, with Josh going through by virtue of his menu theme showing more consistency. I personally feel that the judges had been a bit kinder to Dom than I might well have been!

Dishes for the banquet? The judges thought they had two dishes for the banquet out of the eight dishes they tasted. I only saw one and that dish for me is a nailed on winner for the dessert course unless something dramatic happens! In fact, I have been so inspired by this dish I may well try and have a go at making it myself! I am of course talking about Mission Milk.

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