Chefs Tom Kerridge, Phil Thompson and Tom Aikens pull out all the stops with their fish dishes, hoping to impress veteran chef Jason Atherton.
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It's the last of the regional heats on Great British Menu.
And the fight for London and the South East is proving one of the toughest yet,
as three Michelin star giants of British cookery clash swords to cook at The People's Banquet.
Yesterday's starter round saw last year's champion Tom Kerridge
edge into the lead with a storming nine from veteran Jason Atherton.
Tom Aitkens and Phil Thompson are hot on his heels.
Those two guys are going to be coming after me
and trying to pull back the single point lead that I've got back.
Today's set to be another knife-edge contest as all three chefs raise the stakes with their fish courses.
-You are allergic to shellfish.
-Causing a problem?
-Do you want us to taste it for you?
I would love you to taste it for me.
We wouldn't sabotage it, would we, Phil?
I wouldn't dream of it, chef.
The pressure's mounting, points have already been given out and they can't afford to slack.
They've got to be on the money.
This year's chefs have been seeking out local heroes whose dedication
to cooking has made an outstanding contribution to community life.
The winning chefs will have the honour of inviting them to The People's Banquet.
If I get there, you're coming.
-But first, the chefs must come up with stunning sharing dishes
to create a buzz at the ultimate street party.
At the end of the day, it's about The People's Banquet,
it's about the sharing element and I think I've taken that across in every dish.
They're all striving to impress world class chef Jason Atherton, and with all three contenders
holding prestigious Michelin stars, the standard is through the roof.
Pressure's on. It's day two, it's fish day.
It's really, really down to who wants this the most.
You've got to strive hard, dig in deep and produce food
like you've never ever cooked before in your life.
First to flex his Michelin-starred muscles today
is former champion Tom Kerridge, whose main course took him all the way to the banquet last year.
He's had a strong start, bagging pole position for
his first course, but he knows he can't rest on his laurels.
It's not like I'm out in front by a long way, it's just a tiny little bit of a head start by a single point.
So we'll wait and see what happens.
Hello there, chef.
Hello, Mr Kerridge.
-How you doing?
-Very well, very well.
Another day, another dish?
-That looks a fantastic box of ingredients.
Now, correct me if I'm not wrong.
-We had this conversation this time last year.
And we've got a lobster here, which I know full well you're allergic to.
-And you've done it again.
-I have done it again.
-Why's that? Are you a sucker for punishment?
Yes, I am a sucker for punishment.
I wanted to go down the burger route and lobster will work very well with this. It's very special.
This dish is definitely going to have the wow factor. This is a fun dish, looks great.
When it gets put down in front of people, they're instantly going to smile.
-Thank you very much, chef.
-Don't eat any of the lobster this time.
-I won't, don't worry.
Tom Kerridge is desperate to hold on to last year's crown.
But he's taking a huge risk serving something he can't taste.
Will his lobster burger be his downfall?
Tom Kerridge' dish is a little bit strange, he's allergic to shellfish, so he's got to be very careful.
Is it a fish dish? Almost like a snack or a brasserie or something like that.
It will be interesting to see how he produces that into a proper dish.
Up next is newcomer Tom Aitkens.
This chef is a serious threat.
The youngest ever cook to be awarded two Michelin stars, he has
a fierce reputation as one of the most competitive chefs in the world.
His starter didn't quite hit the sharing brief, but he's unfazed and has his eye on the prize.
I want to be on the top slate, you know, number one in the driving
seat, full steam ahead and I want to win it.
So what dish are you going to do? Name your dish.
So the dish is shank of monkfish with morels and asparagus, simple as that.
But I don't believe it's that simple.
-Not with you behind it.
-Yes, it is.
-Tom, come on.
Well, the hidden element is that with the monkfish here, we are going to do a shank of monkfish, so I'm going to
leave it on the bone, this bit here I'll clean up so you have
the bone protruding from the top, and then this will be poached on the bone, so they're going to take
it off the bone, slice it and then put it in a bowl, so it's got that sharing element to the dish.
-You are one point behind, Tom, which is nothing.
As far as this dish is concerned, do you think that dish has got that wow factor?
Yes, definitely, I really do.
Tom Aitkens has his sights set on outdoing his rivals with a monkfish
shank, morels and asparagus, but is it just another restaurant dish? Has he missed the brief again?
Monkfish shank. Never heard of it before.
How he's going to translate this into a banquet dish, I don't know.
It sounds to me again that it looks a bit twee,
French and Michelin starry and the brief for this challenge is completely the opposite.
