Great British Menu 2020: Who are Northern Ireland chefs Shauna Froydenlund, Adam Greene, Paul Cunningham and Leigh Ferguson?

Ailis Brennan
BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Ashleigh Brown

Ireland has had a cracking (or should that be craic-ing?) year in the fine dining world, earning five new Michelin stars for the 2020 guide.

If the chefs partaking in the Northern Ireland round of the BBC’s Great British Menu have anything to do with it, that looks set to continue.

Four of them will battle it out this week for the chance to progress into the next round of the prestigious cooking competition – three chefs are based over the Irish sea, but Londoners may recognise one of them from a top kitchen in the English capital.

From a Michelin-starred chef who's worked in two Gordon Ramsay restaurants to a self-taught cook who won’t go beyond 30 miles for his ingredients, this is what you need to know about tonight’s Great British Menu contestants.

Shauna Froydenlund

(BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Ashleigh Brown)

Who is Shauna Froydenlund?

Originally from Londonderry, Shauna Froydenlund is the co-chef patron at Marcus, Marcus Wareing’s fine dining restaurant at the Berkeley hotel in London. She shares the role with her husband, Mark Froydenlund, who she met while working at Marcus and who himself is a Great British Menu champion.

Having come from a family of restaurateurs, Froydenlund chose to pursue the family business by moving to England to study culinary arts. There she bagged a role at Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred Petrus, which was run at the time by Marcus Wareing. She has worked with Wareing since then, joining his Berkeley hotel restaurant as demi chef de partie in pastry, and working her way up to the top job.

Where is Marcus?

Marcus is located inside the luxury Berkeley hotel in London’s Knightsbridge, found in Wilton Place, SW1X 7RL.

What kind of food does Marcus serve?

The menu at Marcus is a celebration of British ingredients, inflected with the occasional international influence. British seafood is given a great showing, including in a dish of roast Cornish cod, served with octopus, lovage, fennel and matelote sauce (a French fish and white wine sauce), while Jersey Royal potatoes get their own starter, served with seaweed butter and white asparagus.

Alex Greene

(BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Ashleigh Brown)

Who is Alex Greene?

Dundrum-born Alex Greene is head chef at Michelin-starred Deanes EIPIC. His career has come full circle, having enjoyed an early stint there under Derek Creagh when the restaurant first earned its star. Before moving on to work at the likes of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin-starred, eponymous restaurant at Claridge’s, and later Petrus. Greene then moved to New Zealand and worked at Saffron restaurant, and then back across the world to Waterford in Ireland, where he worked at the Cliff House Hotel.

Where is Deanes EIPIC?

Deanes EIPIC is located in Belfast city centre, found at 28-40 Howard Street, BT1 6PF.

What kind of food does Deanes EIPIC serve?

Alex Greene’s cooking at Deanes EIPIC is all about keeping it local and seasonal. In the majority, there is no menu – for all dinners, eight or ten course tasting menus are created daily by Greene from local produce selected that morning at the nearby market. For a more narrowed idea for what to expect, take a look at the Friday lunch menu: brill is served with sprouting broccoli, lemon and bone sauce, while a brown butter tarlet is made with mushrooms and served with bacon jam.

Paul Cunningham

(BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Ashleigh Brown)

Who is Paul Cunningham?

Paul Cunningham was born in Newcastle (in Northern Ireland, not northern England) and is both head chef and director at Brunel’s restaurant in the town, where he has worked for more than six years. He is a self taught chef, who started out in the restaurant world as a kitchen porter, and previously worked as head chef at The Round Tower in Dundrum. Cunningham learned his love of fresh produce from his grandfather, and prides himself on sourcing his ingredients locally. In 2019, he won the inaugural LCN Chef of the Year award.

Where is Brunel’s?

Brunel’s is located in the seaside town of Newcastle in County Down, and can be found at 32 Downs Road, BT33 0AG.

What kind of food does Brunel’s serve?

While Brunel’s exhibits most of the trappings of fine dining, it has a soft spot for bold flavours and comfort food. For dinner, you’ll find the likes of hay-smoked fallow venison with slow-roasted celeriac and sticky red cabbage, ham hock rillettes with sweet potato puree and calvados jus, and rigatoni pasta with sprout pesto and confit chestnut. Brunel’s also offers a vegan menu featuring apple and fennel risotto with roast kale and pine oil. Crucially, staying local is key: Cunningham sources at least 80 per cent of all his ingredients from within a 30-mile radius.

Leigh Ferguson

(BBC/Optomen Television Ltd/Ashleigh Brown)

Who is Leigh Ferguson?

Leigh Ferguson was born in Lisburn and is the head chef of Clenaghans. Having taken over the role from Michelin-starred chef Danni Barry, he has helped earn Clenaghans a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide – an award which celebrates good value food. Ferguson first started in the professional kitchen at the tender age of 12, and went on to spend 10 years working at the Square Bistro in his hometown.

Where is Clenaghans?

Clenaghans is located just outside Ferguson’s native Lisburn in the town of Moira, where it can be found at 48 Soldierstown Road, BT67 0ES.

What kind of food does Clenaghans serve?

The menu at Clenaghans is largely French-inspired with the occasional European or East Asian inflection. You’ll find largely familiarly classic dishes such as duck breast with blackcurrant and burnt cream served with confit leg pie on the side for good measure, or steak tartare with truffle emulsion and a beef fat crumb – but salt and chili squid with napa slaw and wasabi emulsion makes a surprise appearance on the menu too.