About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, June 23, 2006
Great British Menu
What a wonderful idea, have a competition amongst Britain's top chefs for the right to cook for the Queen's 80'th birthday bash. Some parts of it didn't quite work, for instance the way they got the chefs to be critical of each other during and after the cooking. Some chefs like John Burton Race took to it like a duck to water but it was unfortunate that the object of his criticism was Michael Caines, a chef with only one hand. For other chefs you could see that bagging the opposition was so foreign that it looked artificial.

Maybe they didn't need to do that at all, for it was obvious that amongst chefs of the highest caliber, they all wanted to win, though it was hard to tell with Antony Worrall Thompson who had the slight air about him of just doing enough, even though he is considered a champion of British cooking.

The premise of the program was to select a pair of chefs from each culinary area of Britain which were -

The South West: John Burton Race & Michael Caines
Northern Ireland: Richard Corrigan & Paul Rankin
Midlands: Antony Worrall Thompson & Galton Blackiston
The North: Simon Rimmer & Marcus Wareing
Wales: Angela Hartnett & Bryn Williams
Scotland: Tom Lewis & Nick Nairn
The South East: Atul Kochhar & Gary Rhodes

These chefs then had to source their best local ingredients and create a starter, fish course, a meat course and a dessert. After this knockout round, seven chefs would then re present their dishes and only four would be selected to cook for the Queen. The three judges presiding were Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort. It seemed the judges took some license as they often talked about British cooking, though this wasn't really a premise, for if it was, what was Atul Kochhar doing there, with his modern interpretation of Indian cooking? I suppose some would argue that a good curry has become as much an icon of British cooking as fish 'n' chips, but when Marcus Wareing cooked up a Lancashire hot pot, an honest to goodness British classic and at least two of the judges said they would not serve it to the Queen, though the dish itself wasn't faulted, so why did they bang on when French techniques were used in other dishes?

That small quibble aside, it was absolutely riveting watching chefs source ingredients and turn them into the most wonderful creations. To see who had mastery over the whole course of the meal, not just individual dishes, the certain sign of a true chef. Watching Atul Kochhar progress with his wonderful spices, though I nearly cried when Gary Rhodes was knocked out by him, for that spelt the end of what I thought was the best dish on the program - Gary's Kentish apple mousse with toasted honey syrup apples. It was minimalist and modern in design, looked wonderful on the plate and I wanted to eat it badly enough that I downloaded the recipe.

If you get a chance, catch the program, for it offers a wonderful insight into contemporary British cooking by chefs at the top of their game. You will see the most amazing dishes, that will leave you drooling. Tune in.
  posted at 9:01 am

At 4:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like you I realy like Gary Rhodes...loved his cooking program on the ABC and even tried some of his dishes, which were simple and delicious...great stuff!

I really enjoy your blog too... keep up the great work

At 3:29 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi lesley, aww shucks.

At 1:04 pm, Blogger Reb said...

Well it sounds like a winner porgram anyway. I too am a GR fan, but then again, chicken tikka masala is supposed to be Britain's most eaten dish (and one which was invented there - the combo has nothig to do with Indian cuisine). Maybe Lizzie II likes a curry? Thanks for the wrap up of the show!

At 7:19 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, it was a winner despite the commitment required to watch it over many weeks. If I was Lizzie (what me a Queen!!!), I would demand all the chefs to cook all the courses just for me. That's royal perogative for you.

At 7:32 am, Blogger Gigi said...

I'd love to watch it if it ever came out here. I just have basic cable and don't get the BBC programs.

I've become quite a fan of the new reality cooking shows, in spite of all the truly outrageous behavior (I'm looking at you, Gordon Ramsey.) Or is it because of it...? I don't think I want to know.

At 5:22 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, if Gordon Ramsey wasn't such a great chef, he could've had a whole other gangster career as a standover man. He's brilliant at it.


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