They are, however, enlisting the help of a London-based, Irish-born chef to put the hopefuls through their paces.
Acclaimed chef and Great British Menu veteran Richard Corrigan will be running the kitchen this week, tasting and judging dishes that the hopefuls are looking to cook for the show’s prestigious banquet.
So, who is the chef ruling the pass this week? Here’s everything you need to know about Chef Corrigan.
Who is Richard Corrigan?
County Meath-born Corrigan owns and runs London restaurants Corrigan’s Mayfair and Bentley’s Oyster Bar. Born the son of a farmer, Corrigan has cooked in professional kitchens since he was a teenager, spending a number of his early years learning his trade in the Netherlands. He went on to gain a Michelin star as head chef at Stephen Bull in Fulham in 1994, and another at Lindsay House in Soho in 1997, before buying and reviving Bentley's in 2005 (he had worked there more than a decade previously). He opened his eponymous Mayfair site three years later, when it promptly was named the Standard's restaurant of the year. Though at Bull he flirted with Italian inflections, his food focuses on British and Irish produce and cooking, serving native meats, wild game and wild sustainable fish. Well-liked on the London food scene, Corrigan is one of the capital's most established chefs and restaurateurs. He has also cooked for the Queen twice.
Elsewhere, Corrigan looks after Virginia Park Lodge, a 100-acre private estate in County Cavan, Ireland he bought in 2013; rather sweetly, it's the same place he held his wedding reception in 1985.
Why is Richard Corrigan on Great British Menu?
Corrigan is acting as a guest chef on the Scotland round of Great British Menu, testing dishes cooked up by Gordon Jones, Lorna McNee and Ben Reade. Corrigan will choose two chefs to go through to cook for the judges – meaning he’ll have to select one to go home. Not only has Corrigan appeared on the show as a guest chef before, but he has also won Great British Menu three times.
Where is Bentley’s Oyster Bar in London?
Though Corrigan may have only acquired Bentley’s Oyster Bar in 2005, the legendary seafood restaurant has stood on the same site in Piccadilly since 1916, and once welcomed the likes of Oscar Wilde and Charlie Chaplin. Still one of the very finest restaurants in the capital, the famous spot is sometimes known as the Grand Dame of Swallow Street, where it lives at numbers 11-15 (W1B 4DG).
What’s on the Bentley’s Oyster Bar menu?
Funnily enough, there are quite a few oysters – during peak season, up to 1000 oysters are shucked at the restaurant every day. Wild native oysters are sourced from all around the British Isles, with varieties on offer including Carlingford, West Mersea No.2, Jersey, Menai, Loch Ryan No.2, Galway No.2 and Dorset. You can either have your oysters on their own or have them served in a range of styles, from garlic-baked to Vietnamese. Order with a glass of Champagne.
The rest of the menu showcases Corrigan’s passion for British and Irish produce, sourced from independent suppliers as much as possible. Seafood is the focus here, with signature dishes ranging from the “Royal” fish pie filled with lobster, scallop, prawn and haddock to dressed crab and linguine vongole. Lighter, more contemporary dishes include a sushi salad bowl, while traditionalists can tuck into fish and chips. Meat eaters can enjoy prime Irish Hereford beef, which is also a favourite at Corrigan’s Mayfair. The star, though? Usually the Dover sole, with a gentle white wine.