Beginning with their starters, the Central chefs Richard Bainbridge, Aktar Islam and Sue Ellis, battle it out and Glynn Purnell assesses the dishes.
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Great British Menu continues and the competition is the fiercest ever.
In their quest to produce the ultimate food for sharing,
the chefs are being put under intense pressure.
-It's been emotionally charged.
And has tested the veteran chefs to the limit.
When you make errors at this level of cooking, you will be punished.
But things are about to get even tougher.
This week it's the turn of the chefs from the central region.
Flighting for glory are Richard Bainbridge,
returning to the competition and determined to win.
Rising star, Sue Ellis and trail-blazer, Aktar Islam,
and it's going to be war.
-So, if you're late, you're messing me up, yeah.
Their first battle will be for the starter.
Vying for top marks will be a traditional English picnic of quail,
an original onion and tomato puffball
with cheese fondue, and an ambitious tiffin of Indian street food.
They've all got their eye on the prize,
but only one will be triumphant.
I just want to go, hit the blocks running.
I'm determined to be cooking for those judges on Friday.
It's a great honour to be part of the process this year
and it'll be a greater honour when my food's on that final banquet.
This year's competition is all about bringing people together, through food.
Creating fantastic platters for sharing at the People's Banquet.
I've found, personally, this brief really challenging.
I've been working on my menu for months.
I've got great food, amazing amount of theatre and it'll create a lot of interaction and talk at the table.
Judging them will be a multi award-winning Michelin-starred chef,
who knows this competition inside out having won it,
not just once, but twice. It's Glynn Purnell.
I'll move on! HE LAUGHS
He may have a great sense of humour, but his exacting standards
mean he'll be all over the chefs this week.
This year I'm expecting perfection. I want fireworks.
If it doesn't happen, you're going home.
Right, let me taste the artichoke, please.
First up and returning to the competition this year is Richard Bainbridge, a Michelin star holder.
Need more truffle in that.
As head chef as one of Norfolk's finest country house restaurants,
Morston Hall, he's no stranger to creating spectacular menus.
Service, please, let's go.
I think my menu will stand out amongst the other guys,
because there's a little piece of me on every single dish
and that to me gives me the upper hand, because it's personal.
Richard was sent home first in his heat last year, so is determined
to go all the way this time with his quirky take on British classics.
So what are we cooking? What's our starter?
Today I'm doing a picnic of quail, good Norfolk quails.
I'm going to do a quail salad, then I'm doing a scotch egg
and then just a little dandelion salad for a little bit of
bitterness and then a little Norfolk nod as well, a little cheese scone.
How are you going to present it to give the wow factor
-or the sharing factor of it?
-I spent ages trying to figure out how I could serve it,
whether I serve it in a big wicker basket or small individual ones.
-I've gone for small. They'll all be in the middle of the table.
The talking point starts going - what's in the basket? This is what this brief is all about,
it's meant to be fun, good food that people can talk about, just get to know each other and have a giggle.
So Richard thinks his picnic nails the brief
but will it measure up to Glynn's expectations?
Is it just a random selection of bits put into a box?
Is it style over substance?
He has to prove that dish is good enough to represent the central region.
The second competitor is Sue Ellis, a rising star who's making
a name for herself serving classics with a contemporary twist.
Having worked in some of the world's best restaurants,
training under Michelin starred chefs, Sue now heads up the kitchen at Belle House in Pershore.
I'm incorporating my personal memories from when I was young.
There are certain dishes that are really dear to me
and that's the reason why I've put them on, hoping to key into something nostalgic.
My starter today, I'm going to do
cheese fondue with a puffball with tomato and onion.
-A big bread ball, completely hollow, very thin and then
inside will be lots of little puffballs done in the same method,
but they become the bread which you will dip into the fondue.
Obviously it's for sharing, so we put it into the centre and dive in.
That's it, dive in. The forks are there, ready to go. The big puffball there, you all interact.
-Why do you think it's right for the People's Banquet?
-It's what it's all about.
The puffball there, cracking that, it's got the wow factor.
It just works.
Sue thinks her starter will be fun and force people to interact.
But can she pull it off?
Sue's dish, I've never seen or heard of anything like this before, so it's certainly a risk,
but if you want to progress into a competition of this standard, I think risks need to be taken,
Has she taken a risk too far?
Last up is Birmingham-born Aktar Islam.
Over the past eight years he's earned a formidable reputation
as one of the city's top culinary talents, despite being largely self-taught.
Again, straight main. Fish, beef, pilau rice, one naan bread.
He serves up his innovative take on authentic Indian cuisine
at his award-winning restaurant, Lasan.
