Great British Menu - looking back at the last five years

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Great British Menu chefs retrospective

Related tags: Great british menu

The new series of Great British Menu gets underway on BBC Two on 20 March, with a fresh selection of Britain’s best chefs vying to serve their food at the final banquet.

This year the show is marking the 50th anniversary of the last time The Beatles played together live, and will celebrate Britain’s continuing success as a world player in music.

The show, which has become a staple of the BBC’s spring schedule, has built an extensive following since it launched in 2006 as a competition between chefs to see who would have the privilege of cooking at the Queen’s birthday banquet.

Now in its 14th year, Great British Menu has seen chefs from far and wide battle it out over the years, with many of them continuing to see their careers go from strength to strength.

To celebrate the launch of the latest series, we’ve taken the opportunity to look back on the chefs who have competed on the show over the last five years, as well as reminisce on some of the other memorable dishes that have been served during Great British Menu’s extensive run.

Series 13

Starter: James Cochran – "Cep-tional"

The Great British Menu’s first ‘Champion of Champions’, James Cochran’s Cep-tional starter featured four mushroom elements; with a cep custard-filled cylinder topped with sliced cep and truffle mayonnaise, served on a bed of savoury soil with cep brioche on the side. Cochran gave diners a chance to try the dish, along with others he had cooked on the show during a series of dinner events hosted at his Islington-based 1251 restaurant late last year.

Fish: Ellis Barrie – "Bun in the Oven"

Ellis Barrie, who co-owns Anglesey’s Marram Grass restaurant with his brother Liam, won over the judges with his Bun in the Oven fish course, which featured mackerel tartar with kohlrabi tagliatelle served alongside torched mackerel in a steamed squid ink bun.

Main Course: Tom Brown – "Poor Man's Goose"

Described by judge Oliver Peyton as having “real presence and real beauty too”, Tom Brown’s main dish, Poor Man’s Goose saw duck glazed with sesame and honey served alongside croquettes made with duck fat and baby carrots. The 13th​ series was dedicated to celebrating 70 years of the NHS, and fittingly the Cornerstone chef was inspired by a recipe from a 1940s study into dietetics.

Dessert: Chris Harrod - "Tea and Cake"

The Michelin-starred Chis Harrod rounded off last year’s banquet with a creative take on the afternoon staple of tea and cake, serving a hazelnut sponge topped with woodruff mousse and paired with a quince tea. The Whitebrook chef called the dish a tribute to the midwives of Nevill Hall in Abergavenny who delivered his daughter.

Series 12

Starter: Pip Lacey – "Whatever The Weather"

The 12th​ series of Great British Menu was centred on the 140th​ anniversary of the Wimbledon tennis championships, with Pip Lacy’s starter consisting of pickled radish, sautéed runner beans, pickled courgettes, honey-soused tomatoes, tomato hearts and goat’s cheese ravioli, served in a yellow tennis ball bowl with “hot tomato rain” presented in mini watering cans on the side. Following her victory, Lacy went on to launch her first solo restaurant, Hicce, which opened in London’s King’s Cross in October last year.

Fish: Tommy Banks – "Turbot With Strawberries & Cream"

Taking inspiration from the Wimbledon staple of strawberries and cream, Tommy Banks served the Great British Menu’s fish course for the second year in a row. The dish saw turbot served on a bed of strawberries pickled in elderflower vinegar, with a creamy herb velouté. Banks, who ran the Black Swan at Oldstead when the show aired, has since opened his second restaurant, Roots in York.

Main Course: Michael Bremner – "The Grass Is Greener"

Michael Bremner won over the judges with a dish of ox tongue topped with a jux-filled ravioli, accompanied by pickled summer vegetables and rye grass-cooked potatoes. Bremner, who runs both 64 Degrees and beach-front restaurant Murmur in Brighton, was inspired by the fact that Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam still to be played on grass.

Dessert: Selin Kiazim – "Honouring Venus Rosewater Champions"

Oklava co-owner Selin Kiazim’s dessert honoured the female greats of Wimbledon, and entailed white peach and raspberry jelly served with a peach sorbet, raspberry and rosewater sauce, almond shard, and a peach bellini. Kiazim’s opened Keyseri, her second joint venture with Laura Christie, in London last year.

Series 11

Starter: Mark Abbott – "Ordinary To Extraordinary"

Focusing on the series’ theme celebrating “Great Britons” of Elizabeth II’s reign, Midsummer House head chef and business partner Mark Abbott created a starter that showcased British Heritage Potatoes. Since appearing on the show, Mark partnered with potato growers in Northern Ireland to fight back against negative trends that showed the spud’s consumption to be in decline.

Fish: Tommy Banks – "Preserving The Future"

Banks, who is the youngest person in Britain to have been awarded a Michelin star, paid homage to Great British produce with his mackerel-based fish dish, which saw cured mackerel served with woodruff vinegar gel, ewes milk yogurt, linseed cracker and oyster leaves.

Main Course: Mark Froydenlund – "A Celebration Of Rose Veal"

Essex-born Mark Froydenlund scored perfect 10s with his celebration of rose veal, which was roasted and served with roasted carrots, black garlic puree, crispy broccoli, broccoli puree, veal sauce, wild herbs and chestnuts. After appearing on the show, Froydenlund and his wife Shauna were appointed joint chef patrons of Marcus Wareing’s flagship restaurant at the Berkeley hotel in Knightsbridge.

