Great British Menu 2014, North West Heat Preview

Great British Menu 2014, North West Heat Preview

by Mecca Ibrahim 13 April 2014

Week Two of Great British Menu and it's the turn of chefs from the North West of England to shine. Marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the chefs have to prepare a menu that's worthy of war heroes. Four overall winners will serve veterans at a banquet in London’s magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Mecca worked as head of social media at Great British Chefs and joined at its launch in July 2011.

Mecca worked as head of social media at Great British Chefs and joined at its launch in July 2011.

Over eight weeks twenty four of the finest chefs in the country including many chefs from Great British Chefs site are competing in regional heats for the opportunity to create a four course menu for the D Day special banquet.

We’re delighted to see James Durrant making his first appearance on Great British Menu. After years of working for some of the culinary world’s most demanding bosses (Gordon Ramsay and Jason Atherton), James is enjoying the challenge of working for himself at The Plough Inn. James become a chef at the age of 18, working in his native Cheshire before moving down to London. It was here that he experienced his first taste of working in a Michelin star kitchen, joining Gordon Ramsay’s Hospital Road shortly after it had won its third Michelin star and flat-sharing with a young Paul Ainsworth.

Just six months after opening, The Plough Inn received the UK Pub of the Year Award by the Good Food Guide. It now holds two AA rosettes and has been awarded a BIB Gourmand rating for the second year running and was included in the 2014 Michelin Guide.

James’ menu celebrates the bravery shown during the second world war and how we have progressed as a nation with what is available to us now. When carrying out research for his dishes, James discovered that his wife’s grandfather served in the army when he was just 17 and was one of the first to land on the beaches on D Day.

Returning contender Mary Ellen McTague will be hoping to represent the North West this year after losing out Aiden Bryne in 2013 . Formerly from The Fat Duck she now owns Aumbry with her husband. Their restaurant was named 8th Best Restaurant in the UK by voters on Toptable. Mary Ellen also won Chef of the Year award at the Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2013.

Mary Ellen has a very close personal connection with the wartime brief. Taking influences from her husband’s grandparents, Bill and Vera, her menu will echo some of their stories and experiences from the war. Bill is a war veteran and was on HMS Wensleydale on D-Day, while Vera, his wife, was making boots for soldiers back home.

The trio of North West chefs is completed by Mark Ellis. Hailing from the Wirral, Mark started out working in local restaurants and then made the jump into fine dining working with Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel. He then took a cook's tour working in some of the UK's best restaurants, including at Petrus for Gordon Ramsay.

He's currently head chef at 1851 Restaurant at Peckforton Castle which holds 3 AA Rosettes, a Taste Cheshire Award and features classically based dishes with modern twists.

Mark's menu will celebrate his nan's experience of food while she was growing up in wartorn Britain.

As with previous years, the show follows the familiar format with the chefs cooking a starter on Monday, a fish course on Tuesday, the main course on Wednesday and dessert on Thursday. A veteran judge will select two chefs to cook their menu again on Friday’s show for the judges Matthew Fort, Oliver Peyton & Prue Leith. On Friday the three judges are joined by D-Day veteran George Batts shares his memories of landing on the beaches of Normandy as a royal engineer and bring a special perspective on the dishes served.