Just weeks after Andover’s Burbidges appeared on national TV, James Durrant from The Plough at Longparish has been selected to appear on BBC2’s Great British Menu.
Now in its ninth series, Great British Menu is back and the chefs are hoping it will be their finest hour as they fight it out for the chance to cook at a glorious banquet marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
The banquet will take place at a bastion of British wartime resilience, London’s magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral, for guests including some of those who fought on 6 June 1944 itself as well as others who served on both the front line and the home front.
This year’s challenge is for 24 of the nation’s top chefs to produce 21st century dishes worthy of our war heroes. In addition to culinary perfection, their creations must evoke the wartime spirit of the generation which fought for our freedom as well as honour the bravery shown throughout the Second World War.
To create their dishes, the chefs have taken inspiration from their families’ and communities’ contributions to the war effort, even travelling to Normandy to the scene of the allied invasion. From Michelin-starred Frances Atkins retracing her father’s D-Day experiences through her menu to returning chef Emily Watkins drawing inspiration from her grandfathers, with one a prisoner of war and the other helping plan D-Day, the chefs have all been on a very personal voyage of discovery.
As ever, to reach the banquet each week, three chefs must first impress a veteran chef of the competition, who will put through the top two to the Friday regional final. The chefs must then prepare their menus again for not only the regular judges Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton but also a special guest judge with a unique perspective on this period of British history.
From 93-year-old Ken Sturdy, who fought on the beaches of Normandy, to Jim Radford, thought to be the youngest serving in the Merchant Navy on D-Day, and from Celia Sandys, Winston Churchill’s granddaughter, to Molly Rose, a wartime Spitfire pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary service, these very special guests will bring their incredible experiences, personal memories and discerning taste-buds to the judging chamber.
D-Day veteran and guest judge Ken Sturdy says: “Helping choose the perfect Great British Menu dishes to mark 70 years since the D-Day landings is an incredible privilege. With the best chefs in the land cooking such unbelievable food, I’m sure the banquet will be a fitting tribute to both my fellow veterans and those we left behind, and I feel honoured to be a part of it.”
Along the way there’ll be both jubilant triumphs and crushing tragedies as the chefs do everything they can to get their dishes onto the final menu. Who will endure toil, sweat and tears to win the chance of honouring the incredible wartime heroes at the banquet?
Starting at 7.30pm on Monday 7 April on BBC Two, Great British Menu: The D-Day Banquet will run every weekday for nine weeks with the final ‘banquet’ programme to be broadcast on 6 June, the 70th anniversary of D-Day itself.