Exclusive Interviews

Great British Menu’s Matthew Worswick discusses the joy of simple food, eating zebra, and Leeds’ very own Michael O’Hare

Following up on our Great British Menu interviews so far this summer, today we’re proud to bring you a chat with Matthew Worswick, Michelin-starred Head Chef at Thornton Hall Hotel and Spa.

What inspired you to compete on Great British Menu 2015?

I was approached to do it by one of the producers. After a vigorous selection process and various filming trials I was picked to do it! The brief really struck a chord with me this year as my grandmother was in the WI for over 10 years!

Who is your food hero and how have they influenced your style of cooking?

The person who has influenced my career most to date is David Everett Matthias from Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. He has a completely different approach to food, using lesser, unknown cuts of meat and he was a pioneer in foraged food almost 20 years ago before it became fashionable! David has never missed a service in 26 years. That sort of dedication and focus really rubs off on the staff. He has certainly made a lasting impression.

What dish at The Lawns are you most proud of?

My style is evolving ever more so on the simpler side nowadays. I have a dish on at the moment of white peaches, raspberries and vanilla. It is so fresh and screams of summer. We make a microwaveable raspberry sponge, poach the peaches and make a fluid gel. It’s about appreciating these two fantastic ingredients but boy oh boy the flavour is great!

What was the most challenging aspect of competing on the Great British Menu?

The Great British Menu is hard; it’s not just the food that’s hard, it’s the cameras, the pressure of winning and not letting family or work colleagues down. It’s a laborious process all in all from the first interviews, to the selection process, submitting recipes, to the actual filming itself. However, it can also be very rewarding.

How hard was it to avoid creating ‘restaurant’ dishes on Great British Menu?

I think this is somewhat of a cliché; restaurant food can be some of the nicest in the world. However, it still needs to accommodate the brief. Food on a plate isn’t quite enough nowadays; they love the theatre too.

What is the strangest food you have ever eaten?

I have eaten some interesting dishes over the years in restaurants, but crocodile or zebra springs to mind as the strangest ingredients. I didn’t particularly enjoy either.

Which is your favourite restaurant?

I very rarely go back to revisit a restaurant. However, I’d happily go back to ‘The Man Behind The Curtain’ in Leeds. The restaurant is cool, the food is great, the chef is a friend of mine (Michael O’Hare, he’s unmistakable with his big hair and shiny boots and it makes for a memorable dining experience).

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