My aim for this competition is really to get food
from my heritage on to the People's Banquet.
-So, what we cooking today?
-What we're doing today,
we are doing an amazing selection of street food from across India.
A hell of a lot going on. Lots of interesting things like this courgette flower, we are going to
stuff that with a lovely creamy paneer, which will be spiced up.
Then we've got this lovely chicken which we'll marinade up with
Then we've got loads of little chutneys going on as well.
You think this dish has got the wow factor to win?
I think it's definitely got wow factor. There are so many elements,
but every element will create conversation and interaction.
The People's Banquet is how we have family get-togethers
and all the family celebrations we have.
There is nothing small with the Asian community, you know.
-Very confident. You know me.
Aktar's ambitious starter means making six different
Indian street snacks and five chutneys and it has Glynn worried.
Aktar's given himself a hell of a lot to do.
His back is right up against the wall. But is he going to get to the pass? That's my one concern.
In the kitchen, the three chefs are sizing each other up.
Glynn will be watching their every move.
Making sure they've paid close attention to this year's brief.
There's no practice run. This is it. You're judged from day one until Thursday.
You could be going home. Hit the ground running and get on with it.
As Richard starts making his cheese scones,
he wants to sound out the competition.
How do you guys feel about being here? Are you nervous?
Any of us say that we're not nervous, you're lying.
Richard being here last year, has that in anyway given you more confidence or are you more
nervous because you know how it feels to go home on Thursday?
This year I'm going to do everything I can not to go home on Thursday, I tell you.
Even if I have to start hiding some of those spices.
You seem to have 100,000 of them!
Aktar with so much to do has already spotted that Richard's starter
isn't exactly making him break into a sweat.
I think his starter is pretty safe.
I mean, it's quail done in various ways. Do I see it as a threat?
-Richard was sent home first last year,
as Glynn felt his food was too gimmicky.
So has he gone too far the other way this time?
My picnicky quail, it's the easiest one out of the week.
I'm not saying it is the best dish here - well, I am actually.
But it's Glynn who'll decide which starter wins.
-How are you getting on?
-This is the nicest, easiest one of the week.
Not taking it too easy, are you?
Not at all, I'm taking it very seriously and it's hardcore,
but it's a simple, light, summery starter dish here.
-I'm in it to win it.
-I just hope he isn't taking it too easy.
I hope he isn't cruising to get out a simple dish.
I am concerned about that.
Richard is determined to stick religiously to the brief
for the People's Banquet and for inspiration,
he looked back to his childhood in Norwich in Norfolk.
This year's Great British Menu is striking a chord with me.
It's about community and sharing.
Growing up in a single-parent family where we needed our community,
we needed people to come over and help with the gardening
or help with babysitting, that was what I know of community
and I'm proud of that fact.
Richard is still close to his mum Jill
and often drops in for a chat and a trip down memory lane.
Hello darling, nice to see you.
He discovered as a child how food could draw people together.
Can you remember what we used to serve when everybody came over?
-Lots of shepherds pies and lasagnes and pastas.
-That was it.
-I'll never forget your cottage pies, Mum, a classic in the street.
Can you remember at any opportunity you would always try to get into the kitchen?
Your flapjacks, was it with peas and onions in them?
You were trying to be very creative with these flapjacks.
I still am, you see, flapjacks with peas and onions.
That could be something. I like that.
All right. Let's go. Let me taste the sauce, yeah.
These days Richard has free rein to experiment in his own kitchen
but will his ideas be enough
to triumph over his rivals this time round?
When I found out about the chefs who I'm coming up against this year, they excited me.
I'm interested in what food they come up with and the style of food they do
but I'm quietly confident in myself and I'm more proud of my dishes
than any other dishes I've ever come up with in my life.
Back in the kitchen, newcomer Sue is making her ambitious bread.
I'm nervous about my bread today.
It's either going to work or it won't. It is one of those things.
If that doesn't work and I have to weigh it out
and try to do it again within the time. So I'm nervous.
The bread shells should take just four minutes to cook but her first attempt is a disaster.
-Yeah, I'll do one more.
-So Sue quickly gets on with version two.
This turn of events hasn't escaped rival Richard's eagle eye.
Typical, isn't it, when you're at home and you come up with the menus and you're
-actually here and going - actually how am I going to get that done?
With execution being one of Glynn's main judging criteria,
he's got real doubts about whether Sue can make this dish work.
-So you've tried one, is this the...
-This is puffed up one side.
-It needs to be puffed at the other.
-You want it to be like that?
-Is it going to be a problem?
We're talking a different kitchen for the banquet. Will this be a problem that will flare up?
