BBC Two's Great British Menu returns

BBC Two’s Great British Menu is back later in the summer and this year the chefs must plate up perfection, as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet marking 100 years of the Women’s Institute at London's historic Drapers Hall.

Published: 10 June 2015
All good cooking begins in the home. That's why the WI has been so important to food in this country. It has established and maintained the highest of standards for home cooking.
— Matthew Fort

The challenge is produce 21st-century dishes that honour the custodians of first-class home cooking, and pay tribute to the generations of women who have helped make Britain the great culinary nation it is today. The chefs have taken inspiration from the women in their families - their mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers - and the pioneering women of the Institute, to turn home-cooked classics into modern masterpieces.

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 to revitalise rural communities and to encourage women to produce food for the nation during the First World War. A century later, the Institute is synonymous with British home cooking. Right from the get-go, the pioneering women of the WI were a force to be reckoned with – promoting equality for women, education, and impeccable standards – and in 2000, the WI Calendar Girls produced a nude calendar which raised millions for charity and proved once and for all that the WI are anything but a stuffy organisation.

Award-winning critic Matthew Fort says: “All good cooking begins in the home. That's why the WI has been so important to food in this country. It has established and maintained the highest of standards for home cooking. But great home cooking won't be enough to get a dish to the Banquet at this year's GBM. Any dish must honour the standards of the WI, but also build on them with imagination and skill to create a masterpiece of modern gastronomy.”

Prue Leith says: “Chefs in this country, and in fact the whole British restaurant scene, owe a great debt to the WI. They were the original home economists, teaching us how to grow fantastic produce and get the most from our ingredients. For a century, the women of the WI have been a pioneering force for change and for good in this country. Who would have thought 100 years on that most ladies at Seven Hills WI in Sheffield are in their late 20s, with over 100 names on the waiting list! Any organisation which has done what the WI has done over the last century of campaigning and cooking should be celebrated.”

Oliver Peyton says: “I learnt my love of food and life from a very early age from my mother growing up in Ireland. I remember when I was away at school, I’d wait eagerly for my mum’s visits so I could get home and taste her apple pie which I used to help make. Today I still make my mum’s apple pie and my kids love it too. That’s one of the abiding values of the Women’s Institute – families passing on recipes from generation to generation so, for me, a Great British Menu for the WI feels like British cooking is coming home.”

As ever, the regional heats will see all of the chefs’ dishes scrutinized by Britain’s most accomplished chefs and veterans of the competition. Winners of this first round will present their menus to the judging panel: award-winning critic Matthew Fort, doyenne of British cookery Prue Leith, and restaurateur Oliver Peyton. Joining the Great British Menu judging panel each week will be guest judges - longstanding WI members, mothers and home cooks - who will ensure the dishes going forward to the Great British Menu national finals measure up to the exacting standards of the Institute.

Along the way, there’ll be both soaring highs and crushing lows as the chefs do everything they can to get their dishes onto the final menu. Who will endure and win the chance of honouring their mothers and the pioneering women of the WI?

The Great British Menu is made by Optomen Television by for BBC Two. The series producer for Optomen is Jessica Jones and the executive producer is Nicola Moody. Aisling O’Connor is the commissioning editor for the BBC.

Notes to Editors

Picture caption:

(L-R) Great British Menu judges in homage to the WI Calendar Girls - Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith, Matthew Fort
Photographer – Andrew Hayes-Watkins
Copyright – Optomen Television Ltd
Credit - BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Andrew Hayes-Watkins

The special guest judges joining the regular judges in the chamber include:

Angela Baker - WI Calendar Girl
Long-serving WI member Angela Baker is one of the original Calendar Girls, who posed in the famous nude calendar in memory of her husband John, raising millions for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research.

Felicity Cloake - Award-winning food writer
Felicity reviews classic British recipes to help her readers achieve perfect home-cooking. WI recipes are her benchmark for baking, breads and traditional British favourites.

Mary Gwynn - Author of the WI Centenary cookbook
Food writer and institute member Mary Gwynn is the oracle of WI recipes. She has compiled the official WI Centenary Cookbook: 100 recipes for 100 years.

Radhika Bynon - member of modern urban WI
A passionate member of the Forest Gate WI, Radhika calls her group the UN of the Women’s Institute because its members span nations. She cooks as her way of showing love, and specialises in her native Sri Lankan food.

Helen Carey OBE - Former chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Helen sat the helm of the NFWI as chair from 1999 to 2003 and has been a member for 40 years.

Sabrina Ghayour - Award-winning food writer and self-taught chef
Award-winning home cook, Sabrina passionately believes in high standards in the kitchen, and helped judge the North West regional heats.

Kirsty Bowen - President of Seven Hills WI
At 27, Kirsty is one of the youngest WI presidents in the country, and represents a modern new-wave WI.

Rosemary Bishton MBE - Former home economics teacher and long-serving WI member
Rosemary comes from three generations of WI members and has been a member for 42 years. She was awarded an MBE for services to her community, and believes in impeccable standards in the kitchen.

The competing chefs are:

• Graham Campbell, Glenesk Country House Hotel
• Jak O’Donnell, The Sisters
• Jimmy lee, Lychee Oriental

South West:
• Josh Eggleton, Pony and Trap
• Dominic Chapman, The Beehive
• Jude Kereama, Kota

• Stephen Gomes, Moksh
• Adam Bannister, Slice
• Phil Carmichael, Berners Tavern

Northern Ireland:
• Chris McGowan, consultant chef
• Danni Barry, Eipic
• Ben Arnold, Home

North East:
• Michael O’Hare, The Man Behind the Curtain
• Tim Allen, Launceston Place
• Mini Patel, The Pointer

North West:
• Eve Townson, Eagle and Child
• Matt Worswick, The Lawns Restaurant, Thornton Hall
• Mark Ellis, 1851 Restaurant at Peckforton Castle

London and South East:
• Matt Gillan at The Pass, South Lodge Hotel
• Lee Westcott, Typing Room
• Mark Froydenlund, Marcus

• Pip Lacey, Murano
• Richard Bainbridge, Benedict’s
• Jason Hodnett, Raven Hotel

The Great British Menu Veterans who’ll be judging the chefs:

• Sat Bains - Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
• Daniel Clifford - Midsummer House, Cambridge
• Richard Corrigan - Corrigan’s Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, London
• Phil Howard - The Square, London
• Tom Kerridge - The Hand & Flowers, Marlow
• Marcus Wareing - Marcus Wareing, Marcus, London
• Michael Smith – The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye