Yes Chef is a new TV programme which takes amateur cooks through a series of challenges whilst being mentored and judged by a top chef. I was invited to take part back in April and it required two trips up to Manchester for the filming. In the past I might have turned down the opportunity but this year I’ve decided to see what I can learn when I’m outside my comfort zone – the calibre of the other chefs taking part also helped.
Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth and Bryn Williams have spent more time in front of the TV camera in the past few years than I have in my entire career – so whilst I’m probably one of the older chefs, I was definitely the amateur when it came to the filming.
I have to admit that I found it pretty intimidating to have a huge camera, sound engineer and film crew in front of me during my time in the studio. However, as with any experience I began to enjoy it a little more as the time went on and it was great to see the seasoned TV chefs in action. There were some frustrations however – I don’t want to give anything away but let’s just say that some chefs were luckier with their hand than others!
Each chef is presented with four home cooks who he or she has to whittle down to one through a series of challenges within a day of filming. No sooner had the introductions been made and we were straight into the first challenge.
In the pressure of a kitchen it’s important that there is a positive team ethic so as well as skills and capability, I also wanted there to be good chemistry between me and my home cook.
I cooked a dish from Simpsons for my final challenge, taking the cooks through each step before I asked them to cook it for the chef judges. The most impressive attempt was enough to get my competitor through to the final to be judged by the other chefs and Pierre Koffmann. It isn’t every day that you have to cook for a culinary legend (Koffmann used to run the three Michelin-starred London restaurant La Tante Claire) so the professionals were more than a little nervous at this point.
Pierre presented the competing teams with a mystery basket, I knew it was going to be a tough round when he gave us egg and grouse as the ingredients we had to use!
This section of the programme was also the most fun as whilst our cooks took on the challenge independently, we chefs went behind the scenes to watch what they were doing on a live TV screen. As a longstanding chef, you begin to take your culinary skills for granted but watching the home cooks trying to follow our instructions without us was quite an eye opener!
My advice to anyone keen to take on the Yes Chef challenge?
Keep calm, have confidence in your own ability and most importantly make sure you build up your culinary knowledge and have a decent repertoire of dishes before you go into the show.