Finally, it's Essex boy Phil Thompson, another Michelin starred newcomer with it all to play for.
He's determined to stamp his authority on the competition and not be threatened by his opponents.
He had a nervous start to the contest, but he's brushed himself down and is ready to go in fighting.
I'm still there snapping at the heels.
I've got all confidence in myself that I can pull this back.
-Chef, how are you?
So, tell me the dish you are going to be cooking.
The dish I'm going to be cooking is called a seaside platter, it screams Southend.
Got some winkles and cockles, beautiful sardines.
Lovely bit of lemon sole.
-And this is actually from Southend, is it?
-I hope not.
Have you seen the sea there?!
So you've got a dish here. Do you think this has got the wow factor?
This has got the fun factor for me.
This is a dish I'm looking forward to doing.
Hopefully it brings a smile to everyone's face.
You think you have hit the challenge with it?
I think so. I think this is hopefully one to put a smile on your face, yes.
Phil thinks his seaside platter,
a bite-sized selection of East End classics that includes
sardine rollmops, pickled cockles and winkles and battered sole,
is perfect food to share.
But is it substantial enough for a fish course?
He's got to make sure that he can't just turn up to the banquet at the fish course with a load of canapes.
Preparation underway, all three titans of the kitchen get stuck into their fish.
They're all desperate to get to The People's Banquet and, for Phil Thompson and Tom Aitkens,
that means out-cooking last year's champion and current leader Tom Kerridge,
a threat they're keen to size up.
Got any tricks up your sleeve then, Mr Kerridge, for your presentation?
-Oh, you know me, Phil, full of them.
As well as scrutinising their rivals' every move,
they also have to worry about Jason Atherton's discerning eye.
He'll be scoring each dish, and the pressure is on to impress.
Fish is extremely difficult to cook.
I'm looking for execution, originality,
and a dish that's going to take their community to The People's Banquet.
With the competition so tight, these superb chefs will need to call on every trick in the book.
Yesterday, Tom Aitkens was marked down
for producing a restaurant dish, but is he doing the same today?
His opponents certainly think so.
Are we doing another super smart, flashy truffles,
morels, foie gras kind of dish?
Nah, not me, man, no.
It's not your style, is it(?)
No, not at all.
Tom's opponents may be ribbing him for being too chefy,
but Jason thinks he may have some technical issues.
He's poaching his monkfish in fish stock, which requires precision temperature control.
-Is that why you keep putting the probe in?
-Yes, just checking the temperature.
Do you see that as a danger? Having to have it at that exact temperature?
No, obviously if I do it for 100 people I use a waterbath.
You see it transcending into a 100-people banquet, no problem at all?
Yes, you are basically going to have all the asparagus and morels in one bowl.
That's the whole sharing element of the dish.
But will it really be the ideal sharing dish?
His rivals are wondering whether he's understood the brief at all.
-What's your view of sharing and caring?
-Big group hug.
No, I think my dish is, I would say, definitely got that element
-Are you going to want them to carve it, or are you going to get someone to carve it?
Well, I guess that's to be decided, isn't it?
We'll either have a Jeeves and Worcester to do the carving, or it will be them at the table.
Has Tom failed to think through how his dish should be served?
This might be a major error of judgment.
Phil, however, thinks he's nailed the brief on presentation.
I think it's more of a fun element than cooking element in my dish.
I want to put a bit of a smile on everyone's face and bring a bit
of fun to the competition, so hopefully that'll be the winning formula.
Phil's serving his pickled winkles in a traditional newspaper cone,
which he'll line with greaseproof paper, if he gets through to the banquet.
His rivals can't resist a dig to undermine his quirky presentation.
Making paper hats?
Put the D on it for dunce, someone's going to be in the corner.
Could it be Phil?
Jason is already worried he's just going to produce a plate of canapes.
Should he have aimed higher for the fish course?
Phil, how many elements is there to this dish?
I've got pickled cockles and winkles,
a beer battered piece of lemon sole with tartare sauce and I've got pickled sardines.
It's not the most technical dish I've ever cooked but I just need to make sure every element's spot on.
One person pushing himself to the absolute limit is Tom Kerridge.
-He's chosen to cook with something he can't even taste.
-Obviously, you're allergic to shellfish?
-Causing a problem so far?
-So far, no.
I've made the burgers, the claws have been blanched, they're going to go in with bacon fat.
Fortunately, I can eat bacon fat, so I know what that tastes like.
Why do your lobster claws in bacon fat?