The thing is, like this now, there are ways to rectify it.
But it doesn't seem to be Sue's day. Disaster has struck again
and her second puff ball has also failed to rise properly.
If she doesn't get this right she'll be out of the game.
Sue's puff balls, pretty concerning, really, to be honest with you.
I just hope we get to taste something.
Because you get this opportunity to cook, to compete for the central region,
to get into the final and has she chose the wrong dish?
Sue believes she's got what it takes to go all the way.
She's convinced her strategy of serving classics with a twist
will give her the edge. Born and raised in the idyllic village
of Pershore in Worcestershire, she has fond childhood memories of family get-togethers,
enjoying the food they grew themselves.
Sharing food to me is quite important.
I come from quite a close-knit family and it was always the case of food
in the middle of the table, everyone helping themselves
and we grew all the fruit and veg we would eat then throughout the year.
I was really lucky in that was the norm for me.
I think I learnt a lot from an early age.
Her upbringing may have been care-free and relaxed,
but things are very different nowadays.
I'm competitive in everything I do, in work, out of work, personal life, everything.
Having worked in a string of top restaurants and picked up a clutch of awards along the way,
Sue's now returned to her home town
and she's ready to give her rivals a run for their money.
I think the other guys in the competition will have to pull out
all the stops, but I'm just going to go all-out and I'm determined to win.
Back in the cook-off, Richard turns his attention to Aktar,
who is busy making his his hara bhara tikki,
a spiced spinach and pea cake,
just one of six complex street food snacks he's hoping to serve.
-Are going to get done in time?
-I hope so. For this, spicing has to be right.
You want it sharp enough. It needs a bit of heat in it,
you don't want to get too much heat in it. I'm in the zone.
I've got a lot going on and I've got a lot to get through,
but I'm plodding along as quick as possible and making sure we're not cutting any corners anywhere.
With his relatively simple picnic to prepare,
Richard has time to pour even more pressure on Aktar.
When we've got to start dressing up, that's
a completely different pressure than you'll ever have at work.
At work you can deal with that, you have chefs around you,
you have your own kitchen, you know exactly what is going on,
now none of those rules apply any more.
I am feeling a bit lonely without my minions.
-That's because you have about 100 of 'em!
I'm not sure if he's out of his comfort zone, being on his own
and trying to get all that done because I know where he works
he has a lot of chefs and they do a lot for him.
So it'll be interesting to see how the executive gets on doing it for himself.
Aktar grew up in Birmingham and has lived and breathed cooking since childhood.
His Bangladeshi parents ran an Indian restaurant
and Aktar spent his youth helping out in the kitchen
before opening his own restaurant at the tender age of 22,
which has won countless awards.
I think I'm one of the new generation of Indian chefs
who are really breaking away from the mould that's been
set by the British curry industry.
It's great to be part of the movement
that's re-educating people's palates.
Eight years on, and he's still passionate about creating new dishes.
Every Friday, he invites his friends round to try out his latest inventions.
-Guys, we're nearly ready.
-Any good curry houses around here?
He's taking original flavours but he's taking them somewhere else.
And I really believe most people will go on that journey he's on
and really buy into it.
It's phenomenal food, you know. This is a proper feast.
Over the years, they've seen Aktar push himself even harder.
He's a perfectionist. Everything has to be right.
If it's not right, then he's not willing to serve it.
He is extraordinary. And he will win.
His friends rate his talents highly
and Aktar is certainly confident in his cooking skill
but he knows he has his work cut out
to win a place at the People's Banquet.
I see myself as a bit of an underdog in this whole process,
purely because I know there are a lot of styles in there.
My cooking style is very unique. Indian food itself is very unique.
I can see it, I can imagine it.
I just need to make it a reality and I will do.
Aware that Aktar has given himself a mountain to climb
to finish his starter, Glynn checks on progress.
Where are you up to, Aktar?
Tending to all the final hurdles. We're down to my last stuff to do.
After that it is the sauces and chutneys, so we're getting there. Hopefully I'll meet your deadline.
Will Aktar be able to deliver his ambitious starter on time?
Aktar is running around a little bit. He's got a lot to do.
Slight concerns. Has he bit off a bit more than he can chew? Is he going to get on the pass on time?
Three fantastic chefs, three very different starters.
But which will be the most delicious platter to share at the People's Banquet?
Will it be Richard's quirky take on an English picnic of quail?
Sue's contemporary onion and tomato puff ball with a retro cheese fondue
or Aktar's elaborate take on a tiffin of Indian street food?
All three chefs are confident in their choice of starter,
but the marks are down to Glynn and he's not easy to please.
