The new series of Great British Menu hits our TV screens this evening – Wednesday 24 March – at 8pm on BBC Two.
Following the same format as previous years, four chefs from each of eight regions of the UK will compete to cook at the prestigious finale Banquet.
The chefs representing the Central region this year are Lincolnshire-born Shannon Johnson, head chef at Hicce in Coal Drops Yard, London, and Wolverhampton-born Sabrina Gidda, who was runner-up for the Central region three years ago and is now executive chef at The AllBright.
The pair will be joined by Staffordshire chef and restaurateur Liam Dillon, of The Boat Inn near Lichfield, and Staffordshire-raised Stuart Collins, chef-patron of Docket No. 33 in Whitchurch, just across the border in Shropshire.
Liam Dillon, The Boat Inn
As Sauce readers will know, Liam has worked in some of the UK’s top kitchens, including Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Five Fields in Chelsea and Story by Tom Sellers in Bermondsey. He’s also travelled the world with stints at Quay in Sydney, Noma in Copenhagen, and Eleven Madison Park and Gilt in New York.
In 2017, Liam returned to his hometown as chef owner of The Boat Inn. Since then he and his family have worked to convert the roadside pub into an award-winning modern British restaurant. It’s currently the only restaurant in Staffordshire to hold 3 AA rosettes. Liam’s menu for the show pays homage to local pioneers such as Lichfield-born Samuel Johnson, famous for his early Dictionary of The English Language.
“I grew up watching the programme, dreaming of being a chef so it’s a bit surreal, but also an honour, that here I am, years later, a professional on the show,” Liam told Sauce. “I enjoyed every single second. It was exciting, stressful… I was surrounded by some amazing fellow chefs…it was actually a privilege to be part of the programme.
“I am also extremely proud to be flying the flag for Staffordshire, and representing my home town of Lichfield. It’s been a tough year for everyone, especially those working in the hospitality industry. Here at The Boat Inn we’ve made many changes both to the decor and the menu. We’ve also invested heavily in outdoor dining and I and the team can’t wait to open the doors again and welcome people back.”
Stuart Collins, Docket No. 33
Stuart Collins grew up in Wheaton Aston, near Penkridge, and has worked with household names from Gary Rhodes and Michael Caines to Gordon Ramsay over the course of his career. After a working-stage at City Rhodes, he went to Gidleigh Park and then onto Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, before helping set up Ramsay’s New York restaurants at The London NYC, where he became Head Chef at Maze.
In 2017, Stuart and his wife Frances opened their own restaurant, Docket No. 33, which has featured in the Michelin Guide GB & NI for two consecutive years. It offers a carefully curated tasting menu with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.
Stuart and the team have kept busy over the past few months with their ‘Docket at Home’ offer, a weekly-changing menu that guests finish at home. A sell-out every week since launch, the team plans to continue to offer the meal kits even after reopening the restaurant in May (subject to government guidelines).
“This year’s brief was really exciting and a great opportunity to learn more about the amazing innovators and inventors from the Central region,” Stuart told Sauce. “To then create dishes, using local ingredients, to represent their success is a privilege.
“There was some seriously good competition in the kitchen, showcasing the creativity and skills of the chefs from our region.”
This year Great British Menu will celebrate British innovation, with 2021 marking the 30th anniversary of Sir Timothy Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web and Helen Sharman becoming the first British astronaut to go into space. Former judge Andi Oliver will be presenting, with Rachel Khoo taking her place on the panel. We hope you’ll be joining us in cheering on our local chefs!
To book The Boat Inn or order from their Heat at Home menu, go to: theboatinnlichfield.com
To book Docket No. 33 or Docket at Home, please visit: docketrestaurant.com/no-33