Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Ellis Barrie, North West heat

The Staff Canteen

Meet the Great British Menu 2018 chefs from the North West: Ellis Barrie

This year Ellis Barrie took on Craig Sherrington and  Liam Simpson-Trotman in a bid to make it through to the Great British Menu 2018 banquet which celebrates 70 years of the National Health Service. He won the fish course with his dish Bun in the Oven.

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This is Ellis' second

appearance on

Great British Menu

Ellis' interest in cooking was sparked by his family at a very young age and he went to a junior cookery course on Saturdays at just 12 years old! A few years later, he completed work experience at Radisson Blu Filini Bar and Restaurant and then worked at the Panoramic with Chris Marshall and Marc Lara. 

At 19, Ellis and his brother Liam (aged 21 at the time) took over the cafe at an Anglesey campsite and turned it into The Marram Grass - one of Wales' most renowned bistros. This is Ellis' second appearance on Great British Menu. He reached the national finals in 2017, but unfortunately did not take a dish to the Banquet.

Why did you want to take part in Great British Menu again?

You can’t really say no, I don’t know why. They ask and you’re like ‘I don’t really want to do it but I feel like I need to!’. Maybe it’s a bit addictive but there’s something about the adrenaline hit that you get. 

This years’ theme is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the NHS – how easy was it for you to come up with dishes to be served at the anniversary banquet?

I think that the brief was fantastic this year – it was quite open. Obviously, you didn’t want to do anything to take the piss, like open heart surgery, serving a heart on the plate! For me there was a lot to go off - I had a baby right in between the filming and I had a new hip, so I was quite involved in the NHS at the time... but I didn’t make a stock out of my old hip or anything! 

What does the NHS mean to you and how rewarding is it to possibly cook your food for these incredible individuals?

I think the theme of the NHS also links into our trade – we have so many critics who are either giving you really good feedback or absolutely slating you. I think as much as people have their issues with it, we’re so lucky to have the NHS. They haven’t got the money coming in from the government. But the theme was celebrating 70 years of the NHS and the importance of it - hopefully that’s a good eye opener for the rest of the country. It’s about giving thanks and if we didn’t have such a good service, everyone would regret it.

How difficult is it to cook in the Great British Menu kitchen alongside other chefs?

You’re already cacking it because you’re going in against the country’s top chefs and the standard was so high this year, especially in the North West. You don’t even get a chance to see what they’re doing because you’re just absorbed. 

You have previously competed in Great British Menu - how does this year’s competition compare? 

I suppose last year, no-one in my region had done it before so we were all in the same boat – me, Paul (Askew) and Tom (Parker).Whereas this year, I knew that the other lads knew who I was, because they told me that they’d been watching me. It was all a bit suspect! 

Do you feel that your previous experience in Great British Menu is an advantage? 

I suppose I knew what to expect. The cameras don’t bother me – I go into Ellis Barrie mode when they’re on and I quite enjoy it! It’s more the process of filming which is the harder bit, which this year I was a lot more used to. You know you’re going to have to do a dish for the pack shot, you know you’ll have to put an apron on and take it off a hundred times in that area or walk in a million times! Which was quite difficult with a new hip. 

What was the best part about being on Great British Menu 2018?

There’s obviously going to be loads – there was a lot of laughter going on in the kitchen! There’s nothing in particular – it’s always just a blur. By the time you get there, you think ‘bloody hell, what’s just happened?’.  I think the stress levels are far too high for anything to be absolutely hilarious. When I was watching the last one back, I kept laughing at my own jokes!

Were there any negative parts to being on Great British Menu?

The kitchen itself is quite difficult because of the set-up. It’s a studio rather than a working kitchen. But you still pull it out of the bag. I suppose as chefs we’re used to doing that - we get the food out. It doesn’t matter if the oven goes out because you get the blowtorch!

How did you find the criticism and being judged?

It’s scary when the veteran judge comes in because it’s someone you look up to – they’re always people you’ve watched in the industry and people that you admire so that’s always intimidating. 

I respect the critics as well, they’re like gods in the industry so they obviously know what they’re talking about. I always take on their feedback. Last year, they said my dessert was ‘very boring’ so the week before the final, I built a summer fair set and I rolled a trolley in – don’t call me boring! 

Would you take part in Great British Menu again?

No! But I said that last time.

Would you encourage your peers, colleagues and chef friends to take part in a competition like Great British Menu?

Definitely.  Firstly, it’s great for business and for your staff - you’re keeping the restaurant busy and your guys employed. Second thing is it’s a big challenge. I think what’s cool is you see the individuality of each chef – the food is so different across the board. If they call up, which they do, just say yes. 

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th October 2018

Great British Menu 2018 chefs - Ellis Barrie, North West heat