We're scoring the guys from 10 down.
I need to be looking at eights or nines and pushing for 10, which is perfection.
That's what I'm looking for. If they're not reaching that mark then it's over.
Richard will be the first to the pass today,
but despite the simplicity of his dish, he's not kept to time.
-Three or four minutes late, Richard.
I don't know what you want me to say at that point, Glynn, to be honest.
Richard, five minutes late. Even though he's been here before,
he was cool as a cucumber, then time started ticking.
Flapped a little bit. So this better taste good.
With no time to lose, Richard quickly seals his
poached quail breasts in a pan, before making his salad dressing.
You know, having Glynn walking around the kitchen,
his beady eyes looking at you, you never know what he's thinking,
he does freak me out a bit.
Finally Richard's English picnic of quail is ready for tasting.
So everyone is going to get one of these.
All in the middle of the table, everybody goes - oh, wicker basket!
Then they all hand them around and they open it up and that's an English picnic.
OK, let's go. I'll leave you guys with that. We'll go and do this one.
Glynn and Richard will taste the quail in private,
giving Sue and Aktar an opportunity to size up their competition.
So obviously, opening up the box,
like the picnic basket is not what you expect, the plate.
-I just hope no-one tips them up.
It won't look so pretty.
This is a dish that can be sort of shared, when you get the
interaction off people, it's going to have that wow factor as well.
I think it's fun and that's what the People's Banquet is all about,
fun and enjoying themselves and having a giggle.
That cheese scone, I don't know if it needs the scone, I like the taste
of scone, I like everything about it, but I don't know if it's needed.
-Happy with the cooking around the egg?
-I'm really happy with that.
-I'm good with that.
-For me, maybe the sausage meat,
I don't know, maybe more cooking time in there.
I think the leaves give it the little extra depth that you need.
For me, I think I could do away with these leaves or change it
for something else. I find it a bit too bitter.
So, a little bit late up, is it going to be a problem,
if this dish got to the banquet, you have 100 people waiting for food, will it be out on time?
Yes. I'm not going to lie and try to make up excuses.
It'll be ready and I'll be proud to get there.
Richard can only hope his simple English picnic has shown
enough finesse to impress Glynn.
You're trying to sell it to him like it's a second-hand car.
You just don't know, until he comes through and gives us them results.
Sue is the next chef to face Glynn.
Her latest puff ball has risen evenly and now
she can fill it with salad leaves and her mini puff balls.
She finishes off her cheese fondue and makes it to the pass on time.
So, what do we do then, Sue, as a guest, this would arrive?
You crack away.
It's certainly crispy.
-Yeah, and that's meant to be the fun part, isn't it?
And in here we've got the salad leaves.
A few of these out for the lads.
Is the idea that we would use the fondue forks to go in?
Yeah, and that's the bowl and it is self-contained, so you just dive in.
Shall we take it away, Sue, and have a try? You guys, dive into that.
So Sue pulled off her quirky puff ball idea,
but will the taste live up to the visual impact?
Is it going to be easy to share? Easy to eat?
I am confident this is sharing.
You are not looking down at your thing like that.
You're looking up, going in and talking.
I can see how, you know, it fits the brief.
Ultimately, is it one that can make it through to the banquet? Not sure.
-Not sure to be totally honest with you.
-Is it spectacular enough?
I think so. A, carrying in something,
it's big, hopefully grand enough.
I'm hoping it'll key into people's nostalgic side and they will go
oh, yeah, do you remember when? I'm hoping to trigger that.
The salad leaves, yours are wilting already. I don't know.
-It tastes nice but, I'm not sold on it, I don't think.
-Is it too simple?
I like the simplicity of when it's come out, it's just the two things,
then it gets more intricate when you crack it. It's simple, but it still has that bit of finesse.
If I'm being as cruel as I can be, it tastes a little bit
like a cheese and onion baguette.
I had a few hiccups with my puff ball, but I feel really good.
It's just how I wanted it to taste and to be. I couldn't ask any more.
Aktar is last to the pass today and like Richard,
he's also fallen badly behind schedule.
Everyone is having a go at me about my four minutes I was late. How are we looking for time?
I'm being fashionably late, fashionably very late.
He's ten minutes late now.
This, obviously we need to look at seriously,
because if we have 100 people waiting, that ain't no good. And it ain't no good that I'm waiting.
These courgette flowers are so bad. They're split on the side. I hope they won't pop.
The pressure is causing Aktar to make mistakes, which delays his starter even further,
much to the amusement of Richard and Sue.
The flower, it's so easy to tear it. That's split. I can't use that.