Dessert: Adam Reid – "Golden Empire"

Adam Reid’s visually bedazzling Golden Empire dessert consisted of Stewed apple with hazelnut crumble, meadowsweet custard and golden candy apples. Reid still serves the dish at his restaurant, The French in Manchester, where he took over following his appearance on Great British Menu.

Series 10

Starter: Richard Bainbridge – "We All Stand For Jerusa-lamb"

Inspired by the series’ celebration of the Women’s Institute’s centenary, Richard Bainbridge created a commemoration to the WI’s anthem with his lamb and Jerusalem artichoke starter, which he then went on to serve at his restaurant, Benedicts, which he opened with his wife Katja in June 2015 after appearing on the show.

Fish: Michael O'Hare – "Emancipation"

This fish and chip alternative from Michael O’Hare , patron of the Michelin-starred Man Behind the Curtain restaurant in Leeds, combined cod loin with cod dashi, squid ink powder, crispy potato, scorched gem lettuce and gold shoots that was served on a canvas. The same year the series aired in 2015 O’Hare won a Michelin star at his Leeds restaurant The Man Behind the Curtain.

Main Course: Matt Gillan – "Teaching And Preaching"

Matt Gillan celebrated the legacy of the WI with this dish of goat, served with goat-fat dumplings, pineapple and cheese. Gillan, who won a Michelin star while cooking at The Pass in Horsham, recently crowdfunded £89,000 to take over The Chequers in Slaugham, West Sussex, and turn it into a destination restaurant.

Dessert: Rich Bainbridge – "Inspiring Women"

Bainbridge triumphed again in 2015 with his dessert of summer trifle paired with a vanilla-gin based Victoria Sponge cocktail.

Richard Bainbridge's trifle

Series 9

Starter: Adam Simmonds – "Your Share"

Served at a banquet for and in honour of the people who fought on D-Day, Adam Simmonds – recently appointed as executive chef of Adam Handling Chelsea – created a chicken consommé with celeriac.

Fish: Emily Watkins – "We Shall Fight Them On The Beaches"

Named after the famous Churchill speech, former Fat Duck chef de partie Emily Watkins served grilled scallops with smoked cockle broth, seaweeds and morels in an authentic army issue mess tin.

Main Course: James Durrant – "Blitz Spirit"

James Durrant impressed the judges with his hearty main of roasted veal loin, served with braised cheeks, sautéed sweetbreads, beans, mushrooms and toast. The chef, who cut his teeth working in the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s three-Michelin-starred Maze, stepped down as executive chef at The Stafford in London in early 2018.

Dessert: Colin McGurran – "Homage To The Dickin Medal”

Served on a tray that formed a bed of poppies, to commemorate all those who fought in the Second World War, Winteringham Fields patron Colin McGurran presented diners with a medal made from peanut, praline, chocolate and raspberry that was accompanied by parsnip ice cream served in homemade cones.

Other Memorable Dishes

Daniel Clifford’s 2012 Main Course: Slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon and peas

Midsummer House owner Daniel Clifford is regarded as one of the most inventive chefs of his generation, and his main course of slow-poached chicken with sweetcorn 'egg' and buttered spinach with bacon and pea did not disappoint. Lauded for being the first chef on the show to win the main course slot with a chicken dish, Clifford capitalised on his success by returning to the Great British Menu the following year and winning the Dessert category.

Paul Ainsworth’s 2011 Dessert: “Taste of the Fairground”

Paul Ainsworth's visually stunning dessert saw a plethora of tiny treats, including marshmallows, toffee apples and doughnuts, served on a traditional fairground refreshments trolley. The dish proved a huge hit with diners that year and indeed with the nation watching at home. And Ainsworth continues to have a version of the dish on his Georgian townhouse restaurant in Padstow.

Lisa Allen’s 2010 Starter: Wild rabbit and leek turnover with piccalilli

Lisa Allen’s wild rabbit and leek turnover with piccalilli was born out of the fifth series’ emphasis on dishes created using locally-sourced produce, and dazzled both the judges and the diners at the time. The only woman to compete in the competition that year, Allen was then head chef at the Michelin-starred Northcote in Blackburn and has since become the restaurant’s executive chef, taking over from Nigel Haworth.

Glynn Purnell’s 2008 Dessert: Strawberries with tarragon and black pepper honeycomb with burnt English cream surprise


Michelin-starred Glynn Purnell of Purnell’s Restaurant in Birmingham achieved a perfect score for his burnt English custard surprise, which saw egg shell filled with crème brûlée and served alongside marinated strawberries and honeycomb. Purnell is currently developing a new restaurant in Coventry, and to this day continues to serve the burnt English custard surprise at his restaurant.

Sat Bains' 2006 Starter: Ham, egg and peas


Midlands-based chef Sat Bains conquered the starter section of Great British Menu’s second series with his ham, egg and peas. Based on onsen tamago (an ancient Japanese egg dish made by slow cooking eggs in hot springs) the dish saw water bath-cooked soft duck eggs served with an emulsion of ham fat, butter, water and a little kombu and topped with a fresh mint and pea sorbet. As recently as 2017, Bains said his restaurant served 100 portions​ of the egg dish a week.

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