Now in its ninth series, BBC Two’s 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.
The series producer is Tom Clarke and the executive producers are Nicola Moody for Optomen Television and Lindsay Bradbury for the BBC.
This year’s contributors
The special guest judges joining the regular judges in the chamber include:
- George Batts – War veteran. George was a Royal Engineer in the Second World War and landed on Gold beach during D-Day. He is the Chair of the Normandy Veterans Association
- Celia Sandys – Churchill’s granddaughter. Celia is the daughter of Churchill’s eldest child Diana. She visited Chartwell during her childhood and accompanied Churchill on holidays around Europe
- Ken Sturdy – War veteran. Ken was in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. On D-Day, he acted as a signalman, landing on Sword beach to communicate messages back to the ships in the Channel
- Joy Hunter MBE – Secretary in the Cabinet War Rooms. In 1944, Joy undertook top-secret work at the heart of the government and even typed up battle orders for D-Day
- Molly Rose – Spitfire pilot. Molly served in the Air Transport Auxiliary from 1942 to 1945. Her job was to transport planes to bases around the country for the RAF to then fly to the front line
- Baroness Trumpington – Bletchley Park. Baroness Trumpington was a ‘cypher clerk’ at Bletchley Park from 1941 to 1946, translating tapes recorded in German into English in an effort to locate the position of enemy U-boats
- Jim Radford – War veteran. At 15, Jim is thought to be the youngest to serve in the Merchant Navy on D-Day. He is a keen folk singer and has written shanties about his wartime experiences
- Max Hastings – Military historian. Max Hastings is one of Britain’s most highly regarded military historians. His father reported from the front line during the Normandy campaign
- Martin Bell – War correspondent. Martin is a former war correspondent whose father’s book, Corduroy, was prized by soldiers during the Second World War
The competing chefs are:
- Will Brown, The Old School House Inn
- Raymond McArdle, Restaurant 23
- Chris McGowan, Corrigan’s Mayfair
- James Durrant, The Plough Inn
- Mary Ellen McTague, Aumbry
- Mark Ellis, Peckforton Castle
- Dominic Chapman, The Royal Oak
- Josh Eggleton, The Pony & Trap
- Emily Watkins, The Kingham Plough
- Jason Hodnett, The Raven
- Aktar Islam, Lasan
- Mark Poynton, Alimentum
london & South East:
- Adam Byatt, Trinity
- Adam Simmonds, Danesfield House
- Tom Sellers, Story
- Frances Atkins, The Yorke Arms
- Colin McGurran, Winteringham Fields
- Paul Welburn, Searcy’s
- Stephen McLaughlin, Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles
- Jacqueline O’Donnell, The Sisters
- Neil Rankin, Smokehouse
- Mary Ann Gilchrist, Carlton Riverside
- Andy Beaumont, Hammet House
- David Kelman, Ellenborough Park Hotel
The GBM Veterans who’ll be judging the chefs are:
- Sat Bains – Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
- Daniel Clifford – Midsummer House, Cambridge
- Richard Corrigan – Corrigan’s Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill, London
- Angela Hartnett – Murano, London
- Phil Howard – The Square, London
- Tom Kerridge – The Hand & Flowers, Marlow
- Jeremy Lee – Quo Vadis, London
- Marcus Wareing – Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, London