OK, because it's the ultimate burger, it's the best thing, so it's a burger with a cheese slice and
a rasher of streaky bacon, except it's not, it's lobster with a very well-made cheese slice and
a beautiful lobster claw that looks great and takes on that bacon flavour. Taking a big risk again.
I could choose any fish I wanted.
I chose one that I can't eat.
But, his rivals have kindly offered to help him out.
-Do you want us to taste it for you?
-I would love you to taste it for me.
We wouldn't sabotage it, would we, Phil?
-Wouldn't dream of it, chef, wouldn't dream of it.
-Bit of extra seasoning.
Yeah, yes, yes, I've heard that one before, chef, yes.
To make sure his fish dish was on the money for this year's sharing
brief, Tom Kerridge headed to Tottenham in North London.
It's an area close to his heart and an ideal place to test the idea that food can bring people together.
When I first moved to London when I was in my early 20s, I moved to this area in North London.
One of the main things that attracted me to this area was the
diversity of the supermarkets, the people, the place.
Tom is heading to Broadwater Farm Community Centre.
Back in the '80s, this estate was a famously troubled area, but things are a lot different now.
Thanks to a £33 million redevelopment scheme,
it's been turned around with the help of ventures like the Back To Earth Local Community Food Project.
Each week, volunteers like Lucy Childs cook affordable meals for the locals.
We prepare or make up some sort of menu, people come in, they add to the menu, they go with the menu.
Anything goes, really.
What have we got going on? Tell me and show me what's going on?
Salads going on here.
-We are going to go and chop some carrots and some okra.
We've got a wide range of countries coming in in one kitchen, so it's good
that if you are used to one certain type of food, that you can learn to cook from somebody else's culture.
It's an experience in itself and it brings people together.
Keen to find out what the centre means to the community, Tom's meeting the regulars.
We come every week and it's fantastic because,
like, Terry can't walk too far, so it's really nice
to have a gastro community centre on our doorstep.
Gastro community centre, I love it!
With an allergy to shellfish and so unable to taste the lobster burger himself, it's crucial Tom road tests
his dish on a wide range of palates, so he seizes the opportunity with the community centre volunteers.
He's hoping it will deliver on taste and get people talking.
Is it fish?
It is fishy, can you tell which one?
-Lobster. Get in, girl!
So, what do we think of the tomato?
-A little bit too salty?
-This is really good.
-It sort of melts in your mouth.
Sort of melts in your mouth?
-That is good.
Such a relief.
Having received the thumbs up, along with a little constructive criticism, Tom now has a surprise
People's Banquet invite in store, for the woman who keeps her community well fed.
I would truly love it if you could be there.
If I get there, you're coming!
Yes! Yes! Yes, the invitation will be brilliant.
Anything for me to get a party dress on, so good luck with that
and thanks for coming, we enjoyed your company today.
-Well, I've learned loads, seen loads and thanks ever so much. Cheers. Look after yourself.
And we'll see you at the banquet.
Yes, for sure.
His visit could prove invaluable,
as Tom has made some crucial tweaks as a result of the feedback he received.
Tom, I understand that you took your lovely lobster burgers to some folks in the community of yours?
I did, yes, went to Tottenham and took them the burgers, as a trial, to see what they think.
They loved the burger, loved the cheese and everything about it.
There was just a seasoning issue with my tomatoes and so
I've taken the salt out of them completely and just done sugar.
Three Michelin starred chefs are busy preparing three very different fish courses.
Each hoping theirs will be the one to represent London and the South-East at The People's Banquet.
Last year's winner Tom Kerridge
hopes to hold on to his title with the ultimate lobster burger.
Ultra-competitive Tom Aitkens is aiming to overtake him with
a chefy monkfish shank with morels and asparagus.
And feeling confident,
Phil snapping at their heels with his fun-filled seaside platter.
They're all under the scrutiny of former champion Jason Atherton, whose job it is to decide which
two chefs will face the judges on Friday.
Three chefs, three different styles, you can feel the tension in there now.
This competition is heating up and I'm getting excited.
With all three chefs having set a sky high standard for the starter
course, competition is tough with no room for error.
Tom Aitkens is calmly preparing morel mushrooms and a complex fish stock for poaching.
Tom Kerridge is multitasking, seasoning his tomatoes with sugar and preparing thermidor mayonnaise.
And Phil is furiously pickling his classic cockles and winkles in Chardonnay vinegar.
Are you excited about the banquet, excited about winning, not just for yourself but for your community?
I'm excited about getting to the final of the banquet.
Are you, Tom?
If you are there, Phil, it means I'm not, so I got nothing to be excited about.