-I feel for you, I do.
-Thank you very much.
-If I could help, I would.
-I know you would, Rich.
Seeing as it is a competition, I don't really want to help, to be honest.
At last, he finishes off his chutneys,
then places the starters into modern tiffin boxes
and finally makes it to the pass, a record-breaking 23 minutes late.
-How was that?
-Hold that ribbon for me.
-and then we just...
We are serving tiffin and it's a selection of
street food from throughout the Indian subcontinent.
We have a Rajasthani-style chicken drumstick, sweet bread.
Spiced mango. Green pea and potato cakes.
Bengali-style onion and potato fritter with fenugreek
and then we have courgette, stuffed with paneer.
You have a selection of dips.
You grab one of each, you pass the boxes around, everyone grabs a piece of it.
You have your little tongs and you choose whichever dip you like best that goes with everything.
OK. Cheers. Thank you.
Can Aktar's food stun Glynn enough
to make up for his time-keeping disaster?
Has it got the wow factor?
I think so. It's quite a spectacular way to start a banquet.
The way it's all served and then the selection.
The issue I think we've all got - I was four minutes late. He was 20 minutes late.
If you are at a banquet, how long are people waiting?
How many other courses have got to mess up before they get to this?
A point Glynn is keen to pick up on, too.
The judges are not going to wait, like we had to wait.
I think what I need to do, I need look at my prep
and prep a bit more intensively rather than taking it so casually.
I love the green pickle, it's lovely and the initial flavour
in my mouth is so fresh and so pure and then you're just hit with this.
-My mouth is on fire.
-I'm going to try the paneer.
-Any preferred dip to go on this one?
-It's all entirely up to you.
When you have an Indian meal, you always get a selection. Everyone has a preference.
But that's the problem. I don't know where that should go
and what would compliment each other.
I don't understand it enough and that's what worries me,
-it's the People's Banquet.
-Has it got enough of the sharing aspect of it?
That's how we eat at home. We have a platter.
It's served in the middle and passed around and you take as much as you want.
It's impressive, but did you need to do that much?
I have underestimated the challenges this competition will pose.
There is a clock ticking. It needs to be done. Lots of pressure.
A lot of things that I didn't actually take into consideration.
But, the first course is out of the way now.
Tasting is done.
The chefs now face an agonising wait for Glynn's verdict.
This is the hard bit. This is the most nerve-wracking, nail-biting bit.
Nervous now. Because you've done everything you can.
There's nothing else you can do now. You're literally waiting on one person's thoughts.
I am still confident the flavours were right, everything was
cooked right, that will still hopefully achieve
quite a high score.
So I'm going to start with Richard. I liked the idea of the dish.
The presentation not as spectacular as the other two.
I think the egg could have just done with a second longer.
The quail was cooked nearly perfect. Nearly.
Sue, for your puff ball. I thought it looked spectacular.
I thought it had the wow factor.
But I just felt that for a starter, it lacked substance.
There wasn't a great deal for me to get my teeth into.
Aktar, you were more the other side of the coin where there was too much substance.
I thought there was too many spices.
Because you did so much, I think you jeopardised elements of the dish.
So now for the scores.
For your puff ball and fondue,
I'm going to give you
five out of ten.
Aktar, for your popular street food selection,
I'm going to give you...
Also five out of ten.
So, Richard, for your picnic quail dish,
I'm going to give you...
Eight out of ten.
Three dishes left. So there's loads of points available.
So have a good night.
-Well done, guys.
-Yeah, well done.
-You deserved that.
-You did. Yeah.
So Richard steams into an early lead with eight points.
Sue and Aktar both score five points putting them in joint second place.
I'm not happy with the result, with five out of ten. To me that just means average, and I'm not average.
I'm not an average chef. I'm not an average person.
Obviously I don't really want five.
I've just got to make sure I get better scores now.
I'm ecstatic with getting an eight. I can't not be.
But I know how this competition works. I know how it can spin around from one course to the next,
so it's all still to play for.
Coming up tomorrow, Sue and Aktar are desperate to take control back from Richard.
Richard is the man to beat. He's definitely the front-runner.
I don't mean to be funny, but you've been making them all day.
Losing's not an option, I'm going in all guns blazing.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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The Central chefs, Richard Bainbridge, Aktar Islam and Sue Ellis, battle it out and former Great British Menu champion Glynn Purnell decides which dishes deserve the highest scores.
The chefs begin with their starters, in a bid to get their menu through to the judges' tasting on Friday. Will it be tiffin, a selection of Indian street food, a picnic of quail, or onion and tomato 'puff ball' with Worcestershire white cheese fondue?