Food News

Great British Menu Series 11: Wales Week recap

So, Wales did it; we finally saw Wales perform well in a competition that over the past few years hasn’t really highlighted the country’s culinary strengths.

Adam Bannister (last year’s regional winner), Phil Carmichael (who took part last year) and Andrew Birch (who was having his first go at the competition) were all flying the flag for Wales, but it was a rocky start for this year’s newcomer, who failed to really hit his stride, leaving him behind Adam and Phil by the time we got to the all important dessert course. He needed to build on the success of his fish dish earlier in the week, which had been the only dish from him to find favour with Michael Smith, this week’s regional judge.

In the end, Andrew wasn’t quite able to pull it all the way back despite his excellent honey dish scoring an 8, as Phil managed to secure a 7 that saw his score just edge out this year’s new competitor, leaving him facing the winner of the heats (and his rival from last year) Adam.

With the final a re-run of last year’s Welsh final, Phil decided to take no chances of losing again by a solitary point and followed the advice he received from Michael Smith by swapping his starter and main course dishes around, a move that is about as dramatic as it can get on Great British Menu! Of course with a move as dramatic as this, the heat was clearly on in the kitchen as both chefs looked to get things fired up in the battle for the Welsh Crown.

Adam was first up and his On Cawl starter was seen as giving a big flavour hit but divided the judges on taste, with the guest judge particularly unhappy with his cheese element. With a solid but unspectacular start, it was now over to Phil to see if his highest scoring dish of the week, The O.B.E (as a main!) would work as a starter. Simply put, it succeeded, with the only criticism the fact that there was not enough onion in this onion, bacon and egg interpretation. This was perhaps one of the best starters of the entire series so far.

 

Adam had to work hard with his response in the fish round and his Captain Bannister’s Boil In The Bag dish won praise for being a nice if unspectacular dish that had punches of flavour but certainly wasn’t likely to be at the banquet in its current form (though by dropping the awful attempt at a pea fondant from the heats it was closer to this than it was before!). Phil was again the one having to try and build on a good but not great dish and he was trying to re-work prawn cocktail to be modern with his ‘The 80s called they want their cocktail back’ dish.

Phil was first up as we got to the business end of the final with his Indian Love Affair dish where, as part of his move to switch his starter and main, he took on the challenge of making onion bhajis for the first time! Despite what you might fear, Phil’s skills as a chef saw this work out well and in fact the dish was overall a winning hit.

Adam, with some work to do, needed his main to close what seemed to be a widening gap between the chefs. While it looked stunning, when one of the judges said: ‘He’s made a pig’s ear of it’ when referring to a pork-centric dish, it was clear it had gone badly.

Phil, now with nothing to lose, was first with his dessert, which he called ‘A Cup Of Tea For Ma’am’. While it wasn’t visually stunning, the dish went down a treat with the judges, who were unanimous in their praise for the flavour and idea of the dish, which frankly we thought looked like it needed more to it!

Adam had it all to do with his Eton Vs Harrow dessert. In truth, he did everything he could, but it wasn’t meant to be for him this year as Phil emerged victorious. Overall this week, Wales emerged as the winner, and a contestant from Wales can now dream of being at the banquet once again!

Dish for the banquet: The O.B.E is surely going to the banquet unless another chef has really serious designs on doing the starter this year!

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