They're all hoping they've hit the sharing brief with their fish courses.
But, it's Jason who'll decide whose dish is perfect for
The People's Banquet and he won't be giving them an easy ride.
This is as tough as I expected.
You know, I've been here before, I know how hard this is. This is very, very tough.
One chef taking it in his stride is the super confident Tom Aitkens,
Mr Cucumber himself has his chefy monkfish shank firmly under control.
Bit pushed for time. What about yourself, chef?
Yes, I'm all right, I think I'll go and have a sprint round the garden.
He even has time to quiz rival Phil about a retro element to his dish.
Melba toast. Ain't made that since college, that's for sure.
What's that with?
Some of the winkles that I've pickled in the white wine vinegar, I'm going
to roast them in parsley, garlic and butter, so it's a nice little canape.
-Quite a lot of vinegar elements, so something a little bit different.
By using unconventional ingredients, Phil could be alienating some people
at the banquet, which he knows is risky.
Cockles and winkles, not everyone's cup of tea.
It's not a lobster burger or a piece of monkfish, it's things that are an acquired taste.
But it's not his taste of the seaside that will be judged first today.
It's Tom Kerridge's lobster burger with thermidor mayonnaise.
He's desperate to stay in the lead, and with time running out, he's starting to sweat.
He carefully fries his lobster and mackerel burgers, melts a hand-made cheese slice on top
and places it on a brioche bun, adding iceberg lettuce for crunch and a slow roasted tomato.
Looking good there, Tom.
-They look good fun, don't they?
-They certainly do.
Looking good, eh?
Making my mouth water. The ultimate burger, that.
-Good sized portion, that.
It's a proper portion, chef.
Feeling the heat, he quickly adds the finishing touches and, with time up, delivers his dish to the pass.
There you go, chef.
That is lobster burger with thermidor mayonnaise.
I don't know whether to sing the national anthem or eat it. Amazing.
-You think you could pull this off for 100 people no problem?
-Oh, yes, chef, no worries.
-I suppose we better go and taste them.
It's without a doubt a feast for the eyes, but has Tom done enough to stay out in front?
Do you think this will get people talking?
It's got to, hasn't it, you know.
Fun on a plate. It's a burger.
It's the ultimate burger.
Do you think it's got the seasoning?
Worked on it, I've worked on getting the seasoning right.
I've taken salt out from the tomato element that was originally wrong.
I don't think he's got any problems with the seasoning.
I think he's fine
It's a shame he can't eat it.
I know. Exactly.
That's your best shot?
This is his fish dish what's going to win the great British menu?
Yes. Why not? This is the ultimate burger.
-That's the best burger I've ever eaten.
-It's a good dish. It's a good dish.
Are you nervous?
It's a good dish.
-Yes. It is.
-I'm expecting good marks for presentation, for taste, I may have got it wrong.
Jason won't be giving anything away until he's tried all three dishes and Tom Aitkens is up next.
He's focused and confident his technical monkfish shank is perfect
for the banquet, but Jason already has doubts that it fits the brief.
-So will Tom be able to prove him wrong?
-This is a great British menu.
He's going to have to really make this special to stand out.
He talks about wanting to be one of the best chefs in the UK, today's the day he's going to have to prove that.
Tom poaches his monkfish shank in fish stock.
Next, he finishes off the reduction of his morel sauce, adding monkfish mousse for viscosity.
He then sautes the morels and asparagus.
Finally, he dusts the monkfish shank with morel powder and plates up in white restaurant-style bowls.
So, how do we go about eating this?
So basically, the idea is, take one of those, I mean, I can carve it,
then it's just taken off the bone, sliced and layered on top.
No problems doing this? Seems like a lot of carving.
Are you happy if they just took a piece?
Yes, I think what we could do on the day is just cut it off and give half a piece each.
Has Tom made the same mistake again and cooked another restaurant dish?
It tastes beautiful.
Although, carving that for 100 people, I can imagine, would be a nightmare.
Is it going to be hot by the time he gets there?
Is that how you wanted it to turn out?
-It's not overtly too rich or too big, the portion size.
So no, I'm very happy with it.
Is it more of a main course than a fish course?
I think it's a big portion.
-It's a lovely portion.
-But maybe if you are having a four course banquet, it might be
Do you think this is a knock-out dish? Do you think they're really going to get it?
I thought for this particular fish course of having that come out and then something carved at the table,
this is going to be a talking point definitely because that factor of something being done at the table.
Totally different to what I'm doing, that's for sure.
It's well different to what I've done.
