THE GREAT BRITISH MENU

There's a glut of food programmes on TV these days - and even more on Netflix (my chef son likes Mind of a Chef and Chef's Table). Too many to watch really. I've enjoyed Masterchef, though after watching the most recent professional and amateur series, I feel the programme is ready for an update, including the replacement of the leering, gurning Gregg Wallace with another judge, preferably female.....

One of the more interesting food programmes is The Great British Menu, an annual contest in which top chefs (many holding Michelin stars) from regions around the UK compete for the chance for one of their dishes to be included in a prestigious 4-course banquet (last year in celebration of the 140th anniversary of Wimbledon), Over the course of 5 days, the three regional finalists cook a starter, fish course, main course and dessert. During the week, the chefs' individual dishes are judged by another leading chef (including a number of GBM former winners) who also offers advice and mentoring. Chef judges include Marcus Warening, Tom Kerridge, Tom Aikens, Angela Hartnett, Nathan Outlaw, and Michael O'Hare. Dishes are scored out of ten and the judging chef will offer suggestions for improvements (if needed). On the fifth day, the two winning chefs get to cook their entire meal for a panel of three experienced highly judges (Oliver Peyton, Andi Oliver and Matthew Fort). The tasting is blind - the judges only know the menu, not the name of the chef - and a winner is then selected to go through to the final to try and secure a place to cook at the banquet.

Winners of the Great British Menu 2017(Selim Kiazim, Pip Lacey, Tommy Banks & Michael Bremner)

Because my son is now a professional chef (a chef de partie at The Connaught, one of London's most prestigious hotels), I watch this programme (and Masterchef: The Professionals) with keen interest. Many of the chefs employ advanced cooking and science techniques to produce stunning and innovative dishes, and the standard of cooking is always very high - these are people who are working at the top of their profession day in, day out.

What I particularly like about this programme, apart from the delicious-looking food, is that throughout the heats and finals, the chefs and the chef judges are generally supportive to one another and curious about one another's dishes. The chef judge acts as a mentor, not some distant/superior didact, and so the competition feels less like a gladiatorial contest and more an exchange of ideas and a shared passion for food. When judging time comes, the chefs sample and comment on each others' dishes, while the chef judge encourages self-critique and reflection while also offering suggestions for improvements.

As a musician and a teacher, this kind of mentoring, and the giving and receiving of critique and feedback, interests me, reminding me of the masterclass scenario, where a musician performs to others and a teacher and receives feedback and coaching in a class format as opposed to a one-to-one lesson. Those of us with an open-minded approach to learning and study appreciate that the comments from another teacher or mentor can be very valuable, while the critique of one's peers can be the best kind of feedback - because these are the people who really understand how hard it is, and appreciate the many hours of graft that one must put in to achieve a very high level of attainment, whether in cooking or musical performance.

Great British Chefs - recipes from the UK's best chefs

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