I'm looking at this going, if that's a perfect dish and that gets a ten, I might get a minus score.
It would be nice to get a good score.
I would like to get again in the top two if I can and if Tom slips down one, I would be happy.
Last, but not least, is Phil Thompson.
He's filleted, skinned and diced his sole fillets ready to fry.
So what have you got left to do?
So I'm just coating my sole in my London Pride beer batter.
Hopefully it gives it a bit of depth and nice richness, hopefully nice and crispy.
Will Phil's battered sole be up to scratch for the banquet?
He's going to serve this for 100 people, not just me and the chefs.
That batter's got to stay crispy, the fish has got to stay moist.
When you dip in that tartare sauce, it's got to say, "This is why Britain is Great Britain."
Phil removes his sardine rollmops from their pickling liquor.
He pan fries garlic in butter, adds the winkles
and finishes off with parsley before assembling on melba toast.
Next, the rest of the pickled winkles
and cockles go into newspaper cones and, on a custom-made platter, he serves up the dish.
-Yes. Yes, I am.
-Do me a favour if it gets through, won't you?
When you make your cones, make sure you keep the massage part down there.
I've done that one especially for you, chef.
A bit of Dagenham right there!
"Chinese traditional massage - also does visits".
Will his novelty seaside platter raise a smile at the banquet?
And is it really a fish course?
Are you confident that this is a fish dish and not just a selection of canapes?
For me, it's just a taste of the seaside, so I just wanted all the little elements there.
Doesn't necessarily feel like a fish course.
No. Feels like a canape course.
Are you happy with the texture of that batter and is it crispy enough for you?
Yes, again, I think I can play with it. I think that's held quite well.
It's a shame the batter wasn't as crispy as he thought it would be.
Don't think the winkles are
a bit too chewy?
It's a winkle, it's never going to be melt in your mouth.
The way I've cooked it there, I don't think they're too chewy.
I'm afraid to say, I'm not particularly a winkle man.
No. Do you think a lot of people are?
Good question. People don't, you know, eat them all that much.
I think it hopefully had
the wow factor, but we'll see. Who knows?
With all three dishes tasted, there's nothing the chefs can do but tensely await Jason's verdict.
I think all the dishes overall are very, very close.
I don't think there's
a very clear winner. Have I done enough? I don't know.
Only the two highest scoring chefs also face the judges on Friday.
And which two is down to Jason.
A job he takes very seriously indeed.
Your lobster burger with thermidor mayonnaise.
Did it have the wow factor? Yeah. Definitely.
It was executed really well. Was it substantial enough as a fish dish?
That was a question I asked myself when eating it.
I get it as a chef that it's the ultimate burger.
Would those people get that?
Tom, your poached shank of monkfish with morels and asparagus.
Looking at it again, it looked
just like a restaurant dish.
Never ever seen a monkfish shank before, so loved that.
Can you deliver that and that stay hot for a banquet?
I went over that in my mind and, if I was a chef doing it, it would worry me, definitely.
Phil, your seaside platter,
could I argue again, like Tom's, was it a fish dish or a selection of canapes?
Some of the elements were quite basic, but at the same time,
the way it was served made it completely original.
Tom Kerridge, for your lobster burger with thermidor mayonnaise,
eight out of ten. Loved it, great dish.
for your poached shank of monkfish with morels and asparagus,
I'm giving you eight out of ten.
Phil, your seaside platter,
eight out of ten.
The standard for the last two courses have been so high that no-one
deserves to go into the main course too far behind or too far in front to have it easy.
So, after day two, it's no change and nothing in it.
Tom Kerridge is still in first place with an overall score of 17,
with just one point separating him from Tom Aitkens at 16.
And Phil Thompson is in last place with 15.
Getting an eight, I'm over the moon with that, I really am.
Everyone did very well today.
The standard was really high.
Three eights, it's still all to play for, ain't it?
I think if one of us has a bad day tomorrow, then game over.
In tomorrow's main course, they'll all be doing their utmost to pull into the lead.
Is this yours, chef? Have you had a secret delivery come in?
I want to win, I want to beat these guys.
No-one wants to be the chef that's left behind.
I've got a delivery of my own coming in later.
I'm going to go to Argos later to see what I can pick up, just so I can join the gang!
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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Chefs Tom Kerridge, Phil Thompson and Tom Aikens, from London and the south east, pull out all the stops with their fish dishes, hoping to impress veteran chef Jason Atherton. Will he choose lobster burger with thermidor mayonnaise, seaside platter, or poached shank of monkfish with morels and asparagus?